Finding the Will of God, a Pagan Notion? by Bruce K. Waltke

Not since Garry Friesen’s Decision Making and the Will of God have I read a satisfying book on the modern day Christian phenomenon of finding God’s specific will for one’s life. When I purchased Waltke’s volume my hopes were high that someone would add insight to Friesen’s work. My hopes soared in the early portions of the book with statements such as these, “When we talk of ‘finding God’s will’ we generally want divine guidance on specific choices, but it should be noted that this specific term is never used after the Holy Spirit came upon the church at Pentecost. The apostles, upon whom the church is founded, did not teach that we are to seek God’s will in this way” (pp. 10, 11; cf. p. 53). And “When we seek to ‘find’ God’s will, we are attempting to discover hidden knowledge by supernatural activity…. Finding in this sense...

Finding Our Way Again, the Return to the Ancient Practices by Brian McLaren

Brian McLaren, the most recognizable name in the emergent church movement, signals a shift, or at least a new emphasis within emergent, toward ancient practices of earlier periods of church history. As usual, McLaren believes the church has lost its way due to its refusal to follow God’s leading. The church has become “proud and unteachable” but fortunately a few “humble and teachable” people (guess who?) are pointing out the right path (pp. 150-151): “When the community of faith realizes it has lost its way, it begins looking forward by looking back…It looks to its ancient practices to help it reset its future course” (p. 160). This means that the church, in order to find its way again, must look to and adopt the early church (not New Testament church) traditions and rituals especially the “seven ancient practices” of fasting, pilgrimage, common daily prayers, a weekly day of rest,...

Finding God in the Questions by Dr. Timothy Johnson

Dr. Johnson, the well-known medical editor for ABC News, has written this book to tell the story of his personal spiritual quest. The reader will come away with a portrait of Dr. Johnson as a kind, honest, thoughtful man, truly wanting to do right and searching for answers. Those conservative Christians hoping that in Johnson we have found another celebrity to help carry our cause will, unfortunately, be disappointed. Johnson questions, ignores or denies much that is fundamental to biblical Christianity. If he had a mantra it would be, “What would Jesus do?” If he has a hero it is Albert Schweitzer, the famed liberal humanitarian missionary, who wrote The Quest for the Historical Jesus, which reached the conclusion that the historical Jesus could not be found but we could live in His spirit. Finding God in the Questions is developed in three sections. In the first section Johnson...

Exploding the Myths that Could Destroy America by Erwin W. Lutzer

Anything Lutzer writes is worth reading. He does not give superficial answers to complex issues, so even if you don’t agree, he causes you to think. In Exploding, Lutzer is dealing with concerns such as morality, abortion, communism, evolution, pornography and the church’s role in politics. His thoughts are usually clear, solid and worth consideration. While I am on the same page with Lutzer on most of his subjects, I have some problems with what appears to be some Reconstructionist’s leanings (see especially chapter 12). Another problem, for this type of book, is that it is getting a little dated. Published in 1986 it is impossible to be abreast of the current situations facing our country today, or the most recent information on the items he discusses. Nevertheless, much of the material is timeless and can still be read with profit....

Desiring God & The Pleasures of God by John Piper

Desiring God and The Pleasures of God are two quite excellent books that come from the mind and heart of John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. I am somewhat unfamiliar with Piper’s wider ministry and so I am not in a position to comment on that, but regarding these two books there is much commendable to be said. Piper takes a different approach to God, and our relationship with Him, than does anyone that I have ever read. While Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy, Packer’s Knowing God, and Pink’s The Attributes of God are must reads, Piper’s works add a new dimension: what he calls “Christian hedonism.” What Piper means by Christian hedonism is that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” He opens Desiring God with a great thesis statement that controls the rest of the volume: “This...

Depression, a Stubborn Darkness by Edward T. Welch

Welch has written a helpful book dealing with a common problem—depression. He writes of depression’s many causes, examines the causes in the light of Scripture and presents a biblical response. One surprising lapse in Welch’s biblical approach to depression is his apparent acceptance of low self-worth and self-image as being one of its causes (pp. 176, 177, 179, 181, 183). Nothing in Scripture teaches such a view and, given Welch’s background and association, I was mystified that he takes this perspective. The book, while satisfying in many ways, also lacked a systematic approach. It seemed difficult at times to follow Welch’s thoughts toward a good conclusion. Depression read at times more like a textbook. It is truly a valuable volume but to me at least, it did not go quite far enough. It is probably more helpful for teachers than for someone actually struggling with depression....

Decisions, Decisions by Dave Swavely

A number of years ago, Gary Friesen wrote a book entitled Decision Making and the Will of God that presented an excellent biblical critique concerning decision making. Friesen challenged the traditional view, so popular today, that God leads His people through hunches, feelings, promptings and other subjective means. Friesen argued convincingly that God does not lead in any of these ways; rather, He leads through Scripture and wisdom. Friesen’s book was excellent but it was wordy and occasionally redundant and, therefore, many would never work their way through it. Swavely’s book, on the other hand, covers much of the same ground but with brevity. Decisions, Decisions is a mere 176 pages of big print. It is highly readable and comes with discussion questions at the end of each chapter. I believe Swavely has given us a fine resource that is biblically sound. The message contained in this book is...

Deceived On Purpose by Warren Smith

Rick Warren and his Purpose-Driven Life have spawned a small industry of Bereans compelled to point out the unbiblical nature of so much that is claimed. Some have focused on the psychological entanglements, others, such as myself, on the misuse and abuse of the Word. Smith pinpoints the New Age implications and Warren’s links with Robert Schuller. These are serious accusations and Deceived on Purpose does a good job connecting the dots. Warren Smith was converted out of the New Age Movement and he is well positioned to recognize New Age teaching when he sees it. And he sees it often in the works of Rick Warren, especially in The Purpose-Driven Life. Smith clearly demonstrates how Warren uses many of the same terms and concepts found in main line New Age books and teachings. He also clearly ties Warren with Robert Schuller, documenting Schuller’s influence on Warren from his...

Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross

Dark Night of the Soul is one of the most important pieces of literature undergirding classical Christian mysticism. The phrase “dark night of the soul” has become, on a popular level, the description of a period of deep depression or dryness, but this is certainly not what St. John meant. St. John was a Roman Catholic monk who lived from 1542-1591. He wrote his famous book in Spanish (this particular translation is by E. Allison Peers, published by Image Books in 1990). He set out, during the time of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, to explain the life of the mystic and the mystical way. Classical mysticism is composed of three parts: purgation, in which the senses and spirit are purged of all desires; illumination, in which God supernaturally floods the soul with His love while the individual remains passive; and union, in which the soul is united with God in...