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Home  >  Articles  >  Gilbert, Greg



How Do We Get Guidance?

By Brian Edwards
A Review By Greg Gilbert


Edwards, Brian.  How Do We Get Guidance?  (Day One Publications, 1992).

 

Brian Edwards, in his book How Do We Get Guidance, imagines a conversation between himself and two members of his church, presumably, who are trying to decide whether or not the husband should take a new job.  The use of dialogue is useful in some areas where the subject matter is extremely complex, but in this issue, it’s just more a waste of words than it is a help.  The format almost obliges the author to have one or more of the characters be a comedian, and this reader at least found himself wishing that the argument were simply and straightforwardly articulated.  The argument is that Christians should not rely on supernatural occurrences like dreams, visions, “writing on the wall,” or casting lots to make decisions.  Edwards makes the important point that those kinds of things are clearly not the normal way by which God expects us to discern His will.  “By giving us just a few examples God tells us that he reserves the right to use these methods, but by giving us no instructions in the letters, he makes it clear that this is not his normal way of communicating with his people,” (5)  Moreover, expecting God to give us subjective impressions in our minds is what Edwards describes as “evangelical mysticism,” (7).  To say that God does those things is not wrong—he does give his people impressions—but it is wrong if that’s all one has to say.  Instead, Christians should make the Bible the touchstone of their lives.  They must believe the Bible, study the Bible, and obey the Bible.  Also vitally important is to listen to those who have been called by God to preach and teach the Word of God.  Finally, Edwards lists several erroneous ways that Christians look for guidance.  I won’t recite his labels for them because they’re not all that memorable and some of them are clearly aimed at British folks (“Quality Street guidance,” for example—that must be a Limey thing), but essentially the errors are these:  1) asking so many people for advice that you’re sure to get the advice you want, 2) opening the Bible, picking out a verse, and expecting that to be God’s special word to your specific situation, 3) sending God an ultimatum, as in, “Alright, God, the first job you send my way, I’m taking as your will for my life,” and 4) sitting in one place and expecting God to drop you supernaturally and dramatically into His will for your life.

                There are certainly some helpful points in the book.  I like, for example, Edwards’ translation of Proverbs 29:18 as “Where there is no revelation [instead of “vision”], the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law,” (8).  There is also a helpful example of how the couple in the dialogue applied these principles to their own problem (14-16).  All in all, it’s a good book, if not as concise as Packer’s.

 

So how do I decide what to do? According to Edwards, the most important thing is to make sure that you are carefully studying the Bible and obeying what it teaches.  Make sure that you are regularly sitting under godly teaching and preaching.  Don’t trust dreams or visions.  Don’t assume that some circumstance is a sign.  Most decisions can be pared down significantly by applying biblical teaching to them and thinking through them with that mindset.  Be wise, and see if you are inclined in one or another direction.  If you come to a stalemate even then, it’s always safer to remain where you are.  Never assume that God is directing you to do anything that conflicts with any principle laid down in His Bible.