Monday, May 26, 2008

Christian Decision Making

The fact that I have spent two arduous weeks on the edge of shipping out to China—or not—I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “Christian Decision Making.” From the first e-mail I got, which was asking me to come to China, I’ve been sifting through about a hundred different factors trying to make my decision.

These factors include (in no specific order); 1)the terrible need and the possibility that I could help, 2) my patient needs here, 3) fellow employees here who would either not have work (my medical assistant) or have to work harder (the doctors that I work with) while I’m gone, 4) the possibility that I could get killed, 5) being away from my wife—which of course is a bad thing, 6) the adventure of going to China, 7) the fears, especially having to see hundreds of decaying bodies, and thousands of grieving people, 8) the up coming graduation of my daughter from high school and my son from college, and that is to only name a few of the factors.

Actually, I’ve made two decisions, the first day after the earthquake, I decided that I would go. Last Friday (as we were still being held up by the Chinese government), I decided that I would have to back out. But even today I got word that the Chinese might finally give permission tomorrow . . . so I may be faced with another decision in the morning. Do I put my name back on the list of goers?

Christian Decision Making, is also a topic that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. I even have it on the back-burner as a potential book topic (I have a file titled; “Books I Hope to Write”).

To do this topic justice, I will have to do it in a series, much like I did about looking for the perfect Church. I want to look at decision making as it is now taught within Evangelical circles. Then I want to deconstruct that paradigm from a monist's perspective. Then I want to build a new paradigm looking at it from philosophical, psychological, sociological and theological perspectives.

Besides this introduction I want to start by reviewing the commonly held views of decision making within Evangelicalism.

I don’t if you have had any “formal” training in Christian decision making or, maybe, have absorbed any of the common Evangelical thinking. I personally, having spent about 15 years in the Navigators, went to countless workshops, read many books, tracts and papers on decision making. I’ve also listened to many messages on the same. I will later talk about the “technique” of decision making that the Navigators taught. However, before I get to the particulars, I must talk about the general theological-philosophical principles that most evangelicals (but not necessarily I) hold.

As a side-bar, I keep using the term “theological-philosophical” in my postings but according to Francis Schaeffer (which I agree with) there is no difference between “theological” and “philosophical” questions, but only in the answers given. In other words, theologians and philosophers ask the same questions but give different answers.

The Evangelical position in an over simplified form states the following;

1) God is in control and has a specific will for not only the big things, the directions of nations, whom I should marry, whether someone lives or dies; but also the most minor decision points, such as what suit should I wear to the meeting or where I should park.

2) God's will (or the "correct answer") is often not clear but can be very obscure.

3) If we make the incorrect choice, then not only will God be disappointed (okay you could call the choice sin) but there will be a bad outcome . . . maybe even a horrible outcome.

4) God will show us his will (although it might be mystical) if we do the correct steps to find his will.

The tool that I was taught to use, to make “godly decisions” was the hand. The thumb stood for the Word, which was the key. The index finger stood for prayer and leading (such as the “leading of the holy spirit.” The middle finger for “godly counsel,” the ring finger stood for “authority” (which meant what those in authority over you were saying, such as parents, Navigator leaders or even the government figures. The lonely little finger stood for “circumstances.”

There were even spread sheets (this was before the computer age so they were actually charts) for listing the responses to each of these five factors.

So, if a tough decision was coming up, you would start reading the Bible looking for sign. It was a mystic reading, not a factual reading. One word, completely out of context of what the writer was talking about, could jump out at you with an answer. It was exactly the same as reading tea leaves or palms, but it was the Bible so, to the Evangelical it harbored special mystic powers.

No comments: