July 29, 2004

God's Will for Your Life (a side comment)

Apropos my study on the will of God, I picked up a couple of books at my church library this weekend. Church libraries being what they are, both books are pretty old; one hailing from the 70s, and the other - the more interesting one, frankly - published in 1946.

The latter book is God's Will for Your Life by S. Maxwell Coder, who at the time was Dean of Education at Moody Bible Institute. The book begins:

One of the most practical and inspiring subjects to be found in the Bible is the revelation that God has a plan for every life. When that plan is discovered and followed, it brings greater happiness and success than could be achieved in any other conceivable set of circumstances. This teaching of the Scriptures has an especially strong appeal to Christian young people with life still before them.

Certainly it is true that young Christians are concerned with knowing God's will. Experience bears that out. I do question whether the Bible teaches that God has a "plan for every life," if by that Coder means what yesterday I called the "itinerary" view, in which God's plan is like an agenda it is up to us to discover and follow. to remain in "the centre of God's will." (More on this in time, however.)

Here's the table of contents for the book:

  1. God Has a Plan for Every Life
  2. Why It is Important to Know God's Plan
  3. Some Personal Tests
  4. The Steps of a Good Man
  5. The Threefold Rule of Earth's Wisest Man
  6. Christ and the Will of God
  7. Important New Testament Teachings
  8. Discovering God's Will
  9. Difficult Questions
  10. Opportunities for Triumph

I found that last chapter the most intriguing, because it touches on some practical applications for the teaching. Coder discusses the morality of:

  • the movies
  • theatre and opera
  • dancing
  • card playing
  • smoking

Note to grandparents: Here is a good reason not to dismiss your grandkids' complaints out of hand. It turns out we are sometimes right when we call your moral code outdated, because Coder's catalogue of heinous lifestyle sins hasn't withstood the test of time awfully well. The stage is now entertainment for the wealthy, the price of theatre tickets having gone beyond the reach of the great unwashed. While it is true that the moral tone of the movies themselves hasn't improved greatly (it's quite revealing that the worst thing Coder can say about Hollywood is that it glamourizes female smoking), today's multiplex is no longer the dark, smoke-filled den of iniquity the movie house once was. Corporations now rent out the comfortable, clean auditoria to hold business meetings! By "dancing," Coder of course means ballroom dancing, the discotheque and dance club still decades in the future. Notwithstanding its original raucous reputation, the waltz is now regarded as one of the high points of the Romantic movement in music; and jazz has largely left the seedy nightclubs and become the music of choice for many intellectuals and music students. Serious jazz fusion such as Bill Bruford's Earthworks is simply inaccessible to many average listeners. And while tobacco's addictive nature was known in the 1940s, the link between smoking and lung cancer had yet to be established, so Coder has a "hit" with smoking nearly by accident. Simply put, practical morality ain't what it once was.

This is why I appreciate a book like Friesen's Decision Making and the Will of God so much. It spends a good number of pages discussing practical issues from a Biblical perspective - marriage, money, vocation, ministry, and so forth - and largely ignores the dated moralizing of this older book.