(© Feb 2016, review by the Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.)
Bruce Waltke, Th.D., Ph.D., Finding the Will of God, 1995, about 200 pages
Priscilla Shirer, M.A., Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God is Speaking, 2012, 200 pages+
Never could two people be so different, and I’ve been hesitant to do a book review of Priscilla Shirer, though I’ve done reviews of Dr. Waltke. For full disclosure, I studied under Dr. Waltke at Dallas Theological Seminary (1972-1976) before he read his way out of dispensationalism and went into Presbyterianism. (I think I beat him on leaving dispensationalism! I’ve heard that he is now in the Reformed Episcopal Church, my denomination.) He has an earned doctorate in Greek (Th.D.) from Dallas Theological Seminary, and his dissertation was two volumes, each volume 500 pages, on the topic of the theological significance of two Greek prepositions (anti, meaning substitution; hyper, also often meaning substitution). Example: “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for [anti: “in the place of] many.” Dr. Waltke also earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in Hebrew. He is recognized as one of the greatest scholars in the Old Testament alive today, and he is a man who loves the Lord.
I’ve taught in one of our REC seminaries 20 years, and my staple courses are Hebrew, Greek, some theology courses (Christology, Hermeneutics, etc), and other courses. I’ve written six full length books, thousands of pages for classes I teach, and I hope to put out about 20 more books and booklets before the Lord takes me.
Her father, the Rev. Dr. Tony Evans, Th.D., has a world renowned ministry with his mega-church in Dallas, TX, and Dr. Evans and I were fellow students at Dallas Theological Seminary, graduating the same year (1976), each with a four year Th.M. My majors were Greek and Hebrew, and I’ve taught those languages for 20 years in seminary. (I was not allowed to write a thesis in both Greek and Hebrew departments, so I chose Greek. I took everything offered in Hebrew, and Dr. Glenn invented courses for me, such as diagramming Malachi in Hebrew.) Tony has a Th.D. from Dallas Seminary, and I also have a Th.D. from a small seminary in Florida. Tony has a very broad speaking ministry, first at his mega-church, on radio, at conferences, etc., and likewise a huge writing ministry. The Lord has blessed him with such, and I’m grateful to the Lord for his outreach with the gospel. It is natural that his daughter would go to the same seminary as her father. She is stated to have a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary in biblical studies. Perhaps that program has been discontinued as I could not find it on the seminary’s web site. The closest I could find was an online two year degree introducing the English Bible, theology, but no biblical languages. Maybe I overlooked it on the site.
Google says this about Priscilla:
“Priscilla Shirer is an African American speaker, author and actress. She has spent more than a decade addressing major corporations, organizations, and Christian audiences across the United States and around the world.”
It is, of course, not fair to contrast these two books. One could do the same with Dr. Waltke and me, and I would not look so good. It is not my goal to demean her but to point out some problems with this book she has written, which Waltke address in his book given above, though his book was written before hers.
Priscilla’s book is a labyrinth of rules about how to discern God speaking to us. Moreover, much of what she says is based on the speculative trichotomy view of humans: body, soul, and spirit. We are told that it is not the black and white commands at scripture that are at issue, for those are clear, but
You genuinely want to hear from God [her emphasis]. You want to know whether the recent circumstances you’ve noticed around you are more than mere coincidence, or whether the comments you heard someone make to you might truly be a signal of God’s will and direction. You want to make sure that this conviction you’re feeling is not just your own creation (p. 21).
There are no coincidences in God’s providence:
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will1 go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:13-17 NKJ)
Moreover, the Reformation fought long and hard to recapture the truth that the Bible is not only necessary for life and godliness but also it is sufficient. As Luther and Calvin pointed out, the Bible is our only infallible standard of truth, not impressions, feelings, etc. The Roman Catholic Church said the Bible was necessary but not enough, but the Reformers said both.
I don’t want to list long quotes from her book; suffice it to say that it is saturated with mystical, subjective statements on how to “sense the Spirit’s prompting.” The book is saturated with “cat and mouse” statements how to manipulate oneself—and sometimes even the Holy Spirit—to divine His will apart from Holy Scripture. If I were wanting to know God’s will for my life, I would be very frustrated after reading her book. Trying to find God’s will that is not given in Holy Scripture is a very dangerous thing:
19 And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:19-20 NKJ)
In other words, God through Isaiah states that it is paganism to seek God’s will outside His written word. We are to be satisfied with what He has given us. [See Waltke’s book above, p. 22ff]
Trying to divine God’s will apart from God’s written word, or in addition to it, is a low view of God’s word as sufficient:
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJ)
Notice that scripture is not just necessary but also sufficient to equip one, mature one, for “every good work.” What more can we ask for, and if we do ask for more, is not that an affront to the Triune God who gave us the Bible?
If we receive additional “revelations” besides the Bible for God’s will for our lives, we are actually adding to the completed canon of the Bible. That is what Isaiah 8 above commands us not to do.
Here is how I evaluate a “word of knowledge”: “If it contradicts the Bible, it is wrong. If it says the same as the Bible, it is not needed. If it goes beyond what Scripture says, it has no authority.” That drives me back to Holy Scripture.
Here is an easy way to find God’s will: Obey the bible, trust God’s providence, submit to godly authority. Then do what you like. A suggested acronym is: O-P-A (O-bey, P-rovidence, A-uthority).
Shirer’s work is not recommended, but Waltke’s work is highly recommended. AMEN. Ὡ