How To Determine What God Wants – just use the razor!
(© Jeffrey S. Bowman, all rights reserved, use by permission only)
Throughout the years I’ve made it part of my life to study the Bible, God and life. As a theologian I can’t help but try to relate all of life to God. A big question that often arises is, “Is it Biblical?” i.e. is it okayed by the Bible / God? Meaning that if it is found in the Bible then it must be acceptable to God. The question is sincerely asked as typically the goal is to be completely pleasing to God. There are however problems to such a question. It assumes that all the specific things one can do in life are found in the Bible, and it deals with life in a passive manner. Let me illustrate:
As a parent who raised 4 children (now all grown) I granted my kids the freedom to live and explore life. There were things that I did not want them to do – don’t lie, hate or steal, etc. etc. But I didn’t tell them all the things they could do. Frankly it would have been impossible to tell them everything they could do. The same is true with God and us.
God doesn’t tell us all the things we can do in life. The Bible is the history of redemption, not a list of permissible things to abide by! God tells us very plainly what not to do time and time again (10 commandments being an example). But God does not do the impossible – tell us all that we can do. Even when we’ve lived a lifetime we haven’t done all we can do, nor do we even know all we could have done.
I suggest that the question ought to be rephrased “Is it non-Biblical?” i.e. does it go against or violate God’s Word? This would be more in keeping with the God of all Grace and freedom. Being the perfect parent, He sits back and encourages us His children to go into the world, grow up, enjoy life, make a difference, be creative, and by the way as you live life don’t lie, cheat, steal, commit murder, etc. Love me by being YOU and keeping my commandments.
So, in my opinion, the big question isn’t: “Is it Biblical?” but rather “Is it non-Biblical?” This provides us with a profoundly different approach to life – that of childlike exploration and freedom. Just like a good parent has a fence around the yard so that the child can play safely, so God establishes boundaries that demark our freedom.
How does all this relate to determining what God wants? Follow along…
William of Occam (or Ockham) (1284-1347) was an English philosopher and theologian. His work on knowledge, logic and scientific inquiry played a major role in the transition from medieval to modern thought. He based scientific knowledge on experience and self-evident truths, and on logical propositions resulting from those two sources. In his writings, Occam stressed the Aristotelian principle that entities must not be multiplied beyond what is necessary. This principle became known as Occam's (or Ockham's) Razor or the law of parsimony. A problem should be stated in its basic and simplest terms. In science, the simplest theory that fits the facts of a problem is the one that should be selected.
This rule is interpreted to mean that the simplest of two or more competing theories is preferable and that an explanation for unknown phenomena should first be attempted in terms of what is already known.
A real life example of Occam's Razor in practice goes as follows: Crop circles began to be reported in the 1970s. Two interpretations were made of the circles of matted grass. One was that flying saucers made the imprints. The other was that someone (human) had used some sort of instruments to push down the grass. Occam's Razor would say that given the lack of evidence for flying saucers and the complexity involved in getting UFOs from distant galaxies to arrive on earth (unseen and traveling faster than the speed of light I suppose) the second interpretation is simplest. The second explanation could be wrong, but until further facts present themselves it remains the preferable theory. As it turns out, Occam's Razor was right as two people admitted to making the original crop figures in the 1990s (and the rest have apparently been created by copy-cats). Despite this fact, some people still ignore Occam's Razor and instead continue to believe that crop circles are being created by flying saucers.
The simplest model is more likely to be correct--especially when we are working with unusual phenomenon. (taken from 2think.org)
Razor – if it matters to God, it will (and must) be clearly stated
Now I’d like to put forth “Bowman’s Razor:” Ask these questions:
How big is the topic in question?
How many people does it affect and during what time of history?
Does the topic matter to God, i.e. what does the Bible tell us about the topic?
If the topic is large and affecting all of humanity from the dawn of creation until now, and the Bible is silent (or seemingly so) on the topic, then God leaves it up to us to figure out – i.e. He doesn’t care or else He would have told us. Like the good parent, God establishes boundaries but the rest is up to us. And like a good parent God does not hold us accountable for something He has not clearly stated.
To determine what God wants, look first into your heart. Do YOU want to do something (change jobs, buy a house, write a book, paint a picture)? Is what you are doing something that God says not to do? Be specific in your search for this answer. If you are not violating a command of God then the decision is up to you. God is in the grandstands of heaven cheering for you, sitting on the edge of His seat just hoping that you’ll be creative, live life, and enjoy the fact that you are doing it and acknowledging Him.
This brings most of life into our hands. We are responsible for our actions. We are responsible for our happiness. We are on the quest called life. When faced with life bristling issues – just use the razor!