Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Is the Bible a Ouija Board in Disguise? - Part 1

More and more today there is a total neglect of any context in the preaching and teaching of the bible. We might term this the “ouija board” approach to guidance. Christians who want to base their decisions on the will of God may be tempted to use the Bible as if it were a magical book. For example, often after a prayer for divine help they might open the Bible at random and accept the verse their eyes fall on as God’s guidance for the decision they are making. While God might conceivably accommodate a sincere but misguided Christian through this method, he never promises to do so; consequently, serious mistakes with damaging consequences inevitably occur when people persist in this approach. One of us, for example, knew a young man who had to decide whether to enlist in the armed forces or go to college. Opening his Bible at random, he saw the passage in Ezekiel that speaks of people coming from Tarshish to Tyre in ships (Ezek 27:25). Although this passage contains no command for anyone to go anywhere in a ship and has nothing to do with becoming part of the armed forces, this young man interpreted the text as a call to join the Navy. Chances are good that he deprived himself of a college education by making a decision he thought was God’s will but perhaps was not. More seriously, though, he completely misunderstood what role the Bible should have in the Christian decision-making process.

A more unfortunate incident was recorded a number of years ago on the front page of the sports section of a major Chicago newspaper under the bold headline, “God’s Orders Send Pitcher Packing.” The story explained how the Christian owner of a minor league baseball team decided to release a pitcher who had requested a raise in pay. She opened her Bible at random, again to Ezekiel (no doubt because it comes roughly in the middle!), and read the phrase, “prepare thee stuff for removing” (Ezek 12:3 kjv). This became her guidance “from God” for dismissing the pitcher. Had she read the context, she would have discovered that these instructions from God to Ezekiel concerned an object lesson Ezekiel was to give the Israelites. He was to pack as if going on a long trip, but he was not actually supposed to go anywhere. Had the owner of this team really wanted to imitate Ezekiel (which would still not have been a correct application of the passage!), she would have been the one to make preparations for leaving rather than firing someone else.

For details of this example, along with a discussion of inappropriate uses of a “fleece” to determine God’s will, see K. A. Ecklebarger, “Are We Fleecing Ourselves?” Moody Monthly 85 (Nov. 1984): 26–28.


Anonymous said...

It is sad that people really do this. John MacArthur's little booklet entitled Knowing God's Will is very helpful for people. I have taught through it in my church.

Justice said...

I believe this is an issue with immature believers or believers that have been under very surface teaching.

Chris Hinton said...
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Chris Hinton said...

Christians will look for signs and use their Bibles to get some kind of mystical answer. The Bible never even hints to do that.
Do they not understand that the Bible tells us to pray for wisdom?
Isn't wisdom what we use to make sound decisions?
Good blog and good subject!