Decisions, Decisions by Dave Swavely is an excellent book with much food for thought - food that is very important and helpful for running our lives well. If you want to make much better decisions in your life, especially decisions that honor and glorify God, then this book is a must read. Life can be very difficult sometimes, and we need all the help we can get.
The book consists of two halves. In the first half, Swavely discusses many wrong ways in which many Christians(Xtns) go about making decisions. In the second half, he discusses how we ought to go about making decisions.
The books basic contention is that all too often Xtns make decisions about X or Y in life on the basis of inner promptings, sudden senses of peace during prayers, still small voices speaking to them, feelings, impressions, etc. These subjective means of making decisions are wrong according to DS - if they are made without any regard to what Scriptures say or if they are given more authority than Scriptures. Note, Swavely is not saying that these decision making factors are completely to be disregarded. He is saying that Scriptures must speak first, and if these things happen to be there supporting what Scriptures have said, then great. Otherwise drop them.
In this first half, Swavely also discusses the sovereign will of God and the revealed will of God, and finally the doctrine of Providence. I found this stuff to be a bit heady, and difficult to understand. He should have given more examples.
The second half of the book is concerned with how to go about making right decisions. For this Swavely outlines a 3 tiered approach: 1. See what Scriptures say, 2. think about the dictates of wisdom, and 3. the "dictates" of desire.
Swavely's suggestion is that we first consult the Scriptures and see what they have to say. If Scriptures give direction, then go with what they say. Also - if what Scriptures say seems to contradict what circumstances, feelings, inner promptings, burdens, apparent wisdom, and personal desires say - then go with what Scriptures say instead. Scriptures are primary. Ideally however wisdom and desire will hopefully also support what Scriptures have to say to you.
Sometimes however, Scriptures will not readily give you direction. Or it will not be readily apparent to you from your reading. Then you need to do some thinking and see what wisdom has to say. If its not readily apparent from Scriptures, and you have been praying about it, then go with what wisdom says. Moving on one step further, if its neither apparent from Scriptures or from wisdom, then follow your desires. Desire is the tie breaker. Your desires are often the means by which God gets things accomplished in your life. (Philosophical aside: Desire is central to a theory of free will known as compatibilism, which I believe to be biblical. Very interesting.)
All that said, I would now like to move to some criticisms of the book:
1. I really wish Swavely gave more examples of how this stuff is applied in life. Examples are so much easier to understand than theories.
2. I dont entirely buy his arguments for Cessationism. This is because I have seen some pretty strong arguments for non cessationism being made. Personally while I am skeptical of most of the non-cess. phenomena that I see today, I feel that it is still around, albeit rare. Contra Swavely, I also feel that non-cess phenomena does not neccesarily convey extra-biblical information. They might just simply be reinforcing a point already found in Scriptures.
3. Swavely does not address another problem - and this is a problem of hermeneutics. Sometimes Scriptures are in fact very difficult to understand and apply. In my own life, I have misinterpreted and misapplied Scriptures on many an occasion. Interestingly enough, both to my good and my detriment. (Thank God for His grace !) Swavely should have discussed more how Scriptures speak to us today;how they give us guidance. How do the scriptures communicate to us today ? -to do X or to do Y.
4. I think that to the list of things to avoid in terms ofmaking decisions, I would also add - negative thoughts. Far too often Xtns make decisions based on negative thinking. They give their negative thinking more authority over Scriptures. However this is out of scope, I guess.
5. I find myself more than a bit skeptical over his claim that God's sovereign will, and providence (which is part of Gods Sovereign Will) cannot be known and therefore cannot be a basis for our decision making process. My inkling is that God does in fact let us in on His Sovereign Will on rare occasion. This is not normative, but I do believe that it happens. And if it happens, it happens side by side with Scriptures. I.e. the semantic content of what He reveals will not be extrabiblical in scope.
6. I am really really iffy about his use of the term "coincidence" to describe what might possibly be of God. This is because I am more used to hearing atheists use the term. Perhaps I have misunderstood him here.
So this is a summary of the book. I strongly recommend reading the book. At times, it will move you out of your comfort zone, as it did me. However do you want to live life properly or shoot yourself in the foot ? My recommendation is that you first skim read the book really quickly, so that you can begin to start applying what it teaches. Then you read it again much more slowly and contemplatively.
So grow in wisdom ! Grow in your understanding of God's word ! Align your desires with God's ! Go for gold ! Make the right decisions, and live a life that is pleasing in Gods sight.
God Bless !