I’ve been blogging about divine guidance. I suggested that there are three basic views Christians have: blueprint guidance, breadcrumb guidance, and apprentice guidance. Blueprint guidance sees God’s will for us as an exact plan to be followed. Breadcrumb guidance understands the will of God as a goal, instead of a plan, and the way to that goal doesn’t necessarily follow a predetermined path. In both of these views, however, it is thought that God has a specific and particular outcome in mind for our lives. Apprentice guidance differs from these in that it teaches us that God’s will for us is less about particulars, like who we marry and where we live, and more about what kind of person we become.
Apprentice guidance uses the metaphor of a master and apprentice to understand divine guidance. An apprentice learns under a master the ways and skills of a vocation. The master aims at training the apprentice in such a way that he will be able to participate in the vocation as a fully capable workman. Likewise, a teacher trains her student not to simply parrot her lessons or mindlessly carry out her instructions, but to integrate the learning into his life. In both cases, the goal is the formation of the learner. Divine guidance is God’s formative instruction enabling us to live as He does, that is, in love (Eph 5:1-2).
Becoming Capable of Communion
From the Garden of Eden to the creation of the church, God’s intention has been to create family. It’s the communion of the Trinity that God has been trying to enlarge. Humanity is God’s beloved creation, made in His image to be able to reason, choose, and enjoy relationships. Our destiny is to become partners with God and one another in loving friendship. “God’s will is for community in which power and love are shared, where love and not compulsion reigns,” says Clark Pinnock. From this we understand that one purpose of divine guidance is to enable us to become capable of communion.
Learning the Dance
God, as master teacher, uses a variety of methods to instruct us in the way of love. The hope is that we develop virtue and wisdom so that we can participate in relationships of love, which is the key to human flourishing. This guidance comes primarily through the Spirit of God, the Word of God, and the People of God. Through these avenues God speaks to us, cultivating habits of heart and mind that shape us to be fully human, able to share life with others in reverence and happiness. His will isn’t for us to act out some script in a play, but to learn the steps in a dance of love with Him and one another.
Additionally, our apprenticeship under God will explicitly teach us to not look to circumstances and life’s events to discern His will. The Bible shows us that since the Fall things are not as they should be. Creation and history are open and remain unfinished. Our job is to partner with God to resist the effects of the Fall and not passively accept situations and events as His will. The beauty of being made in God’s image is that we have the ability of initiative. We can bring something new to the world and by it, in the words of Udo Middleman, “repel death in any of its ugly manners.”
Divine Guidance has been often misunderstood by Christians. Ideas have consequences. Passivity, egotism, and even cruelty can result from a faulty understanding of God’s will. The apprentice model offers a concept of divine guidance that does justice to our created nature and gives us practical understanding of how to live our lives. It treats us as creative, responsible partners with God, working in the world to push back evil and create community.