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Choose Better

Choose Better

Over the course of a lifetime, not to mention over the course of any given month or week, we have to make many decisions. Some of them are consequential and some insignificant, some change the course of our lives and some barely even register. Yet as Christians we know we are responsible before God to make good decisions in matters both good and small. The question is, what constitutes a good decision? And on what basis do we make them?

T. David Gordon’s brief and reader-friendly new book Choose Better: Five Biblical Models for Making Ethical Decisions is a fascinating look at the different models of decision-making. As such, it is not a book about how to make decisions (in the vein, for example, of Dave Swavely’s Decisions, Decisions or Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something) but about the basis on which we make them. This makes it a unique and uniquely helpful book.

Gordon begins with a very brief discussion of ethics and says “ethics is about living as God our Maker intended us to live. The ethical task is to think, in a disciplined and faithful way, about human choices in light of human nature, the human condition, human potential, and the divine creational mandate for humans.” In this sense every decision we make is ethical—“it either contributes to or detracts from human life as God created it.” The ethical task is to distinguish good from bad and good from better—to be disciplined and deliberate in making choices.

Over time, Christians have arrived at five different models for making ethical decisions. Each of them asks different questions and these different questions bring different insights to the ethical question. Yet each has the same goal of pleasing and honoring God. The book is framed around these models, with each receiving a chapter-length treatment. They are:

  • The Imitation Model. This model understands human life to consist, ideally, in imitating God to the degree possible for a mere creature. Understanding that we have the ability to reflect many of God’s attributes, it calls upon Christians to make decisions that allow them to model God. When facing a choice, it asks questions like this: Would this allow me to emulate God or cultivate traits that reflect his image?
  • The Law Model. This model understands human life to consist, ideally, in obeying God. Because God is Lawmaker and Judge, he has the rightful authority to tell us how to live and to hold us to his standard. The question it answers is: Has God commanded or prohibited this behavior? Those who follow this model scour Scripture to understand what it clearly commands and forbids and then structure their lives accordingly.
  • The Wisdom Model. This model understands human life to consist, ideally, in making wise decisions moment by moment and day by day. It holds that humans are able to observe the world around them and to learn how to live well according to these observations. It asks the question, what is the likely outcome of doing or not doing this action? It is, in short, the model of decision-making so abundantly laid out in the book of Proverbs.
  • The Communion Model. This model understands human life to consist, ideally, in communication with God. Thus decisions are made on the basis of whether one choice is more likely to foster communion with God than another. Decisions that might disrupt a life of prayer and meditation and walking closely with God would be rejected. The question it asks is something like this: Would this decision be likely to enhance or inhibit my communion with God?
  • The Warfare Model. This model understands life as consisting of spiritual warfare in which we have been enlisted as soldiers. Our duties are both offensive and defensive—to resist the attacks of the enemy while waging attacks of our own. It answers this question: Will this decision likely serve the forces of evil or the forces of good?

What is so good and helpful about laying out these models is to show the harmony between them. Life is complex enough that at various times we need all of them and many decisions must be made on the basis of several models rather than just one. Sometimes we have a clear command to obey, but sometimes we do not and have to apply wisdom or consider what might disrupt our communion with God. If I am faced with the decision of whether or not to commit adultery, the law model is all I need; if I am faced with the decision to embrace a new technology, the wisdom model or communion model offers better guidance; if my church wants to consider keeping or cutting our weekly prayer meeting, we could probably base the decision to maintain it on all of them, with the warfare model playing an especially important role.

Choose Better was truly eye-opening for me and has given me a lot to think about as I make decisions. It is easy to read, well-illustrated, humorous at times, and just the right length. I am grateful for it and gladly commend it to you.


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