Religious Decision Making

I have been in the process of making some very large decisions, and this has brought out what I think Kierkegaard was getting at with his aesthetic – ethical – religious stages of life.

With aesthetic decision making, one goes about doing what looks good, sounds good, or feels good.  It is sensual – or sense based.  It is somewhat hedonistic.  The results of this approach will be temporary pleasures, followed by regret.  Do it, or don’t do it – you will regret it either way.  Because something that appears better will always come along.

With ethical decision making, one seeks to determine what one ought to do.  We try to do what is right, and avoid what is wrong.  It is the attempt to do the responsible thing – the wise thing.  The results of this approach will often be the fulfillment of tasks and duties, and to be filled with anxiety and worry.  Have I accounted for everything?  Am I in complete control?  Life is complex enough, that one can never quite be certain of every decision.

With religious decision making, one seeks to authentically follow what one feels from within.  This revelation will lead one to do God’s will.  This is the attempt to learn the will of God, and to follow it.  Decisions authentically made in this way will be free of regret and worry.  These decisions will be accompanied by confidence and peace.

I have found that I tend to move around each of these stages during times of significant decisions.  Even after gaining what I feel is revelation, I will backslide and think about what looks good, or how it will all work out.  I still seek for control and for pleasure.  I want the decision to make sense to my mind.  And I temporarily loose my peace by exchanging it for worry and regret.  I then need to once again seek answers to prayer to get the peace back again.

Religious decision making is one of the grand advantages to having peace in our lives.  I hope that I can get better at being, and staying, in that stage while making important decisions.

7 Responses to “Religious Decision Making”

  1. 1 Mogget February 9, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    With religious decision making, one seeks to authentically follow what one feels from within. This revelation will lead one to do God’s will. This is the attempt to learn the will of God, and to follow it.

    In theory, this sounds find. In practice, it doesn’t make me comfortable at all. This sort of thing will only work well if one can genuinely determine God’s will. And I have to say, I don’t have much confidence in revelation that doesn’t pass challenges from reason or morality. And then, there’s the matter of developing one’s reason and moral judgement…

    Makes me nervous, it does!


  2. 2 Eric Nielson February 9, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    I do not think that one must fully separate the three. But Kierkegaard would say it often will. One might take Abraham in the Fear and Trembling. The test of faith may be in following even when it seems absurd. Fortunately, I have not found disagreement with wisdom and revelation. From my experience though, it is the revelation that brings the peace, even when things seem to add up. And it is the adding up that can weaken the peace you had.

  3. 3 Jamie Turner February 10, 2012 at 12:20 am

    “the attempt to learn the will of God, and to follow it”.. there have only been a few things that I was clearly directed to do, one of them I’ve been failing miserably at, time is running short, and now I’ll have to complete the task in a less than perfect way… another has come, but without filling in all the details, so there is still the same type of anxiety over it that you get with the #2 ethical quandaries through debating about the details/logistics of it all… you are right – there should be more peace of mind when you get revelation on something – peace in knowing what you are supposed to be doing, but then there is frustration in being imperfect / not being able to be up to the task like you would like to be.

    • 5 D March 15, 2012 at 10:39 am

      I think striving towards the ideal of what you are supposed to be doing is really valuable, even when you don’t quite measure up. revelation does bring peace, but sometime, it takes a lot of work to get to that place. great blog.

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