By Ralph D. Winter
When we act on a hunch or a guess or a wish or a hope, that is what people generally mean when they say, “I don’t know for sure but I believe so.”
By comparison, acting on a certainty which does not entirely rest on visible or rational reality is more like believing in the Biblical sense.
In fact, acting on a hunch or a wish, by comparison to Biblical believing could be called “overbelieving,” which is actually very common. Perhaps even more common than acting on true faith.
Faith itself is the basis on which we believe. It is mere confidence if that kind of “faith” derives solely from known facts. Faith is Biblical faith if it comes from God and allows us with certainty to see things that are ordinarily unseen. In the book of Hebrews we read, “Faith is the evidence of things not seen.” Confidence, by comparison merely derives from visible evidence. Biblical faith derives from evidence, which is not visible as well as visible evidence. Faith is like light from God on our path, light which by walking in, acting on, we are obediently believing. The reward for walking in that light, that faith, is more light, more faith, which allows further steps of faith!
Neither Biblical faith, nor even mere “confidence faith,” is something we ourselves create. It is something “out there” over which we have no control.
Overbelieving is acting on mere whims, hunches, or wishful hopes. Biblical believing is when God leads and we follow. Note that I am speaking of the relatively rare true initiative of God, not our human tendency to put words into His mouth.
Rather than thrusting our wishes into His mouth and then proudly or presumptuously saying “God told me . . . ” God is much more willing for us normally to employ our God-given senses, our intelligence and common sense to guide us. But, on special occasions He gives us true faith to obey, to believe beyond what others can see (they may think we are jumping into the dark).
Thus He is not a micromanaging God but a patient father in heaven who wants us to employ all of the knowledge and intelligence He has given us. He also wants us to wait on His guidance when we find we cannot proceed on our understanding alone. For example, He does not normally want us to break out of the culture of our people. At the same time, He does expect us to respond to His guidance even when it leads us out of the box of conventional thinking. That may not be often, but it may never be never.
Much of God’s relatively rare direct faith-guidance will in fact come into conflict with our cultural limitations, our cultural eyeglasses for seeing things, the unexamined cultural assumptions that mold our thinking. Much of all this is masterminded by the great Adversary of our faith. What can, sadly, be called diabolical delusions may control much more of our perspective than we are readily aware.
It is precisely and unfortunately in regard to the uncommon sense of rare, true faith that the Adversary would obviously want to blind us to his efforts, deceive us as to his activities, conceal from us his strategies, even leave us relatively oblivious of his existence.
Yet, it seems ominously clear that the Adversary has greatly succeeded in not only concealing his own existence but in persuading us to think God is the author of all evil. There is an entire book with the title When God Doesn’t Make Sense, which attempts somehow to justify the idea that harm and suffering and calamity is usually a mysterious work of God.
It is as if a couple were to come home to their house late at night from a church meeting and discover all the lights on and the front door standing wide open with police wandering through the house. Terrible things have happened. The drawers are pulled out, cupboards are emptied, dishes smashed, even carpets pulled up. The whole place is an incredible mess. And the police turn angrily to the returning couple. “We got a 911 call that something was wrong in your house. We have been here a half-hour and we are overcome with puzzlement and fury. We have never seen a house so poorly kept.” They turn to the wife, “What kind of a housekeeper are you, anyway?”
Now, this is highly illogical. Anyone would assume that an intelligent enemy had ransacked the house, not a poor housekeeper. But suppose no one had ever heard of robbers? Suppose there were no previous cases of adversarial destruction? Suppose the robbers wanted to continue entering and ransacking houses for jewelry or whatever, they would do so well if they could cast a great delusion over everyone, making them assume the non-existence of robbers.
Last Friday I taught Perspectives for one of the sessions of The Call students. Teri Busse was the one coordinating (and did a great job). But I was reminded of being at her wedding in the bay area when I first met Philip Johnson face to face, the famous Berkeley professor who has challenged the feasibility of what is called Darwinian evolution. Later at another meeting in the bay area I engaged him in the following conversation, as I recall it:
“Dr. Johnson, you and professor Michael Behe have certainly proven beyond a shadow of a doubt the presence of intelligent design in nature. If your computer screen were suddenly to go blank and a dialogue box appeared announcing that your hard disk was wiped clean, in that case you would have no trouble assuming that an intelligent person, not some random, Darwinian process, had done the work—a virus, right?”
“Yes,” he said.
“This would be clear evidence to you of intelligent design, right, but more precisely would it not be the evidence of ‘intelligent evil design’? Aren’t computer viruses all like that? Intelligent evil?”
“Yes,” he said.
“Then, what about real viruses? Are they for the most part evidence of ‘intelligent evil design.’”
Thoughtfully he cocked his head, “I’ll have to think about that.”
I waited six months for him to think about that. I wrote him a letter. His response can be summarized: “Ralph I should have told you at the time we talked that I conceive of my role as one intending to undermine the theory of evolution and nothing more. In my writings I cannot even refer to God much less Satan.”
He may be right about what he ought not do. If he did talk about intermediate beings both good and evil, maybe even Christians would not listen to him or read further what he was writing!
Why do we avoid taking Satan into account? Why, unless this phenomenon of skirting his existence and possible activities is itself evidence of a master Satanic delusion?
A secular Jewish professor at Columbia University has written a whole book, The Death of Satan. With ponderous scholarly footnotes and all, he traces down through American history the gradual disappearance of Satan as a serious reality and the gradual appearance of him as a comic-book character. It may not have appeared to this professor that he is tracing the progressive delusion of a real Satan. Is he?