Belief In What?


This question, belief in what, might not be one that other people ask. Maybe it’s obvious to them, but not to me, at least not when I first thought about the question. It came up again today as I looked at a passage in James. His explanation in the second part of chapter 2 is that Christians must have some action that gives life to their faith. At one point he says, “The demons also believe and shudder.” Believe in what?

Well, his previous statement was this: “You believe in God, you do well.” So the demons, apparently, “believe in God.” And that causes them to react in fear, not in faith. So “believing in God” is not enough. Saying, I believe God exists. Is not enough. I believe that God is the supreme authority in the universe—that He is One—is not enough.

So, what are we to believe?

I want to say, We are to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, because believing in Him sets apart Christians from other “faith communities.” In other words, from other people who believe something, but not that Jesus is Lord.

But what about Abraham and all the other saints of the Old Testament? Abraham is particularly easy to discuss because both the Old and the New Testaments say, And Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. He believed God.

But what about God did He believe? In the Old Testament context when the statement was first made about Abraham (Genesis 15:6), God had just promised him that he would have as many descendants as the stars of the sky, that he would possess the land upon which he stood. Then Abraham believed in the LORD. Abraham went from calling on God to believing in the LORD. I mean, he’d left his home back in Ur because God told him to do so, back when he was calling upon God.

Now, however, these years later, his belief is counted as righteousness. What did he believe? Not that God existed. He’d believed that before. But now he believed the promise of God, the word of God. He believed that God was telling him the truth, even though he clearly would not live to see all the things happen that God said would happen. He didn’t need to see God keep His promises. He believed He would.

God’s promises, essentially, can be boiled down to one: the coming of His Son, Jesus. No, He didn’t explain it all to Abraham. But He set in motion the coming of Jesus, born of a descendant of David, who was one of those many descendants of Abraham, which God promised.

So, believe in what? I guess I’d say, I believe in what God says, what He’s promised.

It’s really the fact that Adam did NOT believe in what God said that got him in trouble back in the Garden of Eden. God’s word is the thing Satan has attacked from that time until now. Further more, the enemy of our souls wants to bring God’s word in question at every turn. Has God really said ______. Fill in the blank. He even brought that same tactic to Jesus when he tempted Him. “If You are the Son of God. . .,” “If You are the Son of God . . .,” he repeatedly threw at Jesus. If You are the Word, he could just as easily have said, because that’s precisely what John told us about Jesus.

Hebrews reinforces this. God spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets, but in these last days has spoken to us in His Son. (See Heb. 1:1-2). We can essentially put in an equal sign: God’s Word=Jesus, God’s Word.

He is the promise Abraham believed. He is the promise we must believe today.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom. 1:16)

The gospel. The Good News the angels told the shepherds on the day of Christ’s birth. The Good News “which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son” (Rom. 1:2b-3a).

Believing God, believing in God, is taking God at His word that He would and did send His Son. John said it plainly in his first letter:

The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. (1 John 5:10-12)

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Published in: on August 22, 2019 at 5:39 pm  Comments (4)  
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Spiritual Eyes


Black Holes - Monsters in Space

Black Holes – Monsters in Space


Once when I had been lurking among a few atheist blogs, one thing stumped me. How is it that some people can’t see the nose on their face?

Serious. What seems so obvious and self-evident and true becomes a great puzzle to a group of people, or a myth to be debunked, or a superstition to be discounted.

Why is it that some people are so easily sucked into disbelief?

Children have no problem believing in what they cannot see. Monsters, Inc. was such a funny movie because we could all relate to the concept of believing in frightful creatures that popped out at night when we were alone in the dark.

Of course children stop believing in monsters because adults tell them they aren’t real and that they don’t need to be afraid. But how does the all wise adult know there are no monsters? He or she relies on what they can see.

They in turn crush something inside their child that recognizes the unseen world, teaching her to trust only in her physical senses, not her internal sense that this universe is greater and more complex than even science can know.

Am I saying there ARE monsters? Yes, there are. In religious terms we call them demons. Am I saying that every child afraid of a monster is seeing demons? No. I remember distinctly thinking something was in my room at night, only to realize it was the shadow of a tree moving with the wind or a pile of clothes I’d forgotten was on the chair.

Truly our imaginations can “make us” see things that aren’t there. But how foolish to use that as proof that spiritually evil creatures don’t exist.

Because I don’t see black holes when I look at space, am I going to say those scientists who acknowledge them are superstitious? that they are making things up? that they’re believing a myth? No. I’m going to acknowledge that they have equipment that allows them to see into space in a way I can’t see. I’m going to trust in their expertise, research, calculations, and conclusions.

Why don’t spiritual matters work the same way?

Well, they actually do. More than once the Bible records a person who is given spiritual sight so he can see what otherwise he could not. Elisha, for example, saw his master caught up by a whirlwind into heaven after a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated them.

We can poo poo such a thing, claim it never happened

But we can poo poo black holes too and say they don’t exist.

Oh, someone may counter, they do exist. You just have to infer its presence through its interaction with other matter and with electromagnetic radiation such as light.

But the same is true spiritually. God’s presence can be inferred through all kinds of evidences–Scripture, His miraculous work in the world, nature itself, the experiences of countless believers.

What about all the countless believers in a different god? Doesn’t that prove the myth aspect of the spiritual? No, actually not. All it proves is that there are counterfeits–that the spiritual world includes more than God, that as the Bible makes clear, there is a spiritual war going on between darkness and light.

Here’s what God told Paul when He revealed Himself and called the apostle to Him.

“For this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:16b-18 – emphasis mine).

Some things require spiritual eyes to see. I’m pretty sure a person who says, The supernatural does not exist, isn’t a candidate for spiritual eyes.

That would be like saying, Prove to me the existence of black holes but don’t use inference. Well, you’d be told, you need to infer their existence from their interaction with matter and with light. Hypothetical, the doubter says, nothing more than indirect observation from which you’re finding what you hoped to find. You have no proof.

Well, actually, if I were a scientist and saw what they saw, calculated what they calculated, tested what they tested, I could reach the same conclusion. But the doubter unwilling to accept inference as proof will discount it all.

How odd that we so easily accept as true the fallible research of humans struggling to know that which is so distant from us, so other, and yet we do not accept the infallible record of God revealing Himself so that He will no longer be distant from us, so that we can comprehend, at least in part, His very otherness.

I can only conclude that seeing the spiritual requires spiritual eyes.

This post first appeared here in May 2013.

Published in: on March 15, 2016 at 6:32 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Value Of Monsters


MonsterI’m not a horror person. I don’t go to horror movies, and I try not to read horror literature (once in a while I’ve acquiesced and read a novel by a friend or for a blog tour). I’m not big on supernatural stories either, which usually have some type of confrontation with demons. I’ve chalked this up to the fact that I don’t like to be scared.

I figured no one liked to be scared, so I couldn’t understand why a great many people “enjoyed” horror stories. Lo and behold, when I actually took time to ask around, I discovered that a lot of people actually DO like to be scared. They get a rush of adrenaline that jolts them, and they find the experience exhilarating.

Except . . . then I discovered some people who like monster stories but not demon stories. The monsters are pretend, the explanation goes, but the demons are real. The monster stories inevitably show victory over the monsters. They help process through make-believe what we must contend with in real life. And good wins out in the end.

In the long run, I think that’s precisely the function monsters serve. We are faced with humans who act like monsters because of the corruption of sin. Sometimes we see our own monstrous tendencies. And of course there are the rulers, powers, world forces of this darkness, and the spiritual forces of wickedness–spiritual monsters–Paul says are our true enemies (see Eph. 6:12).

Fictitious monsters put limits on evil. They become more manageable when they have a defined scope and a finite appearance. Oh the other hand, I suspect one reason vampires (until Twilight) were such feared monsters was their immortality. If you can’t kill a monster, it becomes infinitely more frightening.

Some of the most famous horror stories were, in fact, centered on efforts to kill what seemed to be indestructible.

Perhaps the best and most truthful horror story would be the one that shows a monster that cannot be overcome, at least not by ordinary humans. We are, after all, without means to defeat sin and Satan. God alone can put an end to those we war against.

But I suppose most monster stories aren’t about ultimate victory as much as they are temporal overcoming. After all, stab a stake into the heart of one vampire, and another one creeps around the corner into town.

So we battle one monster at a time, and perhaps the make-believe stories help some to go forward into the fight, equipped and prepared and less afraid.

Me? I’ll just confess it up front: I’m a coward. I would much rather hide from the prowling lion, the wolf in sheep’s clothes, the dragon breathing fire. I have a Rock, a Fortress, a Deliverer, and I prefer taking refuge in Him. πŸ˜‰

Published in: on October 31, 2013 at 5:26 pm  Comments (6)  
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Spiritual Eyes


Black Holes - Monsters in Space

Black Holes – Monsters in Space


I’ve been lurking among a few atheist blogs of late, and one thing has me stumped. How is it that some people can’t see the nose on their face?

Serious. What seems so obvious and self-evident and true becomes a great puzzle to a group of people or a myth to be debunked or a superstition to be discounted.

Why is it that some people are so easily sucked into disbelief?

Children have no problem believing in what they cannot see. Monsters, Inc. was such a funny movie because we could all relate to the concept of believing in frightful creatures that popped out at night when we were alone in the dark.

Of course children stop believing in monsters because adults tell them they aren’t real and that they don’t need to be afraid. But how does the all wise adult know there are no monsters? He or she relies on what they can see.

They in turn crush something inside their child that recognizes the unseen world, teaching her to trust only in her physical senses, not her internal sense that this universe is greater and more complex than even science can know.

Am I saying there ARE monsters? Yes, there are. In religious terms we call them demons. Am I saying that every child afraid of a monster is seeing demons? No. I remember distinctly thinking something was in my room at night, only to realize it was the shadow of a tree moving with the wind or a pile of clothes I’d forgotten was on the chair.

Truly our imaginations can “make us” see things that aren’t there. But how foolish to use that as proof that spiritually evil creatures don’t exist.

Because I don’t see black holes when I look at space, am I going to say those scientists who acknowledge them are superstitious? that they are making things up? that they’re believing a myth? No. I’m going to acknowledge that they have equipment that allows them to see into space in a way I can’t see. I’m going to trust in their expertise, research, calculations, and conclusions.

Why don’t spiritual matters work the same way?

Well, they actually do. More than once the Bible records a person who is given spiritual sight so he can see what otherwise he could not. Elisha, for example, saw his master caught up by a whirlwind into heaven after a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated them.

We can poo poo such a thing, claim it never happened

But we can poo poo black holes too and say they don’t exist.

Oh, someone may counter, they do exist. You just have to infer its presence through its interaction with other matter and with electromagnetic radiation such as light.

But the same is true spiritually. God’s presence can be inferred through all kinds of evidences–Scripture, His miraculous work in the world, nature itself, the experiences of countless believers.

What about all the countless believers in a different god? Doesn’t that prove the myth aspect of the spiritual? No, actually not. All it proves is that there are counterfeits–that the spiritual world includes more than God, that as the Bible makes clear, there is a spiritual war going on between darkness and light.

Here’s what God told Paul when He revealed Himself and called the apostle to Him.

“For this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:16b-18 – emphasis mine).

Some things require spiritual eyes to see. I’m pretty sure a person who says, The supernatural does not exist, isn’t a candidate for spiritual eyes.

That would be like saying, Prove to me the existence of black holes but don’t use inference. Well, you’d be told, you need to infer their existence from their interaction with matter and with light. Hypothetical, the doubter says, nothing more than indirect observation from which you’re finding what you hoped to find. You have no proof.

Well, actually, if I were a scientist and saw what they saw, calculated what they calculated, tested what they tested, I could reach the same conclusion. But the doubter unwilling to accept inference as proof will discount it all.

How odd that we so easily accept as true the fallible research of humans struggling to know that which is so distant from us, so other, and yet we do not accept the infallible record of God revealing Himself so that He will no longer be distant from us, so that we can comprehend, at least in part, His very otherness.

I can only conclude that seeing the spiritual requires spiritual eyes.

Published in: on May 7, 2013 at 7:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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Demons Have Good Theology


There were many interesting things I could have talked about in connection to The Telling by Mike Duran, this week’s CSFF Blog Tour feature. One of the elements is the portrayal of evil spirits. Interestingly, evil spirits–demons–held a prominent place in Sunday’s sermon by Pastor Mike Erre.

Well, “prominent” might be stretching things. But Pastor Mike showed us an important truth: demons have good theology.

Lots of people rubbing shoulders with Jesus were confused about who He was. John the Baptist boldly declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God only to later send messengers to Jesus to ask if He was the one they were looking for.

The Pharisees, at one point, said He was demon possessed or that He was a Samaritan (not sure which of those two accusations was supposed to be the lowest). One man approached Him as “good teacher” but withdrew the “good” once Jesus pointed out that only God is good. As reported by the disciples, others thought He was one of the prophets raised from the dead.

Only the evil spirits consistently got it right.

Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, “You are the Son of God!” (Mark 3:11)

Also see Matthew 8:29, Mark, 1:23-24, Mark 5:7, Luke 4:34, Luke 8:28. Clearly, the demons knew who Jesus was even though the people around Him were confused.

No wonder that James, Jesus’s half-brother, who was present at least part of the time when Jesus was teaching and healing, said in his letter

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. (James 2:19)

Impeccable theology and yet all it produced was fear, not obedience. Theirs was not belief unto salvation. For that they’d actually have to bow the knee, or as Peter admonishes, “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15a).

Interestingly, Pastor Mike asked us if we believed God is sovereign. Hands all over the place. Then he asked why we worry about money. Someone in my row who I didn’t know mumbled, “Because I have to pay the bills.”

That pretty much summed up the point, I thought. We can say we believe God is in control, but when it comes time to trusting Him, to handing the reins over to Him, to abandoning ourselves to His will and His way … well, I’m the one writing the checks when the bills come due.

I know I’ve quoted this verse before, but I think it says so powerfully what Christians must come to if we are to act on our good theology:

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Hab. 3:17-18)

I’m reading in Numbers right now. So often I think how “easy” the people of Israel had it–eating the bread of angels, supplied by God without fail. Except, they didn’t have the Bible to know how the story came out. They actually had to live going to bed wondering if there would be food the next day. I’ve been trying to imagine what that felt like, Saturday through Thursday, week after week.

Especially at the beginning, it took faith, not just a glib philosophical statement that God can do the impossible. For them, their existence hung on their belief. They either trusted or turned around and headed back to Egypt.

I have my Egypts. But I’d rather not be like the demons, filled with good theology that leaves me intimidated and fearful, not trusting and secure. Praise God He is merciful and True.

Published in: on September 27, 2012 at 6:14 pm  Comments (2)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The Telling by Mike Duran, Day 1


I find it ironic that the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring back-to-back books dealing in a fictitious way with very real spiritual entities. In August the subject was make-believe angels and here in September our featured book The Telling by Mike Duran deals with make-believe demons.

In some ways The Telling is more controversial, in my opinion. Whereas there was little resembling Biblical angels in Eye of the Sword and hardly any mention of God, The Telling refers often to prayer, faith, prophecy, the Bible, and God. And fallen angels. In fact the physical appearance of these fallen angels fits the Biblical description of certain angels found in several passages (see for example Ezekiel 1:19 and Revelation 4:7).

But there is a departure with what these fallen angels/demons are capable of doing. In Scripture they are described over and over as possessing a human and being “cast out,” implying, of course, that they are in. The pretend demons of The Telling act in an entirely different way. They, in fact, are not your run-of-the-mill demons operating in rebellion to God, but they have broken free from God’s confinement of them–also a pretend event since it would be pretty impossible to break free from omnipotent God.

So the question comes up again: how OK is it to portray real beings in a fictitious way? Some might compare this kind of portrayal of the supernatural to that of humans as good rather than sinful. Or immortal rather than mortal. Or capable of shedding the human body in order to imitate a supernatural spirit rather than joined inextricably, body and soul and spirit.

In other words, does a Christian writer anchoring his story in reality (as opposed to creating a fantasy realm) have a responsibility to convey the supernatural truthfully, reflecting what Scripture says? How much leeway is there for the imagination?

Frank Peretti was one of the first contemporary novelists who explored the spiritual world using his imagination. Reportedly, he had no intention of showing demons as they actually are, if for no other reason than that Scripture is largely silent about the appearance of “unclean spirits.”

We know what they believe (that God is One–and it makes them shudder). We know they are the object of spiritual warfare, that they possess people, that they can produce supernatural feats, that they recognize who Jesus is. We do not know how they look or even if they can be seen. At various times Scripture records people seeing angels. I don’t recall an incident in which they saw evil spirits.

So how should someone read a book like The Telling which portrays demons as real, with the capacity to take from a human and acquire a body? It’s fanciful, though couched in the context of a man wresting with his faith and his calling. Can readers embrace the one and dismiss the other without the two becoming entangled? And if they mistake error for truth, is the author responsible or the reader?

Do novels need disclaimers these days–the events you are about to read are fictitious; any similarity to actual events or people is purely coincidental.

I suppose we should also discuss whether the label “Christian” adds a particular burden of truthfulness to a novel.

I’ve lobbied for the distinction between truth and Truth in fiction–the former portraying the human condition truthfully with no attempt at presenting the greater spiritual Truth, whereas the latter aims to incorporate both. But what about a novel that portrays some spiritual Truth on the way toward addressing the human condition truthfully? Does some Truth negate the inclusion of the imaginative that might be mistaken for more Truth?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

I’d also recommend you visit other CSFF members participating in this tour for The Telling (links below, with a check mark linking to a tour article). I suspect this subject might be visited by one or two others.

– – – – –

Angel Eyes – A Review


I rarely do reviews apart form blog tours, but from time to time, I make an exception. Angel Eyes is one, and I am so, so happy with that decision. Angel Eyes, officially releasing tomorrow, is the debut novel by Shannon Dittemore.

If you frequent Speculative Faith, Shannon’s name may well sound familiar. Besides being an occasional commenter there, she wrote last Friday’s guest post.

    The Review

The Story. Brielle, short for Gabrielle, is a talented dancer. An opportunity arose for her to study in the city and pursue what she hoped would be her dream job, but tragedy forced her to return to the shelter of her home.

Now, back in the little town where she grew up, she meets Jake, and he helps her to see the world through different eyes. Some of what she sees is glorious, but then there is the sticky black tar of fear. And danger.

OK, I’m keeping it cryptic because I don’t want to spoil the story. The action unfolds like a rose, each petal pushing outward a little at a time until the whole flower is in view. I have no intention of taking your corsage and yanking the petals apart.

Strengths. What isn’t a strength in this book? The language is beautiful, the setting poignantly realistic. The characters are authentic, down to their fears and sacrifices, their motives and heartaches, their hopes and struggles. There is such gentle (the flower image comes to mind again) character development–believable, gradual change that’s revealed through action.

Speaking of action, there’s plenty of it. Some is anchored in the mundane world of the every day, and that is typically teen and interesting. Most of the action, however, involves the interconnection of the here and now with the eternal. I guess you’d have to call this a spiritual warfare book.

That being said, this is one God-glorifying story, consistent with the Bible. It is faithful to Scripture whenever Scripture speaks of such things as you’ll find between the covers of this book.

At the same time, Angel Eyes is imaginative and unpredictable. About the time I thought I knew what the issues were, like Brielle, I found out things weren’t as they appeared to be.

Yes, there is tragedy and sadness and a look at hard things. As both Brielle and Jack acknowledge, sometimes the hero doesn’t make it. But this book faces the hard parts and asks the harder questions. No easy answers here, but thoughtful, truthful ones.

Weaknesses. I don’t really have anything for this section. The worst thing I can say is, the parts from Brielle’s point of view are written in first person, present tense.

Generally I find that voice annoying, and I thought at first this book would be all about teen angst like so many young adult books seem to be these days. It’s sort of the flip side of chick lit–same tense and person but the snarky, flippant tone has been replaced with the cynical, fatalistic tone of youth that has grown up too fast.

In truth the beginning of Angel Eyes had a bit of that tone, but there was more lurking around the edges. In addition there were occasional chapters from other characters’ points of view that gave a different voice. I appreciated the change. And as the story unfolded, Brielle’s voice mirrored her character development. It was masterful. (I told you I didn’t really have anything in “weakness.”)

Recommendation. I hope Frank Peretti endorses Shannon’s next book. He should. She is marvelously contributing to the supernatural/spiritual warfare genre he established with the Darkness books years ago.

Although this book is directed at young adults, all-the-way-grown-up adults can enjoy it just as well. A must read for Christians. I highly recommend Angel Eyes to anyone who loves a good story.

One last thing: keep your eyes on Shannon. I have a feeling you’re going to be hearing a lot about her from now on.

And yes, the publisher provided me with an advance reader’s copy of the book, though I made no agreement to give a favorable review. That was solely my decision.

Published in: on May 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm  Comments (6)  
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