In the original lecture series done in 1984 at the Loma Linda University Church, Graham Maxwell spoke for about a half hour each Friday night following by written questions and answers from Lou Venden and also from the audience. The next several posts contain questions and answers from the fourth presentation, “How God Restores Trust.”
Lou: I was struck by “the evidence is in the stories.” That’s an interesting way to look at the good book.
Graham: That’s why it isn’t childish to read the stories. Adults might ask, “Why read Samson anymore?” But most adults I meet don’t know what to do with Samson; yet they hope the children do.
Lou: That’s a strange way we’ve gotten things turned around. Another statement that you made, Graham; “There’s no shortcut to faith,” struck me as very important. You’ve talked repeatedly about trust and faith. But I think many of us still have the feeling that faith involves a kind of blind trust. You need faith when you don’t have enough evidence. You just go ahead and believe. I wish you’d comment a bit more about that.
Graham: Well, I wonder who’s given that idea such circulation. It seems to me that only the adversary would be pleased with us saying to God “I trust You, but I really don’t have any evidence for doing so.” I’d rather say “God, there’s so much evidence, and I’m still studying it. But the more I come to know You, the more I trust You.” One reason for the confusion on this issue is the use of different English words; trust is one thing, confidence is another, faith is still another. Yet all three English words translate the same original word in the Bible.
Lou: But still, some very sincere people have talked about faith as a leap in the dark. You go as far as you can on evidence, and then you come to that cliff where you just close your eyes and jump, and hope that you land safely.
Graham: Well that’s the trouble. I think history is strewn with the wreckage of those who have been leaping in the dark. Now God might ask me to do something I momentarily cannot understand, like He did with Abraham. But if I have full confidence in One I know very well, I move forward. I even know He won’t be angry if I question Him along the way. I wouldn’t call that a leap in the dark.
Many define faith in that way because they think they really are in the dark. Even some distinguished theologians believe that God has never really revealed Himself to us. Christ came as the light, yet they feel in the dark. They don’t really believe in a personal God who reveals Himself. We need to exercise blind faith because we have no other choice. Now I admire them for taking life so seriously in the dark. But I’m not going to say my faith in God is a leap in the dark. Faith is the most enlightened, intelligent, rational decision we ever make, and one for which we have the most evidence. I hesitate to say this, but I have more evidence for trusting God than I have for trusting even you, my friend. That’s true, isn’t it?
Lou: Well, I do think that’s true. Somewhat related to this is a question regarding Deuteronomy 13. That passage warns against signs and wonders. And yet when we look in the gospels and the story of Jesus, aren’t the miracles that He performed a basis for belief?
Graham: In the story about the wedding at Cana John says, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee” (John 2:11, RSV). And these signs did say something, to be sure. His mother already trusted Him. She said, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:4, NRSV). I think miracles do get people started on the road to trust sometimes. But they are not the best evidence, because miracles can be counterfeited, as happened in Egypt. In some ways a miracle is the poorest type of evidence. But if we’re susceptible to that kind of evidence, our God will run the risk, sometimes, of using miracles. Gideon’s wet fleece, and then the dry one, for example, doesn’t speak well of Gideon, but the whole story does speak well of God, who generously gave him those signs. God would rather Gideon had weighed the evidence. To summarize, God did not avoid using miracles in Bible times, but they are an elementary first step in developing faith, and a hazardous one.
Lou: So the Deuteronomy 13 passage is pointing out the hazard there.
Graham: Yes. Because at the same time false prophets are performing miracles, they are not telling the truth. When I’m watching television programs where there is a focus on miracles and faith-healing, I listen to hear what they are saying about God. And if they are not telling the truth about God, then never mind those miracles. But I notice that the audience is often being so swayed by the miracles, they are not prepared to open their Bibles and do some hard study of the truth. That’s the danger in miracles, they are so dramatic.