Looks like I skipped this part of the questions and answers to chapter 4 on how God rebuilds trust in the universe. Given the fluid nature of this discussion, being out of order should not impede reading—Jon Paulien
Lou: You talked about faith as a gift. I remember the man who was worried about his boy and said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24, KJV). What does God do to help unbelief in a situation like that?
Graham: The father obviously did believe, or the healing wouldn’t have happened afterward. He did believe; he just wished he had more faith. Whether the man understood how God would increase his faith, the text doesn’t say. We have to look through the rest of scripture to fill that out. My understanding is that God strengthens faith by offering evidence, by helping us to think about the evidence, and by protecting us from the adversary who would becloud our minds and deprive us of our freedom to weigh the evidence. Sometimes the Holy Spirit even adds to our understanding directly. I don’t mind the Holy Spirit impressing me, God works in many and various ways. It’s just when I feel an impression, I want to make sure it’s the Holy Spirit, and not what I had for supper.
Lou: I hear you saying God doesn’t pop a pill into our mouth. Developing faith is a process that involves our thinking and our understanding.
Graham: We want shortcuts. I think that was the appeal at the tree in the garden, when Eve was told, “eat this fruit and you will be like God” (Gen 3:5). It was as if she said, “I thought sanctification was the work of a lifetime. And you can do it with one bite?” A similar approach happens sometimes in evangelism. “Go down to the front, and you will be saved.” We are always wanting shortcuts, busy people that we are. Instant salvation is rather attractive. So is instant faith. But things don’t actually work that way.
Lou: Here’s a question that takes us back to the great controversy perspective: the war in heaven. “Why doesn’t God take more firm control of the universe—even at the expense of a little freedom? Isn’t the price of freedom almost too much? With all the pain and the tragedy that happens in our world, couldn’t God have done a better job of protecting us from the consequences of freedom?”
Graham: I remember years ago a lady came up after a meeting, and she said, “I’d be willing to give up some of my freedom to have peace and security once again; to be safe. I wish God had not given me quite so much freedom.” Like today, to be safe from terrorists on the plane, we’re willing to stand in line and go through those electronic devices. We give up some of our freedom in order to be safe. Would we say to God, if we had the chance, “I know you’ve paid a great price for freedom, but I’d rather not be that free?”
I imagine God might say in return, “Well, I’m sorry. That’s one thing that is not negotiable. I will keep my universe free, or your trust and love will mean nothing. Yes, I could save everybody your way, but it would turn my universe into a penitentiary.” You see, if God locked us up in solitary confinement so we couldn’t hurt each other, He could save everybody. But instead God says, “I refuse to be a prison warden for the rest of eternity. Forgive me, but I would rather die than give up freedom.” And He has already died to show what freedom means to Him.