Lou: I want to come now to something that you touched on a bit at the conclusion of your presentation. How could we, as Christians, allow the adversary to deceive us regarding the very truths that we hold? For example, how could Satan distort “faith” in such a way that it would be a deception rather than the truth?
Graham: He already has. When people understand that faith is a religious conviction for which you do not need evidence, they are totally vulnerable to him. If they truly looked at the evidence, they would not be deceived because the evidence isn’t with him. But he’s led many Christians to understand that faith is believing without evidence, without inquiry, without investigation. And so he’s turned faith into a vulnerability, and he has set us all up to be deceived. The idea of blind faith is widely held. And in the next chapter I’d like to go more deeply into this.
Lou: But what about the matter of “sin?”
Graham: When he suggests that sin is the violation of an arbitrary command, he can use the misunderstanding of sin to support his charges that God is arbitrary.
Lou: Another area he could exploit is understandings of the atonement and the cross.
Graham: On the atonement, Satan is particularly behind the idea that Christ died to reconcile the Father to us. That He died to assuage the Father’s wrath. These things are widely held by Christians, but they imply a God who is vengeful, unforgiving and severe. That is not the picture of God that Jesus brought. Who had to die to persuade Christ? And yet He’s also God. Who had to die to win Christ to our side? Yet He said, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9). So a widely held Christian view of God could be used to support the Devil’s charges.
Lou: Would “the law” be another area he tries to distort?
Graham: Yes, when we say that the Sabbath is an arbitrary test of our obedience, we are saying, “God is arbitrary.” But then we try to sanctify that by saying, “Well, He’s sovereign. He has a right to be arbitrary. If He seems arbitrary, He really isn’t because He has a right to be.” My mind begins to go around and around when I hear that kind of talk. It isn’t logical to talk that way. Behind that kind of talk is the idea that religion doesn’t have to make sense. And when we say that religion doesn’t have to be reasonable or logical, we are playing into Satan’s hands. Since the truth is not on his side, Satan gets us to do this to all the doctrines. And all the while we are saying that we are Christians.
Lou: What do you see him doing with the word “judgment” or the idea of the judgment?
Graham: The idea of judgment can be fearsome when we think that the Father is not as gracious as the Son. When we say, “Don’t be afraid, we have a friend in court, and that friend is Jesus,” the Devil smiles, because that makes it seem the Father is not our friend. Yet the truth is, the Father is just as friendly as the Son.
Lou: That leads up to the idea of Christ’s intercession; the thought that the Son has to plead with the Father to forgive us.
Graham: I remember the words of my daughter when she was only six: “Does that mean God doesn’t love us as much as Jesus does?” Well, we encouraged our children to raise those questions, and to raise them early, because they still have to pass through this experience. Jesus said: “There is no need for Me to intercede with the Father for you, for the Father loves you Himself” (based on John 16:26-27). That’s the plainest testimony about intercession in the whole Bible. We say we accept the testimony of Jesus, but then we picture Him pleading with the Father. The Devil must smile when we do this. The most gracious things about God, he has twisted to his advantage.
Lou: That’s true. But what about that matter of the destruction of the wicked (Rev 14:9-11; 20:11-15)? He’s done a number on that one as well.
Graham: Yes. He manages to cover up this deception by keeping us from discussing religion in simple language. We use euphemisms and sanctified phrases so that our teachings don’t sound too bad. But the underlying message of the common position is that God has said to His children, “You either love Me, or I will torture you in the fire for eternity. Now do you love me?” It’s the most diabolical thing he’s ever perpetrated on the human race. And even if we say, “No, He won’t burn you forever; He’ll only burn you as long as you deserve,” Satan’s still smiling. Just stop to think of what that means. Our heavenly Father says, “Children, all I want is your love, because all I want is peace and freedom up here. But if you don’t love Me, I’ll burn you as long as you deserve. Now, I hope I didn’t scare you.” It doesn’t make sense, and religion must make sense. Truth makes sense.
Lou: When you say it makes sense, is there anything about it that goes beyond my understanding?
Graham: It makes sense that the One who created this whole vast universe is way beyond my understanding, but I can understand Him enough to trust Him. I can understand Him enough to know He’d never say, “Look, you either love Me, or I’ll kill you.” If He said that, it would make no sense. But then we say, “Well, religion doesn’t have to make sense. His thoughts are not like ours” (based on Isaiah 55:8-9). True, but His thoughts are at least as good and gracious as ours.
Lou: Now in the previous chapter on the Three Angels’ Messages, I think you spent about ninety per cent of the time just talking about the “good news” part. And I was wondering, shouldn’t we have divided the time equally between all three messages? Why such an overemphasis upon that first one?
Graham: I think there’s an important message in your observation. We need to know the everlasting good news before we even start to look at the other two. You’ve got to know the truth about our God before you can understand the consequences of rebellion. The truth is our protection. We should go to the world with all three angels’ messages, but we should always start with number one. Never start with number three. We need to understand the other two in the light of number one. That’s why I spend ninety percent of the time on number one.
In the next chapter our topic will be: “God Waits for His Children to Grow Up.” We need to grow up. And so, in mercy, He waits.