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IV. FANTASY OR FAITH?

For centuries, believers have been "going on faith." For many, however, that meant the blind acceptance of someone else’s faith—a "faith-once-removed." In other words, God was whoever Aunt Lucy or the "big guys" on our cultural "block" said He was.

So in the absence of firsthand knowledge, we’ve hungered for the "experience" of faith, the "signs" of faith, the raw reality of empowered meaning in our lives. And these experiences or "signs" have often satisfied the longing in our heart and have propelled us toward the affirmation of what we hold to be true.

Yet, we feel other believers sometimes distort the meaning of their experience, and we sometimes wonder if we do the same! So we’re still searching for what finally certifies Truth—for what gives "substance," "evidence," and "proof" to it.1

Lacking this answer threatens the very existence of the church. With honesty and urgency, we must finally discern the difference between fantasy and faith. We must rediscover the guarantees of credibility that bring certainty to our beliefs. Once again, we must find the "proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality."2

We must certify our "signs" and test our "experiences."

From the beginning, believers were commanded to "test" or "judge" apparent "truth"—and, especially, the one who claims "truth."3 Indeed, they were told to "test and prove all things."4 That command remains especially true today! For the postmodern world rapidly discards all the old arguments that have propped up Christianity. And every time theologians respond to the world by putting God in a new "box," God jumps out again.

Now, as we turn increasingly toward the "experience" of truth, we still lack the veracity of our experience—the authenticity of our response. Yet, history demands it. History demands we reaffirm the ineradicable.

So we accept that demand here. We explore a new veracity—a new authenticity. We certify our "signs" and test our "experiences."

The Fruit?

. . . and we begin with the obvious: We look at the "fruit" of our experience—the final results, the ultimate impact, the eventual outcome. If we fail to see earlier tests of Truth, we will certainly see later "fruits" of Truth.

For Truth demands fruit and is confirmed by fruit. By the "Spirit of Truth" we "bear witness" to its fruit.5 And this witness is no "make-believe" belief. For inspired Truth begins with an "event," a real-life moment, a raw reality. And real-life events require real-life responses. Then, in turn, the "fruit" of our response reveals the intention of those "events."

This is the ultimate test of Truth—the ultimate "incarnate argument." For it is an "embodied" Truth—the "Word made flesh."6 Indeed, it continues the earthed reality of Jesus Himself.

We do not find this fruit (this "Word made flesh") in mere changes of opinion—new beliefs "about" God—or man’s "proposals" of Truth. Nor do we read it in ink stamped on dead trees. In fact, the fruit of Truth is neither human experience in general nor "religious" experience in particular. For human sin—"religious" or not—ignores the intrusion of Truth. Indeed, "the world cannot receive . . . the Spirit of Truth."7

For that reason, Truth can only prove itself by our transformation. Meaning can only manifest itself by our metamorphosis. In other words, a profound change in perception comes only from a profound change in the perceiver. In short, the re-creation of the human spirit appears only when we become "a new creation."8

Truth also proves itself in new relationships. In fact, Truth is relationship. It is not a narrow theology, a literal simplification, or an abstract idea. Instead, it presents a personal and profound Self-disclosure where "the Lord of hosts" says "Return to Me . . . and I will return to you."9 And, in those moments, "Our eyes are opened and we know Him."10

And we know others as well:

Tertullian, a church father of the late second century, declared that the pagans were astonished by how Christians related to each other . . . "See how they love one another!"11

Surprisingly, the "fruit" of our response reveals untruth as well. For whatever the "event," the seed of that event produces fruit of its own kind—good or evil. So Jesus taught, we will fully recognize these events "by their fruits."12

If the church of the future fails to bear Christ-like fruit—in real-time and real-life—the world will have no interest in anything else we offer. This ultimate "test" will prove our ultimate hope. For, as Paul insisted, we will find the proof of Truth in the lives of His followers.13

"The wisdom from above is . . . full of compassion and good fruits."14

The Nature?

But fruit ripens slowly. And, in the real world, we usually can’t risk the wait. The decision for or against Truth is too important to postpone. So we must find other means to test our experiences, to certify signs of Truth—as they happen!

Here are a few of these "other means":

Every event of significance, every intrusion of reality, every import of meaning also discloses its nature—its essential features—inherent qualities—specific patterns—distinctive styles—typical traits. . . . So to discern their source, we simply observe their traits and what those traits point to.

Jesus said, "Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father."15 So take notice, for example, whether an event (or your response to it) is expansive or narrow?—selfless or selfish?—turned out or turned in? These traits determine a difference, for Truth is larger than us. It paints a bigger picture. It reveals a more encompassing fullness. It soars with a more transcending certainty.

Truth, Paul reports, transports us "beyond ourselves."16

Or, we may ask, "Are we victors or victims?—help or hurt?—empowered or overpowered?" And, "Is our response faithful or fickle?—long lasting or short-lived?—eternal or temporal?" Again, these answers take on significance, for Truth is victorious, even against backgrounds of disorder, destruction, and knee-jerk responses to the environment.

In summary, the nature of an event—and our response to that event—reveals the original "source," the "seed," or the "instigator" of the event. And knowing that "source" reveals Truth. . . .

. . . or untruth.

© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt

ENDNOTES

1. Hebrews 11:1.

2. Hebrews 11:1,2; AMP.

3. 1 John 4:1; 1 Cor. 14:29.

4. I Thessalonians 5:21, AMP.

5. John 14:17, 15:27.

6. I John 4:1-3.

7. John 14:17, AMP.

8. II Corinthians 5:17, AMP.

9. Zechariah 1:3, AMP.

10. Luke 24:30-31, AMP (my paraphrase).

11. Robert Webber, The Younger Evangelicals: Facing the Challenges of the New World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002) p 95.

12. Matthew 7:15, 16 AMP.

13. II Corinthians 3:1-6, AMP.

14. James 3:17, AMP.

15. John 14:9, AMP.

16. II Corinthians 5:13 (the Greek existmi behind the phrase "beside ourselves" means "to be transported beyond oneself").




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