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
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
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
. . . 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
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
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
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
Truth, Paul reports, transports us "beyond
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
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
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").