by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

February, 2017

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, “There is something truer and more real than what we can see with the eye and touch with the finger.” Hawthorne was referring to things that can be seen and felt by the heart. “Rappaccini’s Daughter” (1844) is a love story of sorts, although a tragic one. The central character, Giovanni Guasconti, a young student living in Padua, Italy, falls in love with Beatrice, the “daughter” referred to in the title. Her father, Giacomo Rappaccini, is an unscrupulous scientist, who has performed strange experiments involving poisonous plants. Giovanni’s older friend Pietro Baglioni hates Rappaccini and warns Giovanni that Rappaccini is evil, and that Beatrice is evil like her father. Giovanni refuses to believe since he sees Beatrice through the eyes of his heart, and his opinion has been formed thusly. With Valentine’s Day approaching, it seems appropriate to talk about love and other unseen things.

Many years before Hawthorne was born, Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14 ESV). Those of us who believe have a different perspective from people who don’t. We see and understand things differently. A few verses before this, Paul wrote, “But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” (vs. 7). But it can be hard to communicate to others that there are things we can’t see, things in the spiritual realm. There are “secret” things that can only be known through faith. For example, we can’t “prove” God exists to ourselves, much less to anyone else. We can’t “prove” God answers prayers, especially if the answer is “No.” We can’t “prove” God has a plan for our lives.

We can look around us at nature and the entire immense universe and say to ourselves, “It must have come from somewhere. Something that complex couldn’t have come from nothing. Someone must have made it.” We can think about the concept of “right and wrong” and, again, say to ourselves, “Well, it must have come from somewhere.” Christian apologist (someone who tries to explain the Christian faith through logical argument) Ravi Zacharias claims that, “if there’s no moral Law Giver, there’s no moral law.” He would say the existence of good and evil proves God exists because God represents good. There are also those who say the Bible “proves” there’s a God. But whether the Bible is true is also a matter of faith.

There are those who believe Jesus is the “proof” that God is real because God became flesh. They believe Jesus’ miracles “prove” he was who he claimed to be. But in the gospel of John Jesus says to Thomas, “‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” (John 20:29b ESV). Faith doesn’t ask for proof. Instead, faith is proof. But too often we’re like Thomas. The author of Hebrews wrote, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1 ESV). I’m from Illinois originally but I’ve lived in Missouri long enough to be a child of the “Show me” state. But I know there are things you can’t “show me,” things of faith, things that are spiritually discerned.

Peter wrote, “Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,” (1 Pet. 1:8b ESV). If we believe, we can have joy. If we believe, we can have peace. In Hawthorne’s story, Giovanni refused to be swayed because he loved Beatrice. If we love God, we won’t be swayed either, and God will make sure we aren’t. When others see us following God, living according to faith, they will know the truth of what we profess. We don’t have to live as “natural persons,” we can live supernaturally, walking by faith and seeing through eyes of faith. Some “secrets” are too good to keep.

“But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. . . . For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” (1 Cor. 2:7, 10b-13 ESV.)

Copyright © 2017 by David Phelps