Recently, our Grace Orlando worship pastor, Chad Wyatt, told me a hilarious story that unfolded like a real-life sitcom. Chad and his wife, Hilary, were coming home from church one afternoon, when they noticed their porch plant was missing. As fortune would have it, they had recently installed a video doorbell; so they checked the footage. They watched as two wildly drunk guys stumbled across their porch at two o’clock in the morning and gleefully stole their plant. Because…why not? Their crime committed, the men made a hasty getaway, only to flounder at the Wyatt’s front fence. They were just too sloppy to scale it. Bear in mind, this is no wrought iron fortress. It’s a cute, little picket fence not more than two-feet-high. It was award-worthy footage!
Hilary snapped a screenshot of the men’s faces and took to the neighborhood social media page. But here’s where the story goes differently than you might expect. Instead of ranting, she kindly requested for anyone who knew these men to please ask them to return the plant. All would be forgiven; they just wanted the pot back. She didn’t name call, slander, or harangue about the evils of society. Later that day she received a private message with a heartfelt apology from the very men who had stolen the plant. The plant was returned, and once more Hilary took to social media to publicly thank them.
The response was staggering. Hilary’s post blew up with comments:
“You handled that beautifully!”
“Sometimes a little grace is all that is needed to set things right again…”
“Thank God, I thought my ceramic bunny might be next!”
“That’s all we need. More good in the world.”
It actually caught the attention of the district commissioner who wrote, “This restores my faith that people will do the right thing.”
One of the most captivating realities of the wonderful counsel of God is that it is counterintuitive. The world says “might makes right.” Fight to protect your interests. Take vengeance into your own hands. But the wise counsel of God is grounded in the gospel—in grace-centered truth that challenges people to be their best and loves them at their worst. That’s what Hilary displayed, and the world noticed.
This story is a great example of presuppositional apologetics. Simply put, presuppositionalism asserts that everything we see in the world is colored by what we believe. Chad and Hilary’s belief in the gospel informed their view of the situation. Similarly, Christians who witness the life transformation of a cultural icon like Kanye West might say, “Look what God did!” They are open to “seeing” something miraculous, because fundamentally they believe in the life-changing power of God.
Of course it works the other way, too. Someone with a materialist worldview, who believes only in physical matter, cannot see the miraculous hand of God. They see solely natural explanations for everything. They may demand evidence, challenging, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” but in reality the opposite is true: They’ll see it when they believe it. Belief precedes sight. Indeed, it informs sight.
You’ve seen this principle at work if you’ve ever bought a car and suddenly noticed how many people drive the same car. Or if you’re trying to start a family and suddenly see pregnant women everywhere. No one looks at the world as an objective, neutral observer. Our internal bias—our beliefs and presuppositions—shape the way we see the world.
This is what makes belief so important. If what we believe is twisted and bent, our concept of reality will be twisted and bent. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul writes that the wicked “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” and as a result their entire reality was distorted. “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness” from envy and idolatry to sexual sin and murder.
Nothing is more important than ensuring that our beliefs are biblical, true, and intellectually reasonable. When I counsel people, I often begin by addressing their belief system. I ask some variation of three basic questions: What does your belief system actually say? What are the implications of this belief system? Are you willing to live with those implications?
You don’t have to be a heretic to harbor a faulty belief system. We all approach God with preconceived notions about who He is and how He ought to act in our lives. Often in seasons of suffering, we’re forced to confront these presuppositions about God. We catch ourselves thinking things like, “How could God let this happen? He must be punishing me,” or “There’s no hope; I will never recover from this.”
In late October, the campus pastors and I discussed suffering in a podcast titled “When Life Doesn’t Make Sense.” We talked about seasons in our own lives when we felt confused or disappointed by God. These feelings are normal in light of suffering, but we must recognize the ways in which they point to the gospel problem in our hearts. We must allow suffering to unearth our faulty presuppositions about God, so that He can reorient us with the truth of who He is and what He’s done.
One of our chief aims in this Advent series is to challenge popularly held assumptions about God and Jesus so that we might expect the unexpected from God. In a paper entitled “Is Theology Poetry?” C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” This Advent season, ask God to grant you a willing spirit to examine your belief system. It’s crucial that you do, because by it you see everything else.