Seeing Is Not Believing: When We Walk by Faith and Not by Sight

Rev. Dr. Jonathan Charles Naumann

"Unless I see...I will not believe" was the notorious position of Doubting Thomas (John 20:25). Yet, such a stance is more popular now than ever. "Seeing is believing" has taken the place of traditional faith that, is "drawn to the love of those things which are not seen."

Yet, Jesus' reply to Thomas was, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). Among the reasons why Christ would say such a thing, is the fact that God values faith (belief) so highly, that He is unwilling to reveal Himself in a way that would render faith unnecessary. With regard to human beings, our trust in His word is as important to God as our free will was, when He first created us.

Hence what theologians call the Deus absconditus--the way God chooses to hide Himself from our physical senses--so that faith in Him can be necessary. God does this in many ways.

God has so ordered the universe, that the miracle of its existence is hidden beneath a veil of material causation--so much so, that many a scientist fails to see His divine hand at work in it. He has so ordered the human body, so that the divinely revealed "soul/spirit"' in us is hidden. For example, a soul does not need an optic nerve to see (Luke 16:23). Blind people, during NDEs (near death experiences) report enjoying 20-20 vision, while their soul was separated from their defective body. Yet, the soul is normally required to make use of faulty biological mechanisms, like the brain, effectively hiding the miracle of God in what appears to be material functionality.

The single most complex entity in the known universe is the human being in general and the human brain in particular. Yet, however bafflingly amazing the human being is, unbelievers from Charles Darwin to Richard Dawkins still attempt to explain us in purely materialistic terms.

The most momentous example of God hiding His glory from our senses is the wonder of His almighty, eternal Son in the flesh. John Wesley famously described the incarnation with the words "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate deity." Yet, having people see the Son of the Living God looking like an ordinary Jewish guy is not exceptional for God. Rather, it is the norm. Above all, this strategy was necessary or else Christ would not have been sacrificed for our redemption. "None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Corinthians 2:8).

And so it goes; God's Word and sacraments, like our crucified and risen Savior, are so easily despised and scorned, yet so full of miraculous power to save those who believe (Romans 1:16). Luther once said of Holy Baptism: "All that the mortal eye beholds is water as we pour it. Before the eye of faith unfolds the power of Jesus' merit" (LSB 406).

Let us pray. Father in Heaven, in many ways, You veil much from human eyes, that would render faith unnecessary. We thank You that faith can include the precious and comforting gifts of assurance and conviction about the reality of things 'not seen', through the power of Your Spirit working through Your word and sacraments. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Jonathan Charles Naumann, lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. He was a career missionary who served in Great Britain.

Created: April 3rd, 2016