Radical Faith

–March of 2000

Radical Faith

When Martin Wells Knapp walked into the Hamilton County Courthouse in the summer of 1900 to record the deed to the newly-purchased property at 1810 Young Street, he told the clerk to record the deed in the name of “God the Father.”  Thus began the story of radical faith on the campus of God’s Bible School.

Radical isn’t a word that most conservative Christians are comfortable with.  Religiously, it conjures up images of wild-eyed fanatics flirting with the spiritual ragged edge.  Politically, it is connected to tree-hugging environmentalists, pro-abortionists, and other people who embrace far-left social issues.

At the turn of the century, it was a label given to differentiate between those who accepted the status quo of the mainline church and those who embraced a total dependence on God to meet all of their needs spiritually, financially, and physically while they gave themselves to the promotion of revival and world evangelism.  The term was dropped, about a half century later, as these groups started their descent into mainline respectability.  Interestingly enough, though, the term radical faith is surfacing again at the turn of this century by youth organizations and prominent evangelicals such as Chuck Colson.  It has been revived once again to distinguish between what God really wants and the status quo faith found in the average church.

Knapp and those associated with GBS in the first several decades defined Biblical faith as something radically different from what they saw in the mainline churches.  Knapp’s personal view of faith was affected by several different influences.  First, his strong conviction of what New Testament faith really required left him with the belief that most Christians have strayed too far from a New Testament or primitive faith (thus the school’s motto, “Back to the Bible”).  Secondly, he was influenced by the writings of Madame Guyon and George Mueller.  Third, he believed in a personal experience of physical healing.  Fourth, he rejoiced in a tremendous move of God among the revivalist groups of which he was a part.

Though Knapp lived only a year after he started GBS, his emphasis on total abandonment and complete trust in God affected decades of graduates.  In 1901, the Cowmans were led to go to Japan the “New Testament way,” that is with no promise of support.  G.C. Bevington came here as a student in 1902.  His colorful ministry later was compiled in the book, Remarkable Incidents and Modern Miracles through Prayer and Faith.  This same radical faith sent John F. Simpson to the Philippines, Lula Schmelzenbach to South Africa, Lillian Trasher to Egypt, Everett Phillippe to the Caribbeans, Wesley Duewel to India, and thousands of others to conquer impossible situations for God at home and abroad armed only with an unflinching faith in God, backed up by total commitment to His cause.

Oswald Chambers, who was here in the first decade, described the institution in these words: “It is a work run primarily on the faith line.”  Chambers was so impressed by this life of faith that he chose to start a school like it in England.

The modern ear doesn’t like the sound of radical faith.  The modern mind just can’t accept it.  We have developed such an impoverished view of God that our minds are no longer conditioned to expect God’s mighty intervention on our behalf.  We have put God in a box and become at ease with explaining why we shouldn’t step out on naked faith.  Those who choose to do so anyway are often stereotyped as simpletons and woefully ignorant of true spirituality.  I would readily acknowledge that there is a fine line between radical faith and foolishness, but I would also have to admit that there is a fine line between so called sensible faith and a faith so weakened by carnality that it can’t let go of self and trust God with everything.  The latter is so influenced by self that it rebels against the kind of interference God would need to make in our lives to see radical faith really operative.

Nevertheless, God is looking for men with radical faith.  When God needed a family through which to bring the Messiah, He chose a pagan from the region of Iraq; He revealed Himself to Abram, and called him to leave behind everything he knew and go to a place that he knew nothing about.  God promised to give him this new land and populate it with his descendants who would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.  Yet, for the next 25 years Abraham had to share that promise with a barren wife, moving about as a pilgrim on land in which he never owned more than a gravesite.  Despite the circumstances, Abraham believed God; and God responded to Abraham’s faith and brought every word of His promise to pass.

Job is another example of God’s interest in faith.  Job represents the ultimate in righteous living.  He was God’s first choice to prove to Satan that a man’s faith can be genuine and selfless, not dependent on health or wealth.  Job had to replay the original test of the Garden of Eden with the bar raised a good deal higher.  This man from Uz came through with flying colors and proved that radical faith can see God’s trustworthiness even in the dark.

I see evidences that the faith of our fathers is resurfacing boldly in a new generation—a generation much like the one a century ago that felt the need to live out a faith more daring than that of the average Christian around them.  Though we may not like the term, may God bless this generation with the works that flow from a life of radical faith.

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