When a pseudo-intellectual Christian or a supercilious non-Christian wants to parody warm but naïve and superficial piety, he often cites the hymn “Trust and Obey,” which continues, “for there’s no other way, / To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Merely to recite these time-honored lines is enough to evoke images of the backwoods revival, the rescue mission, and similar phenomena, which, he will admit, may have survived into the twentieth century, but only to become a source of ridicule for the secularist and of embarrassment to the up-to-date, intellectually respectable Christian.

Yet why is this so? Trust and obedience are biblical concepts, and no amount of theological sophistication could make it plausible that happiness in Jesus comes from distrust and disobedience. Nor can either the concept of happiness or that of “in Jesus” be suspect: the one has been canonized even by our secular culture, and the other is firmly embedded in biblical theology. What, then, causes the suspicion?

Its real source is a wrong but common divorce of knowledge from trust. There is a touch of the adept’s conceit in this, just as there is in the similar divorce of knowledge (or science) from faith. Faith is often taken to be the unlearned man’s way of arriving at spiritual truth, which in the more learned or gifted man is obtained by theological science. This opposition, which has plagued Christianity ever since its earliest days, has been brought on to no small degree by the vanity of mediocre theologians who are unwilling to admit that a simple evangelical believer’s faith is as good as their own. In the same way, “trusting God” is disdained as the simple man’s easy substitute for the long hours of toil and intellectual wrestling ...

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