Once Blind, But Now I See

by Francis MacNutt
Jan/Feb 2007

I want to share with you a problem I have been struggling with for a long time and if you are a reflective Christian, you are probably working on it, too: how can it be that people who claim to be Christians can seem to be so very wrong in some of their moral choices?

They say they are “born again” and they can date the time it all happened. Furthermore, they testify to the extraordinary changes that took place at that time. I believe them, but in some particular areas of their lives, they seem oblivious to what true Christianity is all about. Reflecting on my own life and looking back, I can see areas where I simply was not aware of major elements of Christian life, even though I was ordained and serious about living a Christian life. For example, it was not until 1966 that I became aware of the importance of the baptism of the Spirit and of healing prayer. As I see it now, these are two major areas where Christians need to come alive in order for Christianity to be fully restored.

What I now believe is that Christians can encounter Jesus and his salvation in such a way that a part of their humanity is scarcely touched. At first, this may sound odd: after all, isn’t all of me one human being with one spirit, one soul?

Where I first dramatically encountered this partial saving encounter with God was in trying to help those who had “multiple personalities” (DID, or Dissociative Identity Disorder). In those days a counselor worked with CHM who had extensive experience in working with survivors of satanic ritual abuse. Whenever a personality would emerge who had not yet made a Christian commitment, she would ask that personality to make a full commitment to Jesus and would then ask me to baptize that particular personality, who could then be integrated into the entire personality. This pastoral question had never presented itself in my excellent seminary training: we only baptized people once. However, I wasn’t being asked to baptize the same person twice; it was a part of the personality that had never been baptized!

This, in turn, made sense in terms of what the sociologist Will Herberg had claimed in his book, Protestant, Catholic and Jew.1 His startling observation was that although Protestants, Catholics and Jews all thought that their beliefs were very different, their basic belief was really the same: their real belief, as shown in their words and actions, was really the American Dream. Christians really believed in success, in fame and accumulating wealth. Part of them had not been reached by Christ’s teaching and example.

I have come to the conclusion that the Spirit’s great work in each one of us — after our initial conversion and after our baptism in the Spirit — is to enlighten our minds until we can see the full picture of what Jesus taught. He even taught his disciples, at the Last Supper, that there were some teachings they were still not yet ready to understand (John 16:12-13).

Until our eyes are fully opened, our supposedly Christian views are likely to be contaminated by the belief system of the culture in which we grow up. How else can we explain why so many Germans — mainly Catholic and Lutheran — bought into the Nazi beliefs? How else can we account for churches that believe that Scripture is inspired by God and yet, with calm assurance accept the view of the 18th Century “Enlightenment” that miracles are no longer possible? How do we arrive at a time when a reputable theologian like William Barclay can state that belief in the demonic is “superstition”?

When we realize that it’s very possible that one can be a basically good Christian, but still be spiritually blind in major areas of their Christian beliefs, it should make us more forgiving and understanding — less judgmental than when we were younger. As the French proverb says, “If you are not a revolutionary when you are twenty, you have no heart. If you are still a revolutionary when you are forty, you have no head!”

Just to give a notable example of spiritual blindness, take John Newton, who wrote the words of that great hymn “Amazing Grace,” famous for its honest claim, “I once was blind but now I see.”  When he was little more than a boy, he shipped off to sea as a sailor where he picked up dissolute habits of violence, sex and drinking, for which he later was ashamed. He was a born leader, so he rose quickly in his twenties to become the captain of a slave ship that picked up slaves in Africa and transported them to the British colonies in the New World.  Then, one night, a monstrous storm rose up that nearly capsized his ship. Lashed to the mast, he was so terrified that he cried out to God to save him. He repented for his debauched life and surrendered his life to God as best he could. He truly was converted and cleaned up his life as best he knew how, yet, surprisingly to us, he saw nothing at all wrong in continuing to bring slaves to work the British plantations in their colonies. For five years he continued as a slaver, only now he would calmly study Scripture and pray in his captain’s quarters while hundreds of slaves were suffering below decks, shackled to crowded bunks where many of them died and were thrown overboard in the mid-Atlantic.

Amazingly, Newton's conscience was not touched in this area until he heard John Wesley speak about slavery, which opened his eyes to what he had been doing. He really followed through on his repentance and became a major figure in changing British public opinion, until England finally abolished the slave trade. Opposition was so strong (the profit motive) that it took 50 years before the British finally gave up the slave trade, which was many years before the United States abandoned slavery during the Civil War.

You can read story after story like this in Christianity’s history2 — of people being converted, but only in part. I believe that only when the Spirit comes fully upon us will we become free in every main area of our lives to finally see and embrace the totality of the glorious vision that Christ has gifted to us in order to become a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).

1 University of Chicago Press, 1955 and 1983.
2 The history of how Christians were largely blind to their healing heritage is contained in my new book The Healing Reawakening (Chosen Books), which was formerly titled The Nearly Perfect Crime.

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Jan/Feb 2007 Issue