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The Nature of Unbelief


In Ernest Hemmingway’s Green Hills of Africa, he hunts for sable. He shoots a large chestnut-colored cow, and then sees an immense black bull, which he shoots but badly. He finds the cow, but he and his team of trackers and porters search all day for the bull. The language he uses, I believe, is no accident.


By the middle of the day, some of the men were sitting under trees or searching half-heartedly. They began to doubt that the bull sable existed. Perhaps it was really only a big cow, and they had already found it. Their smaller cow had gotten away instead. No, there was no bull. Hemmingway admits that it was very hard to keep looking against the force of so much unbelief. It was hard to have faith that the bull even existed. He began to doubt the bull's existence.


Then he envisioned the situation, the bull breaking from the trees. His own excited bad shot. The size of the horns, the bull breaking through the grass and running. No, he had shot the bull. His tracker also remembered with him. The bull was there, they just had to keep looking. The others caught the faith briefly, but eventually they gave up again. It made the faith, even of the leaders hard to maintain.


This is a real dynamic. Think about the way love works. If a man does not tell his wife that he loves her on a regular basis, she begins to doubt it. Talking about it reinforces the truth. It strengthens belief.


This is not just a story about sables and big game hunters. It is about faith and the dynamic of unbelief. In C.S. Lewis' story "Prince Caspian", the dwarf did not believe in Aslan at all. Peter did not see him and did not believe that Lucy saw him either. Susan believed Lucy but would not express her belief. Edmund believed, expressed his belief, but gave in to the older people present.


In the end, unbelief won the day. The believers were influenced by the unbelievers.

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