From Shadows to Light
Dr Carl Wieland’s new book Beyond the Shadows uniquely addresses both intellectual and emotional issues
In stark contrast to the early days of the modern biblical creation movement about half a century ago,1 there is now a gratifyingly large number of books authored by biblical creationists to help meet the pressing and ongoing need for accurate origins literature.2 Some books are weighted towards technical/scientific matters, others deal more with biblical/theological aspects, while a proportion are pitched at a level suitable for children. (The number of good creation books for children is lamentably still small, but thankfully growing.)
But there’s one new book that I would say is in a creation literature class of its own, with unique content, easy readability and “can’t-put-it-down” appeal. It’s the newly released Beyond the Shadows: Making sense of personal tragedy, by Carl Wieland. As the title indicates, and the foreword explains, the book answers the paramount question (i.e. both in the minds of many Christians and from the mouths of skeptics taunting them) of: “Why do bad things happen to Christians, if there is a God who loves them?”
But the book is much more than that. Via the twists, turns and sometimes drama of his personal testimony, Dr Wieland shares a swag of lessons learned in his journey from atheism to walking with Christ. I’d like to share with you here three of my personal favourites. I have found these very helpful, as have other people, too.3
‘Strange’ things happen
If evolution were true, then everything we see happening in the world around us ought to make sense in the ‘light’ of evolution. But it doesn’t. Sometimes things occur which defy materialistic explanations and which point so strongly to the supernatural that even diehard atheists, forcibly confronted with the reality of the spirit realm, have converted to Christianity. Carl Wieland is one of those, and he speaks of ‘sinister’ occurrences that happened in the leadup to his conversion.
For instance (Beyond the Shadows p. 33), Dr Wieland and a friend were practicing a card trick, the sort that young people like to show off at parties as ‘mind-reading’. In reality, Carl and his friend had worked out a code in advance which told the other person which card it was. But Carl’s wife didn’t know this, and naively believing that Carl and his friend could indeed read minds, asked if she might try it herself. So Carl pulled a card from the deck, saw it was an ace of spades, and asked his wife which card he was holding. She got it right! However, as Carl says in Beyond the Shadows (p. 34), “That was the natural first card for anyone to think of—so, no big deal.”
But what happened next? Carl continues (pp. 34–35):
“I pulled up the next card … my wife was sitting on the other side of the room, quite a way off. I said “Okay, how about this one?” Again, she described it correctly. The hair started to rise on the back of my neck, even more so when she got the next eight in succession exactly right. Ten, all in unbroken succession, from a randomly shuffled deck. … The probability that what we had just seen with our own eyes was a random occurrence was still a mind-popping one chance in 50 million billion! A total impossibility.
“I could go on about such occurrences, which became increasingly sinister, … … no rational person in my situation could go on believing in materialism much longer. What I had seen was aching for an explanation. I had read widely enough to know that the only thing that fitted the facts was that I was witnessing the spiritual warfare between Christ and Satan … … now I had been shown that the ‘bad guys’ were for real, it made sense to join up with the ‘good guys’ as soon as possible.”
Indeed. Though an atheist at the time, Dr Wieland correctly recognized such ‘telepathic ability’ (especially given his comment that these sorts of phenomena seemed to be ‘controlled’4 to a remarkable extent by the prayers of his already-Christian mother and sister) was not consistent with an evolutionary worldview, and took it to its logical conclusion. And as Carl points out (p. 37), “once we had become Christians, all of the strange abilities and occurrences in our family stopped instantly.”
Can God heal today?
Dr Wieland devotes a whole chapter to the “sensitive territory” of healing—sometimes a controversial subject in churches—though he hastens to say it is “not a treatise” on the topic. But I found his personal perspective on this both encouraging (miraculous healing happens!) and strengthening (how to cope with ‘non-healing’). In fact, it’s hard to imagine there could be anyone better qualified to write on this topic, given Carl’s experience as a medical doctor (p. 49):
“I saw much tragedy and heartache in my Christian medical days from patients who had become convinced that their non-healing was a lack of faith and were in total despair.”
Horrific injuries from a motor vehicle accident resulted in Carl becoming a consumer, rather than a provider, of medical care, with a long period in hospital. While there, antibiotic-resistant bacteria in a gaping knee wound meant (p. 58):
“ … it looked like I would have to have the whole leg amputated in a desperate attempt to stop the infection spreading into my bloodstream.”
At that point, however, a family friend who was a top specialist in infections and also a Christian, visited Carl in hospital one evening. She told him (p. 59):
“Carl, I believe that the Lord has brought us to this point, where medicine has no more answers, to drive us to depend on Him alone.”
Carl admits that “while she prayed, rebuking the germs in the name of the Lord Jesus, I was not exactly sparkling with faith.” He didn’t even bother looking at the knee before he fell asleep. But the following day …
“The next morning, I was stunned to see all signs of infection in the knee had gone. No redness, no swelling, no tenderness, no sign of anything like that at all. Medically, it was incredible!”
So much so, that Carl became much more buoyant about the prospects for his other injuries (p. 60):
“Not surprisingly, the experience with the knee made me much more enthusiastic when, later, a visiting hospital chaplain said she wanted to pray for my damaged eye, and was convinced that God wanted to heal it.”
Having been healed despite his lack of faith, Carl’s optimism was understandable, given that he was now praying right along with the hospital chaplain for his eye, “earnestly and passionately believing that it would be healed”. But healing never came, despite having much more faith after the miraculous healing of his knee, and in fact he lost the eye altogether. “This perhaps explains why many seem to find my experiences in regard to healing encouraging whenever I share them”, he writes (p. 63). Carl goes on to explain how his experience of healing and non-healing is right in line with God’s Word. He concludes the chapter by modestly writing (p. 68):
“The understanding shared in these few pages has been an attempt to shed a small and cautious light on the interaction between faith, prayer (and their results or lack of them) and the will of God. I have found repeatedly that it has made a powerful difference in the lives of people, especially suffering Christians who wonder why God does not grant their desires.”
It sure resonated with me. I’d recommend it as helpful reading for everybody.
A useful ‘thought experiment’
Dr Wieland cleverly takes the reader on exploratory forays into issues arising out of his testimony, e.g. “The cockroach that killed Princess Diana” (p. 89) and “The bridge that is continually rebuilding itself” (p. 113). One grateful correspondent sent in this feedback about a section that she found particularly helpful:
“Specifically, thank you for your ‘abstract thought experiment’ [pp. 72-74]. In a few pages you so vividly made it clear how a loving God can ‘allow’ death and suffering and why Christ’s sacrifice was needed … I have always had trouble coming up with answers to questions like ‘Why didn’t God intervene to stop these innocent deaths?’ Yes, I know that no-one is innocent, because we’re all sinners, but your ‘abstract thought experiment’ explains so well why God giving his Son was the most loving and all-encompassing intervention that we could ask for.”
Dr Wieland’s “abstract thought experiment” was framed in context of the tragedies that occur periodically around the world, e.g. when a collapsing slagheap suffocated many children in a Welsh mining town: “There was a worldwide outpouring of not just grief, but a railing against God’s ‘unfairness’ because of their young ages.”
However, Carl tellingly asks the reader (p. 72) to “think on this. Is it any ‘fairer’ for an old person to die than a young one?” He then pursues the topic of the “unfairness” of death from a number of angles, pointing out (p. 73) that “the answer is back there in Genesis—but only if we take it as a straightforward historical account, in the way in which the Lord Jesus and the New Testament writers so clearly did—an originally good world, ruined by sin, to be restored in the future.” Dr Wieland continues:
“To put it another way, let’s say that you have concluded that it is ‘unfair’ of God to permit the deaths of the school children in Wales … So that means you are saying that to be ‘fair’, God should have prevented the deaths of those Welsh children. But then, to be really ‘fair’, He should prevent all deaths of school-age children in accidents, anywhere. If he were to have done that, we would then conclude that it was ‘unfair’ for Him to allow childhood deaths from disease. So let’s assume that He chose to prevent all deaths in children, anywhere, anytime. But if He chose to define childhood as ending at 18, why would it now be ‘fair’ to allow a 19-year-old to die, while preventing all death under that age? I hope this abstract ‘thought experiment’ makes it clear that, logically, we could not be satisfied with the situation’s ‘fairness’ until death had been eliminated altogether.”
And Carl then takes the reader to the only valid solution possible, viz., the perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son.
Into the light
I trust these extracts have been a sufficient ‘taste’ of Beyond the Shadows to whet your appetite for more. The book is a stand-out among biblical creation literature as, among other things, it brilliantly addresses readers’ intellectual issues and emotional needs relating to suffering in this life. I heartily recommend it.
References and notes
- When there was only one book, The Genesis Flood, by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris. See Grigg, R., Turning the tide, Creation 33(3):18–19, 2011. Return to text.
- E.g. Creation Book Publishers has become one of the foremost publishers of biblical creation materials. Return to text.
- Much of the content of Beyond the Shadows has already been ‘road-tested’ so-to-speak, with much favourable feedback. This latest book, with modest revisions, upgrades and added sections, has grown out of one half of the co-authored book Walking Through Shadows, now out of print. Dr Wieland also gives his testimony to an audience of some 800 people in the moving Walking Through Shadows DVD of the same name. Return to text.
- I.e., in the sense of giving protection. Return to text.