Keyhole Theology and the Limitations of Personal Experience

by Pastor Bruce Kotila

Several years ago I read a book by Os Guinness entitled God in the Dark.  It was a provocative read that dealt with the issue of doubt and the Christian life.  Surprisingly, Guinness had a decidedly different take on doubt and in many ways saw it as a positive, if not inevitable occurrence within the Christian life.  It is a worthwhile read.  The reason I bring it up today is because of an illustration he used in the book that has always stayed with me.  He recounts the story of a family of nobility who had a number of servants who ran the estate.  They were allowed the run of the property with the exception of certain rooms where only family were allowed.  On occasion curiosity would overpower them and they would peer through the keyhole to catch a glimpse of what was happening in the room.  A perfectly human response.

Guinness would go on to talk about the error in the servant’s observations was that they believed that what they saw through the keyhole accurately represented the activity in the areas of the room that were outside their view.  Adding to their error was the fact that they simply couldn’t resist the temptation to assume that their formulations of what was actually happening in the areas outside their view were in fact true representations and not speculations or educated guesses.  They observed a sliver of activity, and based on that observation built a belief about circumstances and activities they had never observed or experienced.  And they were convinced their beliefs were absolutely true even though they were operating on a small sliver of personal observation and/or knowledge.  In the language of RTF ministry, we would say they had an experience and out of that experience they formed a belief.  That belief would go on to shape their expectations and behavior as the cycle goes on to reinforce itself. 

As outsiders looking in it is easy to see that the probability of their having accurately discerned activity in the parts of the room outside their view is not very high.  Any beliefs based upon such limited experience would be shaky at best.  Yet there is the human tendency to “believe” that we “know” certain things based upon, what is many times, our very limited personal experience.  In the realm of faith we are tempted to believe that we know who God is, what He will and won’t do, what He is capable of doing and the way He does things all based upon our personal experience. Surprisingly, we many times cling to these beliefs tenaciously in spite of our limited body of evidence to support them.

This dynamic shows up in lots of areas but clearly is in play when considering the supernatural activity of King Jesus and His kingdom.  The tendency is to base our beliefs about God’s ability and willingness to move supernaturally through healings, miracles, signs and wonders on our personal experience.  We pray asking God to heal someone but the person remains sick or maybe even dies.  Our experience, if we are not careful, will lead us to a belief that God doesn’t do that today, at least for us.  It is an ungodly belief if I ever heard one but it is one commonly held by many believers in Jesus today.

I want to invite us into a season where we become willing to hit the reset button on what we believe about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the gifts that He wants to make manifest among us and what God is both capable of and willing to do for His children.  I believe God is giving us an opportunity to become more child-like in our belief in His goodness, His great love for us and both His ability and willingness to use us to heal the sick and bring freedom to captives.

In June of this year we had Walter and Ida Cowart, Regional Directors of Restoring the Foundations Northwest region, lead us through a prophetic activation.  (An audio recording of this event is available in the teachings section under Prophetic Activation with Walter and Ida)  It was a time to expand our understanding of the role of prophecy in the life of the believer and how God can use us to bring blessing and encouragement to others.  As a follow up to that event Walter and Ida Cowart are returning to Omaha on Friday night December 2 and Saturday morning December 3, 2016 to walk us through some additional activation exercises that will help us adopt a kingdom mindset for healing of all types.  In preparation for that time I will be doing some teaching on Saturday mornings October 8 and November 19, 2016 on what the New Testament has to say about gifts of healing, the gift of faith and the working of miracles.  It promises to be a rich time of learning for each of us.  I hope you will be able to join us.  For exact times and location visit the calendar section of our website at