Hiroo’s Dilemma and the Problem of Belief

“On March 9, 1974, Japanese Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda walked out of the jungle of on a remote island in the Philippines, finally convinced that World War II was over–29 years after it had ended. Trained as an intelligence officer in guerrilla warfare, he was told to survive at all cost. No matter what happened, his superiors would come for him.

 

Just a few months after his arrival in 1944, the allies overwhelmed Japanese defenses, and Hiroo’s band of five hid deep in the jungle, surviving on what they could find. When the war ended many attempts were made to find and convince the remaining soldiers to come out. Newspapers and even letters from relatives were left, which they found, along with the leaflets. But how could the war have ended so quickly? And why were there spelling errors in the leaflets? Hiroo’s own brother even came and attempted to speak to him over a loudspeaker. The band considered each piece of evidence, and always concluded that the enemy was trying to deceive them. One by one they died, the last one after 27 years in hiding, leaving Hiroo alone.

 

Finally, a Japanese student tracked Hiroo down and befriended him. He could not surrender, Hiroo explained, until his commanding officer ordered him to do so. The student returned to Japan, and the government found his commander, now a bookseller, who returned in his tattered uniform and personally gave the order. Hiroo, still in his uniform, with sword on his side and his working rifle in his hand, was relieved of duty, and wept. Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos pardoned him for the approximately 30 people he had killed over the years, because the soldier had believed he was still at war. Hiroo returned to a world vastly changed, realizing that his beliefs had been completely wrong for nearly 30 years.”

In his book Mapping Apologetics, Brian Morley opens with the above illustration.Mapping apologetics Hiroo, Morley explains, illustrates the problem of belief. What should be accepted as evidence? How should one weigh assumptions? When it comes to whether or not to have faith in God, Christ, and the Bible “[t]here could not be a more important question than how we are to decide what to believe.” Morley covers apologetics approaches ranging from Fideism to Rationalism, in between examining basic approaches such as Presuppositionaliam and Evidentialism. I highly recommend his book.

Morley concludes that evidence does play a role in a biblical faith, “[but] it seems that we do not need 100-percent proof in order to have 100-percent faith” (353). The Bible teaches that all creation testifies to the existence and nature of God (Rom. 1:20). Due to human fallenness, this witness is suppressed, distorted, or ignored. This does not mean that the human mind is incapable of grasping truth. Offering arguments for the Christian faith is an entirely legitimate approach because the Holy Spirit works through believers when they make the case for faith (364). The persistent presentation of the truth can eventually win the day. Even Hiroo came to see the light.