Thursday, 3 December 2015

Misplaced Faith

Christian, where does your faith lie?

I was having supper with a pastor. And as is sometimes the case when believers intermingle, testimonies and past stories abounded. Nothing was particularly interesting about this pastor's back story. He was raised in a Christian home by Godly parents. He thought himself rebellious as a youth, but his stories indicated he was not. He seemed a nice man to shepherd the flock. As his story progressed, he discussed how his uncle and aunt were pivotal influences for his Christian walk and the rudder that steered him to Bible school. A nice story (perhaps a little boring), but good enough to share between chews. But then he said something startling. Amongst his fawning over his godly uncle and aunt, he said they were so important to his decision to believe in Jesus, that he was unsure if could believe if they renounced their faith.


How could this be? This man was raised in a good Christian home, had gone to seminary and was leading a local congregation, and he had a faulty foundation for his faith. His eternal salvation was built on the perceived holiness of a fallible man and woman: Instead of the infallible Lord Jesus Christ. The foundations of his aunt and uncle’s faith should have been his foundation, not the aunt and uncle themselves. Even if his uncle and aunt remain faithful to the grave, this foundation would be weak when tested by trial. Your faith should not be contingent on the faith of another.

I am troubled by this dynamic, and man’s capacity to follow man, and not God. I understand the close bond that can form when disciplining and that is healthy. But I am always terrified by the prospect that someone’s faith would be contingent on me (not my faith, but me personally). What a terrible burden for the fallible to carry. In a post about role modelling, I discussed how important it is to have Godly examples to shape Godly character. Yet this is not what I’m referring to here. Your Christian walk should be carried on legs marbled by Biblical truth and a sound relationship with God. You shouldn’t be piggy-backing someone else’s faith. If they fall, you fall.

Another pastor another day. Yet this one was retired and had served a long and fruitful career leading believers. We sat discussing some Biblical issues; testing one another for weakness. As is sometimes the case when knowledgeable believers intermingle, theological debates will at times ensue. This particular pastor, with whom I jousted, was something known as a hard-Calvinist (or was that a hard-headed Calvinist?). We predictably presented the same tired old theorems and the same old Bible verses in an effort to prove our points. These debates usually follow an almost scripted format, as each pulls out his predictable pet verse to bite his opponent.

Unable to stomach an allegorical scriptural defense any further (if you can’t agree on the hermeneutics it’s almost pointless to discuss particular verses), I departed from the script with a seemingly innocuous jab that should have been easily blocked. I presented evidence that Calvin was a murder. I know … it’s almost an ad hominid poke at a dead guy. But boom, the house of cards caved in. The old retired pastor looked at me and sternly stated, “I cannot believe that, or my life would have been lived for a lie”.


It makes me wonder what this Godly old man’s life was lived for. Wasn’t it for God? For spreading the gospel? Was his life’s work built on the foundation of John Calvin and not on Jesus Christ? Was his purpose to spread TULIP and the Heidelberg catechism and not the gospel? I had more historically unflattering material that I could have easily presented. But I grew fearful of breaking an old servant’s poorly formed foundation, which appeared covered in spackle to hide its cracks. How could a Christian’s life be rooted in Calvin and not in Christ? -Such unfortunately displaced faith. Yet it echoes the sediment of the young pastor, who put his faith in family, and not God. These two shared a misaligned faith. Both focused on a man, and not the Son of man.

Another pastor another day. This one stood at the podium on a Sunday morning. He told the congregation that he was troubled. The book “The Da Vinci Code” had just come out and was stirring the proverbially ignorant pot in unknowledgeable minds. The preface of the book explains that it is a fictitious book, yet the wayward seemed to think it some historically accurate epiphany. I mourn the degenerating collective intelligence of my nation. But what troubled the pastor? Thankfully, it was not the book. The book is comical in its fabrications. It was his daughter. His intelligent Christian daughter was raised by a skilled pastor, raised in the Church, raised in Sunday School, raised in Bible Camps, raised in AWANA clubs, raised in vacation bible schools, and now was rapidly approaching graduation from bible school. She planned to be a missionary. Yet an insignificant book of trite hits book store shelves and her faith is put on pause. It slapped her Christian faith in the face. It should never have hit her, let alone almost knock her out. Confused and dazed, she ran home to daddy and asked, “Is `The Da Vinci Code’ true”?


The pastor explained to the congregation that he was annoyed. He had just paid 10’s of thousands of dollars to send his daughter to a decent Bible College. And yet, she would approach him over a fictitious book from a dubious author and question her faith. Over a book she hasn’t even read. What the hell’s going on? It would be funny if not so sad. Is Christianity really in such a sorry state? Your faith is not an intellectual curiosity to play with. Do people realize that the foundations of the Christian faith have been attacked for over 2000 years, and it has prevailed. There is nothing new under the sun; all seemingly new and novel attacks are merely regurgitated arguments from smarter past critics that failed in their criticism. But the pastor’s daughter was particularly embarrassing. She was not shaken by tough probing criticism, but by fluffy well placed lies.

I remember the pastor’s words, “What would she do if her dad wasn’t a pastor who could explain these things to her”? Yes indeed. How could she have been so easily shaken? And not by a tornado, but by a passing bird’s fart.

Hers is a more complex situation to interpret, and I’m unsure where her problems lie. Her faith seemed weak, and perhaps misplaced; though the two are not necessarily the same. Was her faith in her father and not in her Father? I don’t think so. I think her father was her role model, and was a worthy one at that; A Godly mentor to seek council from and a valuable resource to ask questions of. No, this was not her hindrance, this was a strength. Her problem seems to radiate from a disengaged faith: Unproven, untested, and undeveloped. But how could her faith be so flimsy that she’d have to access her trusted resource over dandy-lion fuzz? How indeed?

I suspect there is a problem in the institutional Christian monolith’s approach. The reasons we believe are not taught. We are only taught “to” believe. So when we are challenged with divergent ideas, we have no basis of fact to dispel them. Ours is a rational faith that stands as an anvil against the barrage of humanism, atheism, polytheism, deism, and heresy. These things break when they strike our anvil. Christ is an unmovable corner stone. Do not put your faith in men, as our first two pastors did. What an odd thing to have to say. Yet apparently, it needs saying. And strengthen your foundation. Trust in God. Read the Bible. Understand the Bible. Read about Christian apologetics. Seek out Godly sources. And know that all these intellectual pursuits are second to your relationship with your Maker. Foster that relationship and seek Him in prayer. Know Him. Or be swept away with the chaff in the breeze.

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