TERMS: Let's start by speaking the same language
1) religion, worship, and faith
saw no God."
Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin,
first man into space
the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...."
VIII Commander Frank Borman broadcasting
creation account from lunar orbit
What is religion?
Religion, in the Latin
religare, describes the binding of one thing to another. In a true
sense, everyone is religious in that everyone holds some kind of belief
on how everything is bound together: where everything came from, why we
are here, the meaning of life, and so on. The particular set of beliefs
based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, as given in the Bible,
is referred to as the Christian religion.
Atheism is defined by
its proponents as the deliberate absence of belief in God, but it, too,
is a full-fledged religion as affirmed in 1977 by the Supreme Court of the
United States. In 1985, a decision written by Justice Scalia, and concurred
in by Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist, states that the United States
Supreme Court explicitly holds Secular Humanism to be a religion.
atheism, and all other beliefs have conflicts with each other. Therefore,
it is a fact that not all religions can accurately be reflecting the true
nature of how everything relates. Just like asking, "What is two plus two?",
the true nature of reality is not a question that can be answered, "To each
his own". If there exists one true religion or worldview, that worldview
is as true for you as it is for me, and any others must be false.
For example, Humanism
cannot claim that there is no supernatural Creator while the Bible claims
that there is - and both claims be right. Either there is a Creator or there
isn't. This is not narrow-mindedness; this is just the nature
On the other hand, the
word religion is also used to describe the mere outward gestures, ceremonies,
and customs that people go through in exercising their beliefs. In this
sense, isolated from a true inward relationship to the Lord, religion has
a terribly bad connotation.
Some people who describe
themselves as religious, who attend Christian-labeled churches regularly,
and go through all the outward motions are not biblical Christians.
Conversely, there are many authentic Christians who resist being labeled
as religious specifically to avoid being associated with the former.
6.2 What is worship?
The word worship
sometimes evokes Tarzan-esque images of savages prostrate before a gnarly-faced
icon. But worship, by its general definition, is something that everyone
practices. Worship is simply the showing of great love, devotion, or admiration.
That is worship. And
people worship many things, like loved ones, sports teams, activities and
so on. Enjoying
such things does not make us polytheists, but we might do well to re-evaluate
those things that receive the majority of our time, money, and attention.
or whom do you most worship? Why? And to what end?
at Scripture, one finds that worship which God finds acceptable is narrowly
defined. Acceptable worship of God, according to the Bible, requires
worshipping the true God, in the proper attitude, with an obedient spirit.
any false idea about God is not worshipping God. Dragging yourself into
church just because that's "what you're supposed to do" is not
God. Feeling proud that you even went to church is not worshipping
God. Singing and praying in the morning, then lying and being selfish by
the afternoon is not worshipping
you believe you love God, but are described by any of those, revisit how
it is that you worship. Otherwise you might as well spend Sunday morning
watching midget wrestling on TV and perhaps be better off for not having
offered up a pathetic mockery of worship to the Lord.
6.3 What is faith?
-- DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE?
causes some men to see evidence for God where others see none?
Or, phrased another way, what blinds some men to the evidence for God that
others plainly see? One answer is to say, "It's all a matter of faith",
but what exactly is faith?
An old quip attributed
to Mark Twain goes, "Faith is believing in something you know ain't true."
This answer sounds like one of those things that only a kid would come up
with, but adults seldom do a better job of explaining it.
Skeptics routinely charge
that faith is the act of turning off one's intellect, parroting verses of
Scripture, and holding to unevidenced hopes and claims. For too many Christians,
this is dead on and the skeptics' charge stands.
Entire movements have
been centered around false definitions of faith like the word-faith movement
(name-it-and-claim-it, etc.). Ideologies of this sort are not an accurate
portrayal of faith as the Bible instructs. Even
on doctrines where false-faith groups agree with orthodox positions, their
conclusions are often arrived at by such poor logic that their teachings
are detrimental to the effective teaching of the real gospel.
Such "believers" have only substituted intellectual laziness for
So for them, and for
the rest of us, here are two good definitions of real faith illustrated
to show faith's relevance and application in our everyday lives.
-- ONE: THE FOUNDATION OF LOGIC
First, faith is the
foundation of logic. Logic is the science of reasoning. In logic, what
you accept to be true in the beginning directly affects what you conclude
in the end. These beginning truths are called premises: inclinations of
thought upon which reasoning is built. No premise can be said to have been
derived logically because, if so, it would be the end product of some prior
reasoning instead of a starting point itself. Premises are simply accepted
As an illustration,
anthropologist Arthur C. Custance contrasts the faith of an atheistic scientist
against that of a Bible-believing Christian:
In any system of thought,
one must always start somewhere, and the validity of the starting point
must always be accepted on faith. The scientist says, 'I believe that
there is but one kind of reality, the physical order of things, the nature
of which will ultimately be understood only by the scientific method.'
The Christian says, 'I believe that there are two kinds of reality, a
physical one which is that acknowledged by the scientist, and a spiritual
one which cannot be understood without the revelation of Scripture.' It
is pointless to set these two, the one against the other: each side must
allow the other's point of view. ...What both hold are basic unprovable
assumptions (or premises). 1
Premises, by this
definition, are all matters of faith; whether theistic or atheistic.
It is on this same basis that the Supreme Court can rightly declare any
belief system, including atheism and humanism, to be a religion. Justice
Scalia's decision, referenced earlier, goes on to state that the exclusion
of the creation science
viewpoint in favor of teaching evolution
within public schools violates the separation of church and state. Scalia
clarifies that it is a violation because evolution is the central doctrine
of the secular humanist religion.
This particular statement
(admittedly the court system upholds contradictory declarations on church/state
separation) alludes to the extreme difficulty of separating religion from
public life and institutions. No matter what one holds in faith, God or
no god, the practice of that faith is a legally recognized religion. The
deliberate exclusion of an acknowledgment of God can be just as much the
expression of one's worldview as the deliberate inclusion of the same.
As for agnosticism (the
philosophy that nothing can be known, or everything is to be doubted), it
fails to provide a rational compromise between the presence and absence
of faith in God. When agnosticism declares that nothing can be known, then
that declaration itself is either 1) wrong and something can be known, or
2) right but, in the act of knowing that nothing can be known, consequently
refutes itself. Pure agnosticism is logically impossible. Thus we are left
with the confirmation that whatever one believes, that belief is ultimately
based on faith.
-- TWO: THE EXTENSION OF TRUST
Second, faith can
also be the extension of trust into the future based upon proven reliability
in the past. This is a common expression of faith with which we can
believe the Bible as a written document.
The telephone directory
is a good illustration of this principle. Imagine checking a directory for
five phone numbers that you have called many times in the past. If the numbers
found in the directory prove identical to the numbers you already know to
be valid (because you have been calling them all these years), then the
directory is proven correct in those five cases. You can now trust the directory
concerning those five cases.
Trust then becomes faith
when you look up someone's number in that directory which you don't already
know, and call believing the listing to be correct based upon the directory's
reliability in the past. In this sense, faith is the extension of trust
into the future based upon proven reliability in the past. By checking those
first five listings, the directory proved perfectly reliable against what
you already knew to be true. Therefore, you reasonably concluded that the
directory was likely also true even where you had not yet tested it.
This is an empirical
approach to applying faith to the Bible. Much of the Bible (like its more
notable cities, persons, and prophecies) can be proven true by history,
archaeology, geography, and other methods. Yet other parts remain to be
proven (like specific conversations, cities long since destroyed, and future
prophecies). Christians can therefore choose to believe the unproved
parts of the Bible either as an extension of the premise that God exists,
or by a faith based upon the Bible's reliability in the past.
Think of the Bible as
an enormous phone book. It has stood complete for over 1,900 years. Over
the centuries, skeptics have tested it and have continued to fail in constructing
an unanswerable argument against it. Many skeptics are won over, but many
others maintain their expectation that some day the Bible will be disproved.
Dismissing the Bible's
accuracy in light of the 1,900 years of testing is like accusing the telephone
book of being a random pairing of names and numbers even after years of
using it. It's as if 98% of the entries have been called, all having been
found to match, and yet holding out the hope that someday the entire phone
book will prove to be mere coincidence.
Without a doubt, the
phone book is not an accidental pairing of names and numbers. But consider
for a moment if someone claimed it were. How many numbers would you expect
them to test in order to be convinced otherwise? Every number? Just a paltry
few thousand numbers? Now think about the Bible. What should it take
to be convinced of the Bible's authenticity? At some point, it is the absence
of faith that becomes irrational.
Faith, in review, is
not believing something contrary to evidence or believing against all logic
and reason. Christian faith is recognizing and acting in accordance with
the belief that we are always living in the presence of the God of the scriptures.
I like that summation because it is a good contrast to an atheist's self-description
I once read: "Atheists live their lives as though there is nobody watching
By faith we learn to
discern God's voice in the scriptural writings, in our circumstances and
in our prayers, and allow his love for us to move us towards a better expression
of his own perfect attributes. It is how closely our relationship with God
has improved our ability to reflect his attributes that we can most accurately
measure how much we truly love him.
NEXT: BASIC TERMS... - part two
What is truth?
What is Christian?
What does it mean
to combine faith and the Word?