Category: faith


Narrow Path

Christ frees you of your past……. Give Him praise !!!!!!

Advertisements

faith-plus-action-equals-transformationThankfully, the Bible contains a clear definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Simply put, the biblical definition of faith is “trusting in something you cannot explicitly prove.”

This definition of faith contains two aspects: intellectual assent and trust. Intellectual assent is believing something to be true. Trust is actually relying on the fact that the something is true. A chair is often used to help illustrate this. Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair and agreeing that it is designed to support a person who sits on it. Trust is actually sitting in the chair.

Understanding these two aspects of faith is crucial. Many people believe certain facts about Jesus Christ. Many people will intellectually agree with the facts the Bible declares about Jesus. But knowing those facts to be true is not what the Bible means by “faith.” The biblical definition of faith requires intellectual assent to the facts and trust in the facts.

Believing that Jesus is God incarnate who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and was resurrected is not enough. Even the demons “believe” in God and acknowledge those facts (cf. James 2:19). We must personally and fully rely on the death of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. We must “sit in the chair” of the salvation that Jesus Christ has provided. This is saving faith. The faith God requires of us for salvation is belief in what the Bible says about who Jesus is and what He accomplished and fully trusting in Jesus for that salvation (Acts 16:31). Biblical faith is always accompanied by repentance (Matthew 21:32; Mark 1:15).

The biblical definition of faith does not apply only to salvation. It is equally applicable to the rest of the Christian life. We are to believe what the Bible says, and we are to obey it. We are to believe the promises of God, and we are to live accordingly. We are to agree with the truth of God’s Word, and we are to allow ourselves to be transformed by it (Romans 12:2).

Why is this definition of faith so important? Why must trust accompany agreeing with facts? Because “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Without faith, we cannot be saved (John 3:16). Without faith, the Christian life cannot be what God intends it to be (John 10:10).

Faith and hope are distinct yet related. That there is a difference between faith and hope is evident in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Two of the three greatest gifts are faith and hope, listed separately. That faith and hope are related concepts is seen in Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for.”

Faith is a complete trust or confidence in something. Faith involves intellectual assent to a set of facts and trust in those facts. For example, we have faith in Jesus Christ. This means we completely trust Jesus for our eternal destiny. We give intellectual assent to the facts of His substitutionary death and bodily resurrection, and we then trust in His death and resurrection for our salvation.

Biblical hope is built on faith. Hope is the earnest anticipation that comes with believing something good. Hope is a confident expectation that naturally stems from faith. Hope is a peaceful assurance that something that hasn’t happened yet will indeed happen. Hope must involve something that is as yet unseen: “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” (Romans 8:24). Jesus’ return is our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13)—we can’t see Him yet, but we know He’s coming, and we anticipate that event with joy.

Jesus said He is coming again (John 14:3). By faith, we trust Jesus’ words, and that leads to hope that we will one day be with Him forever. Jesus was resurrected from the dead, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). That is the basis for our faith. Then we have Jesus’ promise: “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). That is the basis of our hope.

The relationship between faith and hope can be illustrated in the joy a child feels when his father tells him they are going to an amusement park tomorrow. The child believes that he will go to the amusement park, based on his father’s word—that is faith. At the same time, that belief within the child kindles an irrepressible joy—that is hope. The child’s natural trust in his father’s promise is the faith; the child’s squeals of delight and jumping in place are the expressions of the hope.

Faith and hope are complementary. Faith is grounded in the reality of the past; hope is looking to the reality of the future. Without faith, there is no hope, and without hope there is no true faith. Christians are people of faith and hope. We have “the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” (Titus 1:2).

  In order to correctly interpret a passage such as Matthew 17:20, we first look at the overall context of the passage. Jesus, along with Peter, James and John, had just come down from the “mount of transfiguration,” and they encounter a man with a demon-possessed child. The man tells Jesus that he brought his son to Jesus’ disciples, but they couldn’t cast the demon out (recall that Jesus earlier, in Matthew 10:1, gave His disciples the authority to cast out evil spirits). Jesus then chastises them for their lack of faith and then casts the demon out of the boy. When His disciples inquire as to why the demon didn’t obey their command, Jesus replies with the statement in Matthew 17:20. Their faith, He says, is small and weak. If it were the size of even the smallest of the seeds, the mustard bush, they would be able to “move mountains.”

The first thing that needs to be considered is the Bible’s use of literary techniques. The Bible is first and foremost God’s revealed Word; we want to be clear on this point (2 Timothy 3:16). While the Bible is God’s revealed Word, it is revealed to us by way of language. God condescended—He lowered Himself—to speak to us in ways in which we would understand. Consider a father trying to communicate with his young child. The father has to condescend in order to be understood by the limited intellect and understanding of the child. This is analogous (though not identical) to the way in which God speaks to us.

The Bible employs many forms, or genres, of literature. There is historical narrative, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic writing, and epistolary literature (to name a few). Among these various literary genres, several literary techniques are used—metaphor, simile, imagery, parable, allusion, irony, personification, paradox, and hyperbole. As readers of the Bible, we must recognize when these techniques are being used so we can properly interpret the meaning. For example, in John 10:7, Jesus says, “I am the door of the sheep.” How are we to interpret this verse? If we are too literal, we might start looking for a doorknob hidden somewhere on His body. However, if we understand this to be a metaphor, then we can begin to understand His meaning (Jesus is the way of access to eternal life, much like a door is the way of access into a room).

Another thing to consider in biblical interpretation is the context of the passage. More often than not, when we take a single verse out of its native context, we end up misinterpreting the verse. In the context of Matthew 17, Jesus rebukes the disciples for their weak faith and says that even if they had mustard seed-sized faith, they could command the mountain to move. Contextually, the mountain must refer to the demon that was afflicting the man’s son. Jesus tells His disciples that, if their faith was stronger, they could have commanded the demon to leave the boy, and it would be so. This was clearly the case in Matthew 10 when Jesus sent them out to cure diseases, cast out demons, and spread the gospel. Therefore, it is clear from the context that Jesus does not intend to assert that mustard seed-sized faith can literally move mountains. Rather, the expression Jesus uses was a common colloquialism of that day; to a Jew of Jesus’ day, a mountain is a metaphor signifying a seemingly impossible task.

Faith that can move mountains is not meant to imply a faith that can literally move literal mountains. The point Jesus was making is that even a little bit of faith—faith the size of a tiny mustard seed—can overcome mountainous obstacles in our lives.

Faith and fear cannot exist together. Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as being “certain of what we do not see.” It is an absolute belief that God is constantly working behind the scenes in every area of our lives, even when there is no tangible evidence to support that fact. On the other hand, fear, simply stated, is unbelief or weak belief. As unbelief gains the upper hand in our thoughts, fear takes hold of our emotions. Our deliverance from fear and worry is based on faith, which is the very opposite of unbelief. We need to understand that faith is not something that we can produce in ourselves. Faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9) and is described as a fruit (or characteristic) which is produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The Christian’s faith is a confident assurance in a God who loves us, who knows our thoughts and cares about our deepest needs. That faith continues to grow as we study the Bible and learn the attributes of His amazing character. The more we learn about God, the more we can see Him working in our lives and the stronger our faith grows.

A growing faith is what we desire to have and what God desires to produce in us. But how, in day-to-day life, can we develop a faith that conquers our fears? The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). The careful study of God’s Word is of primary importance in developing a strong faith. God wants us to know Him and completely rely on His direction in our lives. It’s through the hearing, reading and meditation in the Scriptures that we begin to experience a strong, confident faith that excludes worry and fear. Spending time in prayer and quiet worship develops a relationship with our heavenly Father that sees us through even the darkest of nights. In the Psalms we see a picture of David, who, like us, experienced times of fear. Psalm 56:3 reveals his faith with these words: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Psalm 119 is filled with verses expressing the way in which David treasured God’s Word: “I seek you with all my heart” (v. 10); “I meditate on your precepts” (v. 15); “I have hidden your word in my heart” (v. 11). These are revealing words which speak wisdom to us today.

God is kind and understanding toward our weaknesses, but He requires us to go forward in faith, and the Bible is clear that faith does not mature and strengthen without trials. Adversity is God’s most effective tool to develop a strong faith. That pattern is evident in Scripture. God takes each one of us through fearful situations, and as we learn to obey God’s Word and allow it to saturate our thoughts, we find each trial becomes a stepping stone to a stronger and deeper faith. It gives us that ability to say, “He sustained me in the past, He’ll carry me through today and He’ll uphold me in the future!” God worked this way in David’s life. When David volunteered to fight against Goliath, he said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37). David knew the God who had sustained him through dangerous situations in the past. He had seen and experienced God’s power and protection in his life, and this developed within him a fearless faith.

The Word of God is rich with promises for us to take hold of and claim for ourselves. When we face financial trouble, Philippians 4:19 tells us, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” If we are anxious about a future decision, Psalm 32:8 reminds us that God will “instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” In sickness we can remember that Romans 5:3 says, “Tribulation works patience.” If someone turns against us, we can be comforted by the words in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us who can be against us!” Throughout life we will continue to face various trials that would cause us fear, but God assures us that we can know a calm peace through every situation, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” which He has promised will “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

  Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Perhaps no other component of the Christian life is more important than faith. We cannot purchase it, sell it or give it to our friends. So what is faith and what role does faith play in the Christian life? The dictionary defines faith as “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.” It also defines faith as “belief in and devotion to God.” The Bible has much more to say about faith and how important it is. In fact, it is so important that, without faith, we have no place with God, and it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is belief in the one, true God without actually seeing Him.

Where does faith come from? Faith is not something we conjure up on our own, nor is it something we are born with, nor is faith a result of diligence in study or pursuit of the spiritual. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that faith is a gift from God, not because we deserve it, have earned it, or are worthy to have it. It is not from ourselves; it is from God. It is not obtained by our power or our free will. It is simply given to us by God, along with His grace and mercy, according to His holy plan and purpose, and because of that, He gets all the glory.

Why have faith? God designed a way to distinguish between those who belong to Him and those who don’t, and it is called faith. Very simply, we need faith to please God. God tells us that it pleases Him that we believe in Him even though we cannot see Him. A key part of Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” This is not to say that we have faith in God just to get something from Him. However, God loves to bless those who are obedient and faithful. We see a perfect example of this in Luke 7:50. Jesus is engaged in dialog with a sinful woman when He gives us a glimpse of why faith is so rewarding. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” The woman believed in Jesus Christ by faith, and He rewarded her for it. Finally, faith is what sustains us to the end, knowing that by faith we will be in heaven with God for all eternity. “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Examples of faith. Hebrews chapter 11 is known as the “faith chapter” because in it great deeds of faith are described. By faith Abel offered a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord (v. 4); by faith Noah prepared the ark in a time when rain was unknown (v. 7); by faith Abraham left his home and obeyed God’s command to go he knew not where, then willingly offered up his only son (vv. 8-10, 17); by faith Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt (vv. 23-29); by faith Rahab received the spies of Israel and saved her life (v. 31). Many more heroes of the faith are mentioned “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (vv. 33-34). Clearly, the existence of faith is demonstrated by action.

Faith is essential to Christianity. Without demonstrating faith and trust in God, we have no place with Him. We believe in God’s existence by faith. Most people have a vague, disjointed notion of who God is but lack the reverence necessary for His exalted position in their lives. These people lack the true faith needed to have an eternal relationship with the God who loves them. Our faith can falter at times, but because it is the gift of God, given to His children, He provides times of trial and testing in order to prove that our faith is real and to sharpen and strengthen it. This is why James tells us to consider it “pure joy” when we fall into trials, because the testing of our faith produces perseverance and matures us, providing the evidence that our faith is real (James 1:2-4).

In his 2008 film “Religulous,” Bill Maher makes the argument that belief in God is ridiculous. The term “religulous” is a combination of the words “religion” and “ridiculous.” Maher’s main goal with the film seems to be to convince people that religion is responsible for most of the evil in the world, and that we would all be better off if religion was eradicated. The film begins with Maher in Israel, near the Valley of Megiddo, the location where the end-times Battle of Armageddon is prophesied in the Bible. Maher’s point is that religion, if it is not destroyed, will cause the destruction of the world.

In his assault on religion, Maher attacks Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Mormonism. His main target, though, is Christianity. Nearly half of the documentary is dedicated to attacking Christianity. Maher argues that there is no historical evidence that Jesus ever existed and that the main beliefs of Christianity are simply Christianized versions of other religious beliefs. Maher, of course, presents very one-sided views on these issues. Since these attacks have already been well-answered many times, we will only respond to them briefly. First, there is overwhelming historical evidence that a man named Jesus lived in Israel in the early 1st century A.D. There is more attestation to Jesus’ existence than nearly any other historical figure of that time period.

Second, all of the beliefs that Maher claims Christianity borrowed from other religions are, in fact, evidence of the opposite. There are no historical or religious documents which pre-date Christianity that contain beliefs that are identical, or even closely similar, to the beliefs of Christianity. All of the documents from these religions that contain beliefs that are similar to Christianity are dated to centuries after Christianity began. Maher makes the illogical assumption that the post-spread-of-Christianity beliefs of these religions are the same as the pre-spread-of-Christianity beliefs of these religions. History records that Christianity spread rapidly in the 1st through 5th centuries A.D. The other religions of that time copied Christian beliefs, attributing Christ-like characteristics to their own messiahs / founders, in an attempt to stop the spread of Christianity. Again, there is not a single ancient document that pre-dates the spread of Christianity which presents explicit Christian-like beliefs in other religions.

In addition to reusing these weak and invalid arguments, “Religulous” spends a great deal of time showing Maher making religious people look ridiculous. Whether it is an actor who plays Jesus at a Holy Land theme park, or a South American cult leader who claims to be Jesus, or tourists of biblical sites in Israel, Maher asks loaded questions, and the responses are clearly edited to make the person look as foolish as possible. “Religulous” gives very little time to anyone who can intelligently argue for God’s existence or defend the beliefs of Christianity. Instead, Maher interviews only individuals whom even most Christians would consider to be ridiculous.

Perhaps the only redeeming quality of Maher’s “Religulous” is the expose on Islam. Maher correctly notes how dangerous radical Islam is. The problem is that Maher seemingly attributes this same danger to anyone who believes in God. Maher’s goal was not to produce an honest and informative documentary on the dangers of religion. Rather, Maher’s goal was to make any and every religion appear to be ridiculous at best and dangerous at worst.

Maher claims to be an agnostic. He claims to not know whether God exists or if there is life after death. However, for someone who claims not to know, Maher dogmatically argues against any belief in God. Maher clearly believes that God does not exist. The core message of “Religulous” is that anyone with a brain should be able to come to the conclusion that God does not exist. Maher’s arrogance, disdain for people of faith, and condescension to anyone who does not agree with him is clearly seen throughout the film. Maher reveals himself to be precisely what he is attacking, a closed-minded bigot who thinks he has all the answers.

Psalm 14:1 declares, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” The word “fool” in this verse does not refer to intelligence. It is the Hebrew word that refers to a person without morals. Psalm 14:1 is saying that an immoral person denies the existence of God to remove any responsibility for the immoral and evil actions the person commits. Maher is an intelligent man. Morally speaking, though, Maher is a fool. In “Religulous,” Maher himself says that he rejects God because God has rules that interfere with his sex life. In the end, that is all that “Religulous” is, a sad attempt to attack religion in order to escape from God’s moral commands. Bill Maher clearly demonstrates the truth of Psalm 14:1, “The [moral] fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

First Timothy 4:16 exhorts us to keep the faith: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them.” When Paul visited the recently established churches in Asia Minor, his goal was “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” (Acts 14:22). Other passages calling us to keep the faith are Hebrews 12:1 and Ephesians 6:13. The Bible also gives us advice for how to do it.

Keeping the faith requires remembering what brought us to faith in the first place. We need to be intentional about remembering God’s grace in our lives. Hebrews 12:1b–3 says, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Practically, this means remembering the wonderful gift of God’s salvation and following the example of our Savior, who “endured” the trials of this life. We must “fix our eyes” on Jesus. Many people find prayer and journaling helpful in this regard. The Old Testament saints often demonstrated the importance of remembering. The Israelites were instructed to set up memorials, and many of the Jewish feasts were designed to remember and celebrate God’s deliverance. Deuteronomy 4:9 says, “Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Psalm 103:2 says, “Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” When we praise God, we remember His past goodness, and that makes it easier to keep trusting Him now.

Keeping the faith requires a love of truth and a commitment to the Word of God. First Timothy 4:1 says that, in the latter days, those who abandon the faith “follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” To accept “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6–7) is to fall into error. Paul exhorted Timothy to “fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience”; those who ignore this command “have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith” (1 Timothy 1:18–19). We must “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). The Spirit of truth will never lead us into untruth (John 16:13).

Keeping the faith also involves growth in Christ. Jesus is the author of our faith (the one who initiated the relationship), and He is the perfecter of our faith (the one who will see it through to the end). From beginning to end, Jesus is the source of our faith. We remember what He has done, and we look forward to what He will do. Practically, this involves having an active prayer life, studying God’s Word, and digging in to His truth.

Keeping the faith is also about community. The Christian life is not lived exclusively between God and the individual; it is lived in community with other Christians. Hebrews 10:23–25 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Fellow believers can encourage us to keep the faith. They can exhort us when we are going astray. They can join in our gladness and in our sorrow (Romans 12:15).

We will face trials and temptations in life (John 16:33; James 1:2–4). Our faith will be challenged. But it is not only in the difficult times that we dig in our heels and fight for our faith. No, we contend for our faith always. What we do today prepares us for what is in store tomorrow. God is always at work in our lives. Our faith should be ever-growing. Second Peter 1:3–11 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. . . . For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . My brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We keep the faith by remembering God’s faithfulness and continuing to grow in relationship with Him.

  In recent years there have been several news features on the phenomenon of pastors who do not believe. The report has essentially been that, in anonymous surveys, some pastors admit to being atheists/agnostics. Why would an atheist/agnostic want to be a pastor? While some reported that they enjoy the control and authority the pastoral role gives them, the majority stated that, while they themselves do not believe, they understand that the Christian message can be a help to weak-minded people; therefore, they are willing to teach it. What does the Bible say about “pastors who do not believe”?

In a word, “Woe!” “Woe to you, you hypocrites…woe to you, blind guides…” (Matthew 23:14-16). “Woe to the shepherds who only take care of themselves…” (Ezekiel 34:2). “These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 12-13).

It is the height of hypocrisy to teach a message you do not believe. It is dishonoring to God for anyone—especially pastors—to consider the Christian message a psychological crutch for unintelligent and needy people. Proverbs 6:16-19 declares, “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” If the Christian faith is a lie, it is not a “useful psychological crutch.” Rather, it is useless, vain, empty, futile, and pitiful (1 Corinthians 15:14-19).

An unbeliever is absolutely disqualified from serving in any form of church leadership. A man who is willing to preach a message he does not believe is hypocritical and arrogant. Many people are excellent at faking the Christian life. But, ultimately, “by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16). A pastor who does not believe will eventually reveal himself in his words, actions, and teaching. Be vigilant! Keep watch! A church led by a pastor who does not believe is on the path towards ineffectiveness, apathy, lethargy, and, for some, eternity without God due to being taught an incomplete message of salvation. “If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14, emphasis added).

Now, there are also pastors who truly know and love the Lord and yet are struggling through a time of doubt. This is fairly common and understandable, as pastors deal with a tremendous amount of stress and are subject to heightened spiritual attack. This article is not directed towards believing pastors who struggle with doubt. For pastors in such a trial, the prayer should be “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)! If the doubts become persistent, the pastor should probably step down until spiritual renewal occurs. A pastor in such a situation deserves our prayer, comfort, encouragement, and empathy.

But, again, for the pastor who is declaring a message he does not believe, who is pretending to be a servant of a God he does not even know, the only proper response is immediate expulsion. Without repentance leading to genuine faith, God’s judgment on such an individual will be eternally severe.

Jesse Ventura, former governor of Minnesota, once said, “Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers.” Agreeing with him is pornographer Larry Flynt, who commented, “There’s nothing good I can say about it [religion]. People use it as a crutch.” Ted Turner once simply said, “Christianity is a religion for losers!” Ventura, Flynt, Turner, and others who think like them view Christians as being emotionally feeble and in need of imaginary support to get through life. Their insinuation is that they themselves are strong and in no need of a supposed God to help them with their lives.

Such statements bring a number of questions: Where did such thinking start? Is there any truth to it? And how does the Bible respond to such assertions?

Is faith in God a crutch? – The Impact of Freud
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian neurologist who founded the practice of psychoanalysis, a system espousing the theory that unconscious motives dictate much of human behavior. Though championing atheism, Freud admitted that the truth of religion could not be disproved and that religious faith has provided comfort for untold numbers of people through history. However, Freud thought the concept of God was illusionary. In one of his religious works, The Future of an Illusion, he wrote, “They [believers] give the name of ‘God’ to some vague abstraction which they have created for themselves.”

As to the motivation for creating such illusions, Freud believed two basic things: (1) people of faith create a god because they have strong wishes and hopes within them that act as comfort against the harshness of life; (2) The idea of God comes from the need for an idyllic father figure that eclipses either a non-existent or imperfect real father in the life of a religiously-minded person. Speaking of the supposed wish-fulfillment factor in religion, Freud wrote, “They [religious beliefs] are illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind. We call belief an illusion when a wish-fulfillment is a prominent factor in its motivation and in doing so we disregard its relation to reality, just as the illusion itself sets no store by verification.”

For Freud, God was nothing more than a psychological projection that served to shield an individual from a reality he does not want to face and cannot cope with on his own. After Freud came other scientists and philosophers who asserted the same thing and said that religion is just an illusion/delusion of the mind. Robert Pirsig, an American writer and philosopher who typifies Freud’s followers, has said, “When one person suffers from a delusion, it’s called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it’s called religion.”

What about the above charges? Is there any truth to the assertions made by Freud and others?

Examining the Claims of the “Crutch Crowd”
When making an honest examination of these claims, the first thing to recognize is what those making the assertions are claiming about themselves. Deriders of religion are saying that Christians are prone to psychological and wish-fulfillment factors that they, the skeptics, are not. But how do they know that? For example, Freud saw the need for a Father God as an outworking of emotionally needy people desiring a father figure, but could it be that Freud himself had an emotional need for no father figure to exist? And perhaps Freud had an outworking of wish-fulfillment that manifested in not wanting a Holy God and judgment in the afterlife to exist, a wish for hell not to be real. Demonstrating the plausibility of such thinking is the writing of Freud himself who once said, “The bad part of it, especially for me, lies in the fact that science of all things seems to demand the existence of a God.”

It would seem reasonable to conclude, as Freud and his followers have argued in their position, that the only way a person could overcome “demanding” black-and-white evidence of something is by creating an illusionary hope that overpowers the verifications of God’s existence, and yet they do not consider this a possibility for them. Some atheists, however, have honestly and openly admitted this likelihood. Serving as one example, atheist Professor/Philosopher Thomas Nagel once said, “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and naturally hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope that there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

Another consideration to keep in mind is that not all aspects of Christianity are comforting. For example, the doctrine of hell, the recognition of humankind as sinners who are unable to please God on their own, and other similar teachings are not of the warm-and-fuzzy kind. How does Freud explain the creation of these doctrines?

An additional thought that springs from the above question is why, if humankind merely invents the concept of God to make itself feel better, would people fabricate a God who is holy? Such a God would seem to be at odds with people’s natural desires and practices. In fact, such a God would seem to be the last type of god they would come up with. Instead, one would expect people to create a god who agrees with the things they naturally want to do instead of opposing the practices that they themselves (for some reason yet to be explained) label as “sinful.”

One last question is how do the “crutch” claims explain people who initially were hostile to religion and did not want to believe? Such people seemingly had no wish or desire for Christianity to be true, yet after an honest examination of the evidence and an acknowledgement of its “realness,” they became believers. English scholar C. S. Lewis is one such person. Lewis is famous for saying there was no more reluctant convert in all of England than himself, that he was literally dragged kicking and screaming into the faith, which is hardly a statement that one would expect from a person engaged in a wish-fulfillment fantasy.

These issues and questions seem to be at odds with the claims of the “crutch” crowd and are conveniently ignored by them. But what does the Bible have to say about their claims? How does it answer their charges?

Is Faith in God a Crutch? – How Does the Bible Respond?
There are three core responses that the Bible makes to the claim that people have invented the idea of God as a crutch for themselves. First, the Bible says that God created people for Himself and designed humankind to naturally desire a relationship with Him. Of this fact, Augustine wrote, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” The Bible says that humankind is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). This being true, isn’t it reasonable to believe that we feel a desire for God because we have been created with this desire? Shouldn’t a divine fingerprint and the possibility of relationship between creature and Creator exist?

Second, the Bible says that people actually act in the reverse way from that which Freud and his followers claim. The Bible states that humankind is in rebellion against God and naturally pushes Him away instead of desiring Him, and that such rejection is the reason the wrath of God comes upon them. The reality is people naturally do everything they can to suppress the truth about God, which is something Paul wrote about: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:18–22). The fact that God is clearly evident in creation to all, as stated in Paul’s words, is nicely summed up by C. S. Lewis, who wrote, “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him.”

Freud himself admitted that religion was “the enemy,” and this is exactly how God depicts humankind before being spiritually enlightened—as the enemies of God. This is something Paul also acknowledged: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10, emphasis added).

Third, the Bible itself states that life is difficult, hardships are common, and a fear of death is experienced by all. These are truths that are easily seen in the world around us. The Bible also says that God is there to help us get through hard times and assures us that Jesus has overcome the fear of death. Jesus Himself said, “In the world you have tribulation,” which speaks to the fact that difficulties in life exist, but He also said, “Take courage” and said His followers should look to Him for ultimate victory (John 16:33).

The Bible says that God cares for and helps His people and that He commands His followers to help one another as well and bear each other’s burdens (cf. Galatians 6:2). Speaking of God’s concern for people, Peter wrote, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7, emphasis added). Jesus’ famous statement also speaks to this fact: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

In addition to daily help, the fear of death has also been overcome by Christ. Through His resurrection, Jesus proved that death has no power over Him, and God’s Word says that Christ’s resurrection was proof of the resurrection and eternal life of all who put their trust in Him (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20). The release from the fear of death is a truth proclaimed by the writer of Hebrews, who said, “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself [Jesus] likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14–15, emphasis added).

So, indeed, the Bible speaks about God’s care, concern, and help for His creation. Such truth does indeed bring comfort, but it is a comfort that it is grounded in reality and not mere wish-fulfillment desire.

Is faith in God a crutch? – Conclusion
Jesse Ventura was wrong when he said that religion is nothing more than a crutch. Such a statement speaks to the prideful nature of man and epitomizes the type of people rebuked by Jesus in the book of Revelation: “You say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

The wish-fulfillment claims of Freud, Ventura, and others only act as an indictment against themselves and showcase their desire to reject God and His claim to their lives, which is exactly what the Bible says fallen humankind does. But to these same people, God asks that they recognize their true desires and offers Himself in the place of the false hope of humanism that they cling to.

The Bible’s statements regarding the fact and evidence of Christ’s resurrection bring comfort and real hope—hope that does not disappoint—and instruct us to walk in a way that trusts God and recognizes our true “weak” position before Him. Once that is done, we become strong, just as Paul said, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).