In today’s culture, people take “faith” and “belief” as religious wishful thinking, not the kind of intelligent step of trust the Bible has in mind when it uses those words.
In the past, I’ve encouraged you to ban words like “faith” and “belief” from your vocabulary. They’re too easily misunderstood.
I had a chance to put that advice into practice in one of my own “moments of truth”—for a national TV audience.
If you recall, I said that in today’s culture, people take “faith” and “belief” as religious wishful thinking, not the kind of intelligent step of trust the Bible has in mind when it uses those words.
Instead, I said, use the language of truth during your moments of truth so there’s no confusion. Simply put: Talk about facts, not faith.
The occasion was the taping of a full hour of crossfire-style debate hosted by Lee Strobel. My opponent was New Age guru Deepak Chopra, the best-selling author of more than 20 million books.
Strobel’s opening question to me was, “Greg, what do you think the future of faith looks like?”
This is exactly the kind of situation I warned you about—the word “faith” twisting in the wind in all its troublesome ambiguity. Here was the essence of my response:
Lee, we have to be clear on what we mean by “the future of faith.” We could mean “the future of religion”—faith as a noun—or we could mean “the future of acts of trust”—faith as a verb.
In one sense, the future of religion is the same as it’s ever been. If your religious beliefs are accurate, there is tremendous hope. But if your religious views are false, if you’re taking a leap of faith trusting in fantasy, there is no hope.
Whatever was true 1000 years ago about religion is true today. Reality doesn’t change just because beliefs change. And reality has a way of bruising those who don’t take it seriously. This is why Christianity has never encouraged a leap of faith.
If we get reality wrong and trust in a fantasy, a mistake, we’re going to get injured. Our job is to do the best we can to get the facts right, to have accurate religious views—faith as a noun—then act consistently with those facts—faith as a verb.
So, if truth is your goal, I’m optimistic about the future of faith. If it’s not, if people turn instead to leaps of faith and wishful thinking, then I’m pessimistic.
This was my opening salvo. A vigorous debate followed. From the outset, though, I wanted to set the tone. Regardless of whatever Dr. Chopra had in mind, as a Christian I was interested in reality, in truth—not in rosy fantasies or wishful thinking.
By contrast, Chopra championed feelings and experience over religious doctrine and dogma. This is dangerous advice.
Mark this: Feelings make life beautiful, but careful thinking—reason—makes life safe.
Feelings are misleading indicators. People can feel safe even when in desperate peril. They can also feel completely conflicted and distraught when doing what is right.
This is like the used car salesman who tells you, “Drive the car, but don’t look under the hood.” You may enjoy the ride, but you’ll never know if he’s selling you a lemon or not.
Never trust anyone who tells you to rely on experience over right thinking. Most requests to banish judgments come just before someone says or does something that ought to be judged.
They say, “Experience, not reason is the best guide for truth,” just before making claims you should be inspecting very carefully, but they’re telling you not to. They rob you of the tools necessary to separate good from evil, wisdom from silliness, safety from peril.
In life there are lots of lemons. And many of them are spiritually deadly. “Look before you leap” is sage advice. It applies especially to leaps of faith.