GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 575 • October 26, 2020
CAN FAITH BE A DISQUALIFICATION?
Lucy’s brother Linus, in the now discontinued cartoon called “Peanuts,” was in the pumpkin patch looking for “the most sincere pumpkin” who would become The Great Pumpkin whom Linus expected to rise from the pumpkin patch and deliver candy and other goodies to children everywhere – including Linus himself and all the Peanuts gang. Of course it never happened. Maybe no pumpkin was really sincere enough to do the job – as for myself, I wonder how one can judge the sincerity of pumpkins.
If you know, please inform me. It could be useful information and could help me determine who will be spreading candy and other goodies around my neighborhood on 31st October when a pagan festival called Halloween supposedly occurs.
So far nobody has asked me if I am the Great Pumpkin. They would be disappointed in my answer. If I find out that YOU are the guilty one I will probably report you to the local authorities who will then present you with a Cease and Desist Order. It is incumbent upon all of us to protect the health, including the dental health, of vulnerable children who know what seems good to them but do not know what is not good for them. There are other reasons for rejecting Halloween but kids would probably not understand or appreciate them. Kids, including the really old but childish ones, resent anyone interfering with their fun – never mind the hazards and improprieties that may be attached — including some occult religious superstitions about which we will not speak here. But that last thought brings us to the point I intended to make with this essay: Is faith a qualification or a disqualification?
Linus had “faith” in The Great Pumpkin: he believed in it, trusted in it, and was willing to endure the ridicule of family and friends and readers of the cartoon strip in which he appeared. Was his faith justified? Was it verified and validated by objective evidence? Actually it seemed to be something Linus had invented for himself, a thought that had entered his own mind that he did not want to give up because it gave him comfort and hope, and maybe candy. That’s the way it is with much of what we call “our faith.” We believe it because we want to believe it, and we refuse to let it go because we don’t want to give it up, we want to believe it, trust in it, take comfort in it. Maybe we need to take a closer look at what faith is and when it should be accepted, when it is safe to build upon and act upon and be guided by. Faith is not its own justification for anything.
Probably most people equate faith with belief: my faith is what I believe; whatever I believe is my faith. Those who adhere to a creed often recite a particular creed such as “The Apostles Creed” – which the apostles did not write but has been put together by someone who intended to incorporate certain doctrines or teachings found in the writings of certain apostles. The creed is by no means a compendium of all or even the most important of apostolic teachings. Nor is it an accurate depiction of apostolic teaching. But it, and other creeds (many written in Latin and coming out of the Catholic Church) begin with the Latin verb CREDO, which means “I believe.” But believing a thing does not make it true; one can believe in things that are not true. Do you believe in unicorns? Do you, along with Linus, believe in “The Great Pumpkin,” that most sincere of all pumpkins who will rise out of the pumpkin patch to spread fun and pleasure and lots of candy for the children of the world? Certainly belief is an essential ingredient of faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God … One who comes to God must believe that God is, etc. (Hebrews 11:6). Believing in myths, fabrications, fantasies, and cartoon characters may be comfortable, comforting but may not always or necessarily be true. Jesus said truth will make you free (John 8:31-32). He did not say faith or believing will make you free. It is what you believe and not merely the fact that you believe what you are taught that determines whether or not salvation accompanies it.
This is a real problem for those who think and teach that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone without works of any kind – belief being the only requirement the only thing a person has to do for salvation, belief that God has done all the rest that is needed. The oversimplified “gospel” they preach, that one must believe and accept, is that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on a cross as a sacrifice to take away sin and was raised up three days later and has gone to heaven to prepare a place for those who believe in him and accept the salvation he offers to them, and that ‘inviting him into one’s heart’ brings eternal salvation that cannot be lost. Some call this “a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort.” But no matter how many believe it, it will never be true. Saving faith must certainly include belief of the truth, all of it (2 Thessalonians 2:13), but it is much more than that.
Faith is confident conviction and assurance based upon investigation of supporting evidence and refutation of contradictions (Hebrews 11:1), a personal conclusion reached by personal study not only of a stated proposition but of the evidence that proves its validity. My faith is my position: having tested and proved my position I now stand firmly upon it. To parody Luther: “Here is where I stand. I cannot do anything other, so help me God.”
Faith is obedience, applying one’s knowledge of truth and commitment to truth. It is walking the walk, not merely talking the talk, as we like to say – actually living and acting according to what you claim to believe. One may be disobedient to the faith, to his own faith. But there is no such thing as disobedient faith. Claiming to believe in God but rejecting His will and going our own willful way is not faith. Calling Jesus Lord but not obeying him, not doing what he asks or commands is not faith (Luke 6:46, Matthew 7:21-23, see also Romans 10:1-4, 9-10). Denying or refusing repentance and baptism (Mark 16:15-16, Acts 2:37-38) is not faith but is an implicit denial of faith. You may not really want to contemplate the final end of those who do not believe Christ and do not obey his gospel (1 Peter 4:17-19, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).
Faith is the courage to act in keeping with one’s convictions. One who goes along with the dictates and desires of the world in order to get along in the world and with the world, even when he knows and believes the world is wrong, is not a person of faith. Yes, today and here, more than many other times and places, it is dangerous and not all have the courage to stand with and for Christ against the culture, against government, against the desires and actions of violent and often bestial “woke” persons – for example, to use current situations:
(1) being opposed to the whole LGBTQ agenda especially as regards homosexual behavior, same gender marriage, and the transgenderization of children;
(2) denying any woman the “right” to kill her own children or denying “doctors” permission to kill the children of others when requested, abortion for any reason or no reason;
(3) daring to be a republican in a community that is predominantly democratic or
(4) be racially impartial in a community that is racially diverse in which each and all of the different races practices its own brand of virulent and often violent racism and each one claims t be the victim even when acting the part of the victimizer.
Faith in God and His Christ and His Spirit, and His Word, and His church is dangerous to admit and practice in a world that is general ungodly, in which each person seeks to be his own god and not be amenable to anyone but himself – a world where one’s own belly is the only god he listens to (Philippians 3:19).
In a sane and reasonable society and world knowing and doing what is right – specifically, for us who claim to be Christians, what God says is right and what God requires of right thinking people – should be a recommendation and a qualification for any position, whether leadership and oversight or followership and service under the leadership of others. A lack of faith and commitment to God and to truth should be a disqualification. But in today’s upside down world where reality and truth are whatever person, group, or cultural notion is most insistent and most willing to press their points by violence and virulent negative response is acceded to, whether really true or not, Pilate’s dismissive “what is truth?” (John 18:38) – the claim is: your truth is true, my truth is true, everybody is entitled to his own truth and not all truths are compatible. So, everything is right if somebody says it is, and is willing to defend it from those who say it isn’t.
Now we are faced with this bit of insanity: Amy Coney Barrett is an outstanding example of jurisprudence, knowledge, understanding, and impartial application of our nation’s constitution and constitutional laws. But some resent that and resist her being placed on the Supreme Court (or actually any court where her approach to the truth may reach) – they are afraid it may intrude into political, social, and cultural areas in which they have vested interests and current liberties they do not want to give up or see changed.
Specifically Judge Barrett adheres to the meaning of the Constitution and believes in the rule of law, responsibility, and equal justice for all. That means some current sacred cows and those who milk them might lose license to commit what used to be understood by all as abomination. Ah, but that last word hints at the real reason for animosity: She is a person of faith in God and Christ and the gospel and a community of faith called the church. She “has ties to” those who believe the Bible is from God and is the authoritative word of God.
Our country is becoming one of those which says, Stop telling us about God. Stop talking about right and wrong – nothing is really, truly, absolutely right or wrong. Everything is relative. Give us what we want. Tell us what we want to hear. We don’t want to hear anything more about a/the Holy One, about any God or any god. So, now faith in God has become a disqualification for public office? How far are we from the idea that believers in God are a scourge that should be eradicated and removed from life in the world? It has happened before in church history.
One last word: It will have importance and impact upon a select few who want to be right with God now and forever but not to those who believe one’s place n the world is the only thing that matters now and forever. There is existence for every human after life in the body and in the world. Only two possible ends: heaven with God or hell without Him. God says that true obedient faith is the essential qualification for entry into heaven. The lack of obedient faith disqualifies one for heaven and the only alternative is hell. And you won’t be asked or able to vote on the disposition of any person. There will be only one vote: the Lord’s yes or no will be definitive, final, eternal, with no appeal for a change in the judgment.