Friday, May 2, 2014

Placebo Faith

Then there are the snake oils that actually work. Not because they are effective or in any testable way proven, but simply because people believe that they will. Perhaps it is something else that a person who believes and uses a product does (like abstaining from sodas in the chitin example) or some other coincidental variable. The fact remains, however, that belief produces effects, albeit small and usually minor ones. It seems a certain percentage of peoples’ problems are largely mental blocks, and believing they can overcome them is enough for them to actually do so.

This is where the postmodern approach to faith can present a problem for people of faith interested in truth. Faith has a placebo effect, and when we look to faith simply as a source of happiness and fulfillment any faith may do.

Ever since sin has existed so have religions, supplying people with ways to appease their guilt, shame, and fear and—temporarily at least—solving their problems in life. So, when someone today cherry-picks from a spiritual buffet with a little Buddhism here and some animism there and a little pop-culture modern religion to top things off… it sometimes works. At least so far as happiness in the here and now are concerned.

Even “Christianity” in the postmodern world isn’t much better. There has always been a segment of people claiming to follow Jesus who are simply being religious. They have the sort of belief that sees Faith as a magic power. They look to Jesus to fulfill their needs, dreams, and desires. To give them the American dream. To make their life easy. They see prayer as a magic incantation, praying Bible Verse like formulas and attending a service for their weekly dose of power to succeed in the week in their own kingdom.

There is no reason for a postmodern world to look at this form of Christianity and conclude it is any different than Buddhism or Hinduism. In fact, too much of the world, those other beliefs would clearly be more noble and admirable.

True faith—not the placebo type—is tested in the difficulties in life. Placebos don’t cure cancer, and true faith that survives the reality test is seen when life is not happy. When suffering comes. When there is no success, no power, no health nor wealth. When all you have left is the cross of Christ and it is enough.

Is that the Christianity you know?

(Source of graph above here.)

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