In What Do We Put Our Faith?

Having looked at those things from which worldviews are drawn, we now turn our attention to some of humanity’s objects of faith; those things in which men are willing trust their lives – and their very souls. .

Faith in Science and Technology. “Salvation” for many is wrapped-up in the ability of science to unlock all the secrets of the universe. These optimists are certain that science will eventually find cures for all the illnesses (hence the interest in cryogenics, placing our bodies in frozen animation until science comes up with a cure for disease or defeat of death. Science will eventually, it is also believed, produce whatever is necessary to secure world peace. What a far cry this is from the beginnings of science, when people came to scientific inquiry seeking to understand and have dominion over God’s universe. Now the scientists, themselves, are viewed as Gods. Popular astronomer Carl Sagan wrote (in The Cosmic Connection),

“In MAN, not only is adaptive information acquired in the lifetime of an individual, but it is passed on extra-genetically through learning, through books, through education. It is this, more than anything else,  that has raised Man to his pre-eminent status on planet earth.” (p. 5).

Understand that I am not saying that science and Christian faith are incompatible. But a Christian who is a scientist views his/her work as discovering the truth of what God has done in the universe. 

Faith in Material Goods. One way to learn about Western societies is to listen to their slogans. In the United States, of course, we can find these all over the bumpers of people’s cars and trucks (I {heart} my Pekinese; my Subaru, etc.). One particularly revealing sentiment found on a lot of vehicles is: “whoever dies with the most toys wins.” Now this is not science. Everybody doesn’t live and die with what it says on their bumper stickers. French philosopher Jacques Ellul wrote that, “the commonplaces” (by which he means “ready made ideas which are found in all the newspapers; slogans and clichés) “are the expression of an ideology and can be useful in distinguishing its outlines.” In other words, when a slogan becomes popular, there’s some meaning behind it. This bumper sticker about the toys, for instance, indicates much more than greed. It indicates a great need to have a way to keep score in life; a way in which to indicate that life does, indeed, have some meaning.

Faith in Hedonism. “Pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses. In Philosophy. The ethical doctrine holding that only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically good. In Psychology, the doctrine holding that behavior is motivated by the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain.” We all know, by now, about the “sexual revolution.” It has taken many twists and turns of late – and that isn’t going to stop real soon. But this revolution, and hedonism in general are actually part of a faith in “today.” It indicates that society doesn’t really have any faith that there is a tomorrow.

“Grab for all the gusto”

“To know no boundaries; the way life should be”

White teeth; not for health, for sexual conquest

For those who have no hope for a future, of course, these attitudes are absolutely correct. The Apostle Paul wrote, in 1 Cor. 15:32, “If the dead are not raised, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Faith in Mankind. Not a new phenomenon.. The Apostle Paul wrote:

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. Romans 1:21-23; 25.

Here’s one way this faith in human-kind was expressed in a novel just a few years back. Colleen McCullough wrote, in A Creed For the Third Millennium,

I offer a creed for this third millennium. A creed as old as this third millennium. A creed summed up in three words – faith, and hope, and love. Faith in yourselves! Faith in your strength and your endurance. Hope in a brighter and better tomorrow. Hope for your children, and their children. And love – ah what can I say about love that you, all too human, do not already know? Love yourselves! Love those around you! Love those you do not even know! Waste not your love on God, who does not expect it and does not need it. For id He is perfect and eternal, then He needs nothing. You are Man, and it is Man you must love. Love wards off loneliness. Love warms the spirit no matter how cold the body might be. Love is the light of man! (p. 444).

A very religious-sounding formulation, but one which basically nudges God out of the way so that man can love himself better. There are many other faith objects in our society; education; the various “isms” of the day; History (with a capital H). 

Next week we’ll take a look at what God says about faith.