Faith is good. Bad faith is horrible. I cannot count the number of people I know who have been hurt by Christians acting in bad faith. I read another account today. We need ways to protect ourselves from bad faith assumptions and practices. The only method that comes to mind is to point them out at the beginning. Here are the worst examples of bad faith.
Bad faith is contrary to reason
Faith is not believing when your reason tells you not to believe. This is the wrong message that many Christmas movies give to audiences. Faith cannot be contrary to reason. Untruths are contrary to reason. Faith is not illogical. But bad assumptions are illogical, wrong and contrary to reason. The results are often bad, even tragic. There is no way around this problem.
Church people, like everyone else, are likely to think lazy and fantasize about the future. Hawkers rely on people who believe in things “too good to be true”. They also rely on people to believe things are worse than they are. In both cases, it is a call to commit resources to a project that will improve lives.
Foolish teachings don’t make sense. Reason tests people’s claims. The dogmatic beliefs of fundamentalists are based on methods of attacking reason. Beware of anyone who says, “You only use Human raison; and not relying on the infallible words of God.
Common sense may not be true
Faith can be fought with the common sense of the majority. Believers will often come up against “what everyone knows”. Common sense is often based on assumptions. The song “Old-Time Religion” is based on such assumptions. Bill Mallard of the Candler School of Theology started his Church History class with this song to be ironic. It was humorous. However, I wonder how many students thought it was meant to be. Equally bad are the claims about the beliefs of America’s “founding fathers”.
Faith is not always opposed to the common sense of the majority. It takes work to judge the underlying assumptions. Some hills are also not worth dying. These issues increase the anxiety of thoughtful people who are trying to decide if what they believe is true.
Acting on faith, which is contrary to common sense held by the majority, serves to give others the freedom to question assumptions. White Christian leaders challenging the white supremacy of the community as a whole have led to today’s conflict over the matter. They have given many of us today the opportunity to question it and hear the voices of non-white Christians.
Bad numbers are also lies
We are challenged by the figures for more than one reason. The following is an ironic example.
I can prove that coffee slows down a person’s growth. I started drinking it when I was a teenager. If I hadn’t done this, I would now be 6’3 ” tall. How do I know this? Because right now I am weighed down by someone who would be that tall.
Of course, this is not correct. And he gets every response from a roll of eyes to a laugh. The numbers don’t match that way. But this is the method that I have heard many people use for church growth. “If we do or say x, we will get y new numbers of people and z dollar amounts.” I have never seen this formula work. All the assumptions are wrong. A real problem is to assume that more people means more money. Usually, the number of “giving units” in a church is much less than the attendance of potential “giving units”. Losing certain people are a problem. But the myth of numbers is bad.
You are not the fool
The best argument against religion is the broken sanity of religious leaders. I would make that argument except for the fact that all broken systems make broken people. The biggest problem with power structures is that the worst people often take over. The second biggest problem is that when good people get there, vicious people with small souls constantly shoot them down. A third problem is more difficult to accept.
We are not supposed to aspire to success by other people’s standards. People who believe that governments and churches should be run like businesses forget that the successful business structure is a dictatorship. The most popular are personality cults. We should never aspire to this. But we have to want our work to last and to make sense. No one who wants these goals is bad or crazy.
Indeed, it took me a long time to come to terms with these three truths. Here I am now at the end of my ministry career, assuring my personal protection against four assumptions that lead to bad faith. I hope others will learn about it sooner.