The Road to Bad Faith 1: Choose Other Gods

As a Christian, God should be the centre of your life. So centre something else instead.

The old gods and the new

Paul visited Athens and found that the city was full of idol worship (Acts 17:16). He found that the people of Athens worshipped the gods of their ancestors. These gods were ancient and part of many fantastic stories, creating the beasts such as the Minotaur and Cyclops. The city was full of temples and shrines to these gods where people could make sacrifices to these gods in order to gain their favour. A not insignificant portion of the local economy would have been established primarily to facilitate this worship.

So why is this relevant to you? No one worships those gods anymore! Just how the heck am I supposed to offer a sacrifice to Zeus if there is no priest to clean up the blood or burn the incense?

Timothy Keller in his book ‘Counterfeit gods’ applies idol worship of the past to today by reminding us that the gods people like the ancient Greeks used to worship represented things and concepts in their world. There were gods of war, wisdom, beauty, fertility, farming, family, money, etc. People would sacrifice to the god of their choice; a warrior may sacrifice to Ares for favour in battle, whereas a teenager may sacrifice to Aphrodite in order to find love. The difference between now and then is that the gods have gone, but the concepts they represent have remained.

Choosing your god

So, what do you need to do for bad faith? Easy. Find another god to worship. Because these gods no longer have specific identities, you can worship them without ever leaving the church building. You can still attend church every week, as long as the central focus of your life remains elsewhere.

So what god should you worship? Timothy Keller tells us that our idols are what we build around, what becomes the foundation of our lives. So for you it should be the thing you want most in your life? What thing, if you had it, would make your life complete? No one is completely content so there must be the magic cure-all, that one thing that fills that little hole inside of you.

Now a Christian might tell you that you should fill that hole with God, but you don’t want that! You want a faith that is weakened critically! Fortunately, it’s really hard to build your life around God because He is so abstract. The things in this world are physically right in front of you and have the appearance of being solid foundations.

Below is a list of the sort of things you could feasibly build your life around:

  • Money/stuff: very obvious one this. The modern world of advertising is geared towards the pursuit of ever greater riches, but also increasingly out of reach for the majority of people. Building around this god is a surefire way to disappointment
  • Status: another perhaps obvious god. This has been made even easier to follow due to social media. You can actually break down your influence statistically to see how well you’re following your god
  • Family/relationships/friendships: another really easy one. The people in your life are primed and ready to be placed on the god pedestal, whether it’s friends you want to impress, parents whose validation you crave, children you push your hopes and dreams onto, or that special someone you can’t stop thinking about. These people, although they can never give you what you really need, are perfect candidates for your worship.
  • Identity: aspects of your personal identity are good candidates for your worship. Just take something about you, even the tiniest thing, and make it central to your entire existence. You already have a perfect candidate right in front of you with your particular brand of Christianity or scriptural interpretation. Some, like your race if your white are even back in vogue for some stupid reason!

The catch

The thing with these idols is that they are trying to fill a hole that only god can fill. The writer of Ecclesiastes, usually attributed to King Solomon spends much of the opening chapters talking about how all his achievements, wealth and relationships were ultimately meaningless.

If God is the rock, these things are the sand. They are easy to build your identity around, but fall apart easily when the bad times hit. Money can be lost, or an excess can poison your relationships; people die, move away, or stop being your friends. All things are transient except God, but for your bad faith to succeed, something else must take its place.

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