Tag: Bad faith

The Road to Bad Faith 3: Isolate Yourself

The road to Bad Faith is a road best travelled alone. Isolating yourself from friends and family will mean you will lack support when your faith hits crises.

Imagine for a moment you are on a small boat sailing across the sea. You are alone in your little boat, and the sky is a beautiful blue and the sea is flat as glass. Despite this, you begin to worry about the journey ahead. You know that you may encounter storms where the waves, so much larger than your tiny boat, may capsize you into the unforgiving deep.

You turn and see something large approaching your small vessel. It’s a large ship full of people. It dwarfs your minuscule boat, with its lifeboats being even bigger than your current vessel. It has multiple sails, rigging and any other paraphernalia one might need on an ocean voyage. There are people hard at work on different tasks; repairing sails, mending holes, scrubbing the decks, navigating and cooking the food. They are all working together as a team, working with the sole purpose of reaching their destination. One of the people tosses you a rope and beckons you aboard. They want you to leave your boat and come and join theirs.


Our faith journey often feels like sailing across a wide sea. We know what we want our destination to be, even though we cannot see land on the horizon. We technically have all the tools we need; Gods word as food, and the Bible to act as navigation. But we need others to help us get there. Being part of a larger crew grants you access to skills and support you may need; there may be a better navigator, rigger, cook, helmsman who can help you on your way.

But you want to take the road to bad faith. And the best way to do that is to do that alone. Friends with the same goal may motivate you to continue the journey with them. They may be able to fish you out if you fall overboard. Nope. You want to forge this journey alone. You don’t need anyone else’s help or guidance. Friends are merely a distraction on the road to bad faith.

Loneliness and Folly

Fools are headstrong and do what they like; wise people take advice.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭MSG‬‬

The book of proverbs is all about wisdom. Wisdom is defined by Timothy Keller as the ability to navigate the complex realities of life. There is no single solution for every problem, and wisdom is knowing what the best solution to use is and what’s the best way to use it.

Having friends allows you to broaden your perspective and therefore make you wiser. If you only had your own prior experiences from which to build your responses, you would have a very limited pool from which to build responses to situations. Friends can provide alternative perspectives which would help you navigate your world.

Which is why, traveller, you must journey alone. Foolishness, not wisdom, is a goal upon which you must set your sights. Making foolish decisions will help you to slowly destroy your life, and friends will merely get in the way; they may try and stop you doing something stupid or encourage you to do something meaningful and useful with your time. They will only be a hindrance.

Cutting your lifelines

Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.
‭‭Acts‬ ‭2:43-45‬ ‭MSG‬‬

In Acts 2, we read about the first churches set up by the disciples in the wake of Jesus’ ascension to heaven. We can see in these verses that the early church members provided a support network for one another, so that if any of them needed something, they could be provided for by others. In other places as well, people reached out to one another, especially to Jesus, and received help for their needs.

You’re support network should be as minimal as possible, perhaps even non-existent. You don’t need anyone else to help you! You’re an independent sort who isn’t pathetic enough to need assistance from someone else! If the sea you’re sailing on is flat, assume it will always remain so. When life is good you need less support. So assume that your life will remain on a smooth trajectory and that you will never need help from anyone else.

Cutting your lifelines like this also has the benefit of not having the inconvenience of having to help others. If they don’t help you, you don’t have to help them. Simple. But once the storms hit, and you’re in danger of capsizing, you will be so far along your path away from friendship, you won’t feel comfortable sending up a flare for rescue. It would be too awkward. You drown, not because others refuse to act, but because you refuse to call for help.


You look up into the face of all the people on the boat. They are smiling, holding out their hands for you to take and climb aboard. Your face hardens, and you cut the line mooring your boat to theirs. They’re expressions sadden as you drift away, but you don’t care. You don’t need anyone else. Your life is good just the way it is. Just try to ignore the black clouds rolling over the horizon.

The Road to Bad Faith 2: Checklist belief

Turn acts faith into a list of chores. This is a surefire way to make activities that should be full of joy boring as hell.

The act of baptism requires full body immersion. John the Baptist submerged the believers beneath the surface of the Jordan in order to absolve them of their sins. In the same way, faith can be viewed as a baptism. Complete submersion is required to become healthy and whole.

But what of us journeying down the road to a bad faith? Well the idea is simple: stay in the shallow end. Having only toes or feet in the water means you don’t get wet, but also means you don’t join anyone having fun in the deep end of the pool.

The things that help to increase faith are well-known; prayer, reading Gods word, talking to others, attending groups/church can all be paths to a healthy faith. But we can make them unhealthy too. In order to accomplish this, try and make each of these activities part of a checklist that you must complete every day. Although this may work against your quest for bad faith initially because discipline can be helpful, you can easily turn each of these activities into a complete chore.

Now the easiest thing would be to do none of these things. Go completely cold turkey. But if you’re reading this, you are probably invested to a certain extent already and guilt may even motivate you to take part in these activities. The good news is guilt about not doing them is already a step to these activities being pointless for you, for you are doing them out of a sense of obligation not out of love. This will make it far easier to follow the steps below.

Reading the Bible

This is perhaps the easiest one. My own church has a plan where the bible can be read at least once if read in three sections. Your goal is to complete all of the required readings as fast as humanly possible. Scan read each passage and never stop to consider things you find challenging or thought-provoking. Once one is completed, move instantly on to the next one, then the next, until you have done the bare minimum. Then you can throw your bible on your shelf, having both completed your daily task whilst gaining nothing from it whatsoever.

Prayer

Prayer is the avenue through which you can talk to God. Fortunately, God doesn’t answer us directly (I.e. with a voice you can recognise) so it is easy to turn prayer into a fruitless exercise.

Use the same prayer every time. Structured prayers could be a way to improve your chats with God, but your prayers should be identical every time; never inject any personal information such as worries, hopes and desires into your prayers. These conversations should be treated like you are talking to a stranger, with the minimal amount of information that may reveal your true self (even though God already knows everything).

This will depersonalise your prayers over time. They will have no benefit to you at all because you never expose what you truly want or feel. Talking to God could lead to personal revelations or at least some catharsis; but follow this advice and prayer will become a pointless exercise not worth the couple of minutes it takes to say them.

Church/ other groups

Attending church or other groups associated with faith could have the potential to improve your faith. These experiences provide the opportunity to learn and to grow in your understanding of God, yourself and the scriptures.

As referred to above, you may not be ready to quit cold turkey from church activities. So, attend but don’t attend. Your body can be physically present in the space where learning and growth might occur, but allow your mind to wander elsewhere. Never pay attention for longer than five minutes. Instead worry about life outside of the church; think about your next meal, or the work meeting you have tomorrow. This has the dual benefit of distracting you from listening and learning, and also from engaging in quiet meditation that may bring some inner peace.

Conclusion

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them round your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬
https://www.bible.com/113/pro.3.3.nivuk

Your goal is to avoid the above. Getting so close to God that his love is written on your heart might lead to personal growth, improvement and contentment. So, do the bare minimum you think might be required of you, but engage no further. Avoid ducking your head below the surface if you can. Even better, stay in the shallow end.

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.