Blind Faith vs. Biblical Faith

by May 18, 2007

The story of Abraham’s unusual confidence in Genesis 22, where I’ve been spending time this week, gives us a good picture of simple faith. But there’s a difference between a time-tested faith in God’s provision and a wishful, groundless faith that somehow “everything will work out OK.” The first one is based on God’s incontrovertible goodness. The second one is based on our own wispy hopes, and it’s what is at the core of the exploding popularity of positivity.

573682_53299230_thumbnail.jpgExplaining why the positive-thinking mantras of televangelists like Joel Osteen and books like The Secret have caught on so quickly, Rutgers University professor Karen Ceruloour believes that our culture has an unusual (and unfounded) desire to look on the brighter side. This Slate article describes her recent book, Never Saw It Coming:

In it, she argues that we are individually, institutionally, and societally hellbent on wishful thinking. The Secret tells us to visualize best-case scenarios and banish negative ones from our minds. Never Saw It Coming says that’s what we’ve been doing all along—and we get blindsided by even the most foreseeable disasters because of it. …

A glance at a few statistics shows that most of us see just what we want. In a national survey of parents by the Public Agenda organization, a hefty majority said their child never stays out too late, never uses bad language, never wears sloppy or revealing clothes, and never does poorly in school. Only a third of American sunbathers use sunscreen, and Californians are almost twice as likely to play the lottery as they are to buy earthquake insurance. When the American Association of Retired Persons asked a sample of adults what they expected from old age, most said they figured they would always have enough money and good health to do what they wanted. And only 30 percent of Americans have written their wills.

How is this working out for us? Think of all the times you’ve heard the refrain, “I never thought it would happen to me.” The American Academy of Dermatology projects that one in five Americans will contract skin cancer sometime in their lives.

Unlike this kind of wishful thinking, the incredible faith Abraham displays in Genesis 22 is predicated on the promises of God. He knows Isaac will somehow live because God has promised to multiply his descendants. I don’t have any such promise from God. He could take away my kids at any time, and no amount of positive thinking on my part could change that. My faith is not in some happily-ever-after ending, it’s in God’s sovereign wisdom. “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13).