I recently returned from Israel where I visited Mount Carmel, the mountain that Jezebel dedicated to the god, Baal. Those who worshiped Baal had a false faith. In idolatry they substituted the truth of God for a lie. They were formal heretics. On Mount Carmel, the prophet Elijah revealed the true God. You can read this story in 1 Kings 18:20.
Apologists are quite accustomed to hearing claims from non-Christians that parrot views of formal heretics. Those who adhere to these heretical philosophies believe the created rather than the creator. In Pierced For Our Transgressions, Jeffery, Ovey and Sach address this matter in great detail, calling it false faith. Understanding false faith can help us understand the reason why one adheres to such heresy. Jeffery explains that with false faith, one exchanges the truth of God for a lie. There is a belief in God, but it is a belief in a falsehood about Him. For example, one may believe in God but not believe in all of His attributes, such as the fact that he interacts with his people on earth—that He has a hands-off approach, or that He is not omnipotent. Jeffery continues that there are five main points to be made about false faith:
- It is closely related to idolatry. The truth of God is exchanged for something else. Idolatry can occur in various ways, One can substitute the true God for an alternate god, such as those who worshiped Baal. Or instead of worshiping the true God who can bring blessings, one may worship money, sex or power. Last, one may change God’s attributes or character in the attempt to make God more convenient to us. The latter is the hardest to spot because a Christian can maintain their Christian identity while, Jeffery says, “We are operating with an imitation forged by our own sinful imaginations.” When we suppress or change the truths of God, we are guilty of false faith.
- False faith is delusional. It impairs our rational faculties so that we can no longer discern truth from error. Embracing an idol is to believe a lie. Jeffery, Ovey and Sach explain that “The delusional character of false faith means that the effects of sin cannot be reversed simply by presenting correct, rational arguments to unaided human minds. Such arguments would not be understood.”
- False faith is a willed commitment. People choose to keep themselves in the dark. One can actually desire what is evil. Jesus explains this in John 3:19: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
- False faith keeps one from the possibility of having a relationship with God. Jeffery, Ovey and Sach contend that, “False faith is a relational disaster. It refuses to accept God’s word as truthful and his commands as authoritative, refusing the possibility of a relationship with Him.” Think of someone you have known who has had the wrong idea about your identity. To substitute one’s false ideas about someone is the end of the relationship. Self-delusion can cause us to think that our relationship with God still exists. This false faith or self-delusion alienates us from God.
- False faith reminds us that we all have faith in something. Today it is popular to say one has faith. But faith in what or whom? What determines whether faith is true or false is not whether or not the faith is sincere, but whether or not that faith corresponds to reality: Whether one believes in another god like Baal, or a social cause or lifestyle, or whether one believes in the true God.
False faith is the product of a fallen world, where the truth of God is exchanged for a lie and the true God for an idol. It can be addictive, ruining our relationship with God and with each other. False beliefs highlight the need for one to have a savior to free them from the captivity of these lies. Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life. Only through Him can the blinders be removed from our eyes.