The Line Between Faith and Delusion

Erik Cooper —  May 23, 2011 — 4 Comments

Here I am, sitting behind my keyboard on a beautiful Monday morning. And not just any Monday morning. The Monday morning after another failed attempt by a doomsday deceiver to predict the date of Jesus return.

And I have to admit, sprinkled amidst my mild irritation and crass cynicism is a little bit of sadness.

I’m sad that hundreds, if not thousands, of people liquidated their worldly possessions because they believed the rantings of a false prophet.

I’m sad that The Church is once again being marginalized in the main stream because of a crazy man.

And I’m sad that the expiration date on jokes about the asininity of Camping’s predictions may be running out of shelf life.

I guess I can start using all my May 21 “End of the World” t-shirts for mowing the grass. (See, there are just so many of them!).

But beyond my melancholy, this May 21 concoction also has me pondering some interesting questions. Where is the line between faith and delusion? Are they related? Taken to an extreme, does sincere faith always morph into a Harold Camping, or is that type of hallucination motivated by something completely different? Does faith require a complete exit from reality?

The mother who believes God will miraculously heal her critically ill baby, to the mother who refuses to take her baby to the doctor because that’s doubting God.

The man who refuses to worry because God is in control, to the man who refuses to save for the future because God promised to take care of him.

The family that orders their lives around Christ’s imminent return, to the family that sells their home to caravan around the United States warning of earth’s May 21 demise.

Faith to delusion? Where’s the line? Is there a line?

I have some definitive thoughts, but I’d love to start a conversation. What do you think? Is there a line between faith and delusion?

4 responses to The Line Between Faith and Delusion

  1. Diana Price (former English teacher at B.D.) May 23, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    A wonderful question, Erik. My first thought, and perhaps best one is that faith is based on solid evidence, delusion is not. Our minister once gave what I thought a great parable of true faith. You have probably heard it, but I will repeat it briefly. A man walking along the Niagara River, near the falls, sees a man on the opposite shore crossing the river via a rope which has been secured just a few feet above the water. He is pushing a wheelbarrow across the rope to the other side. As the man on shore watches, the man with the wheelbarrow makes the trip several times. Unable to contain his amazement, the witness finally approaches the main with wild praise about his ability and courage. The tightrope walker turns to the witness and says, “Do you believe I can make it across the river pushing this wheelbarrow?” To which the witness enthusiastically replies, “Of course I do! I have watched you do so many times now! The tightrope walker then says to the witness, “Fine, then get in the wheelbarrow.”

    Faith allows us to act because we have evidence. Nothing in the Bible ever promised May 21 and indeed it warns us that whoever claims he knows the day of Christ’s return is a “false prophet.” The !doomsdayist” is by definition deluded. Am I right?

    • Good story and good thoughts Diana (although I’m still prone to call you Mrs. Price). 🙂 I’m not sure how I feel about one of my former English teachers reading my blog. Please don’t critique my sentence structure.

      Thanks for the input!

  2. Hmm.

    It is sad.

    And, it something that I would guess everyone that really lives a life full of faith wonders sometimes within themself.

    “Am I crazy? Or is God with me here? Do I have this right, or am I delusional?”

    And as someone that has seen great miracles in my life, and been right on, and also made mistakes ~ as someone who has been admired, and also someone who has been ridiculed,(not by the masses, but by close Christian people) ~ I’m still trying to find the way myself to the answer to this question, and working out my salvation with fear and trembling.

    Often I think, if this is true, if this Bible is really true, why isn’t everyone believing it and doing it? Why are people just taking some parts? Then I turn it to myself and think, really ~ it doesn’t matter what other people do ~ what I am going to do now that I have learned this about God? He does not lie.

    But not only does He not lie, He doesn’t go against his own word. I do not even know who this guy is that I am hearing people refer to, but this is my immediate thought:

    If God says to not mess with trying to figure out when He is coming, but to live in a state of awareness and productivity until then, why are we even listening or talking about it?

    (I’m not knocking your post conversation here-)

    I mean, God says Wisdom is the principal thing ~ and all of our faith needs to be based on His Word & wisdom. (& I also prefer multiple confirmations but don’t always get as many as I really want for reassurance! ha!)

    Anyway ~ the first thing I think when I hear stories like this is that we each need a thorough understanding of the Bible ourselves and not just listen to people who we believe are experts.

    But, I also feel this way about regular doctors. I believe there is a place for them! For sure! But I feel that most of society has abandoned their responsibility to take care of themselves thinking it is no longer their job, and just expect the doctors to tell them what to do.

    Certainly doctors can do that, but I have found that a lot of the time they are not focused on curing, but managing crisis.

    I notice this in the church.

    It is sad, but not as sad, because God is committed to His church, even when they are scattered in all sorts of directions.

    This is a prayer that I often use to discern situations:

    Will the real God please stand up!

    *************************************(Because I want to have that innocent, pure, childlike faith, but I don’t want to lose my mind.)

    God has given us a sound mind! Also, I find that I do not need to rush in my decisions. I like to be decisive, and get things moving, but at the same time, if something is from God, certainly timing is important but it isn’t usually something rash!

    Sometimes the Holy Spirit will prompt you to do something urgent, but there is always peace, not mania.

    Plus, faith is personal. What is not faith is sin, and everyone is at different levels. It is not a competition. Know yourself ~ but most importantly, know HIM and listen for His voice!

    God wants us to offer our lives as a living sacrifice, and our primary question needs to be, “Are we pleasing Him? How does He feel about this?”


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