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January 13, 2009                           


                      THE POWER OF FAITH


A couple of weeks ago, a rather remarkable article came out about faith.  Somewhat surprisingly, it was in the New York Times science section of all places.  The piece, entitled “For Good Self-Control, Try Getting Religious About It” (December 29, 2008), examined a recent study that concluded that having strong faith enhanced one’s ability to discipline themselves.


The author of the piece is not a believer and this was a departure from the mainstream media’s normal secular slant and penchant for running stories that place those of faith in a negative light.  In a similar vein, early last year an opinion piece that I’ve referenced before in the same paper acknowledged liberal prejudice against Christians (“Evangelicals a Liberal Can Love;” February 3, 2008).


Two things stand out in this latest article: 1) the willingness of a non-believer to acknowledge what Christians have been arguing anecdotally for millennia; and 2) despite this, the author of the article (and apparently of the underlying scientific study as well) refused to even broach the issue of whether or not this is proof of the existence of God.


The focus was on how people of all faiths benefit by attaining more self-control, a fact that I agree with.  In addition, the argument was made that one can “replicate” this effect by treating one’s values and principles as if they were spiritual faith or a religion.


I think that this is possible but it is far less likely to have the desired effect. Why?  I believe that the Lord greatly blesses people who are sincerely seeking Him (Hebrews 11:6); those who believe in a deity bigger than themselves.  First and foremost, what these authors refuse to confront is the wonder working power to transform that is the sole province of the Holy Spirit of the Lord.


I shouldn’t be surprised by this.  A couple of weeks before I saw this there was an interesting article on the Washington Post/Newsweek “On Faith” website that detailed how references to God were apparently systematically removed from a series of tourist attractions in the nation’s capital recently, including in the new $600 million Capitol Visitor Center.


Normally, I am the kind of guy whose eyes begin to glaze over when I hear a pastor begin to discuss how “liberals” are trying to remove God from the public square or take Jesus Christ out of Christmas.  Despite the recent, bus billboard campaign I believe that these efforts are highly overrated by the faith community.  Moreover, it’s not the pejorative sounding “liberals” who are responsible so much as atheists and the more recent self-described “secularists.”


Nevertheless, what happened in Washington, DC is proof that there are many who have a problem with God.  I was shocked that some of the decisions were apparently taken during the Bush administration and when Republicans controlled Congress.


But, the point is there are skeptics out there and some of them will only give grudging, backhanded credence to the argument that Christian faith promotes tangible benefits in the lives of people who believe.  A Washington Post review of two books a few years ago that discussed the impact of faith on young Americans (“It’s the Deity, Dude;” July 10, 2005) made a strong case for this.  In addition, over the years doctors have consistently credited faith with making a difference in recovery rates of seriously ill patients.


Interestingly, many politically-active Democrats are trying to undermine funding for abstinence-only sex education.  I find it troubling that even though these programs are only a tiny fraction of the overall sex education budget and have only been around for a couple of years that they are being attacked so strongly in both the federal and state government arena.


Amazingly, questionable studies have been used to try to show that these programs are responsible for the slight up tick in teenage pregnancies in the last couple of years.  Completely, overlooked is the fact that the programs that they say lowered the teenage out of wedlock birth rate did nothing to slow it for two decades prior to the changes in the data we saw in the 1990’s.  Most likely, there are a number of complex factors affecting these numbers, not the least of which is the unrestrained sexuality contained in our media.


So, regardless of the occasional setback and attack, be encouraged.  Even progressive non-believers are beginning to acknowledge the power of faith in some ways publicly.  There are some who will do anything to denounce religion, primarily the Christian faith, but we have far greater numbers and the truth on our side.


But most of all, I pray that we as a body of Christ will take heart in the meaning of the cross.  The promise of everlasting life frees us to continually transform ourselves for the better, so that we can reject the material for the Spiritual, and focus on the real business of faith: good works.


Pass it along…



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