Superstition and the Christian Mind
Oil and water do not mix. There are many things in this life that go hand-in-hand, such as ice cream and cherry pie. The one compliments the other in a way that both are elevated to a greater level of enjoyment and perfection. But this is not the case for everything, including oil and water. In fact, the attempt to combine oil and water in a combustion engine will lead to the ruin of that motor. The water actually serves to displace and prevent the lubricating effect of the oil on the parts of the motor, leading ultimately to its failure.
In much the same way, superstition and Christianity do not mix. Just like the presence of water in an engine, the presence of superstition in the life of a Christian can serve to lead to the failure of that individual’s faith by displacing clear truth.
“Belief without evidence…”
Often when superstition is considered, the mind goes to a black cat with yellow eyes that runs across the street in front of a car as a person is traveling home on a dark, stormy night. The sense of dread and despair washing over a person who experiences such an unfortunate event will then no doubt be left to contemplate what manner of evil circumstances they will be faced within the near future as a result.
But when superstition is considered within the context of the life of a Christian, it is more serious than black cats, broken mirrors, four-leafed clovers, and Friday the 13th. In fact, it is infinitely more insidious than some unfortunate traveler who happens to cross paths with a feline who even more unfortunately happened to be cursed by the Lord with black fur.
If we are to put a definition behind the word “superstition” in the context of the Christian life, it would serve well to turn to Charles Hodge. He very simply identifies superstition as “belief without evidence” (Hodge, Charles, … Systematic Theology vol. 2, pg 595). In his systematic theology, Charles discusses the bizarre concept of the Roman Catholic practice of seeking departed saints to intercede for the circumstances of this life. It is within this concept that Charles is led to use the word superstition along with its following meaning. The argument is that this practice of requesting intercession from departed saints of God is completely without biblical evidence, yet it is elevated to a position whereby that belief dictates and motivates faith.
Allowing the Christian faith to operate in this way is very dangerous. Christianity is based on evidence not suppositions lacking substance. If one chooses to pursue a “blind faith” as such, one where the facts are ignored or overlooked, they are indeed treading in dangerous waters full of hungry sharks, because much as oil and water do not mix, neither does a faith based on false opinions and one that is centered on truth.
The Implication of a Superstitious Christian
One of the great many privileges that have been given to the race of men through the sacrifice of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is that what was previously hidden under the covenants of the Old Testament have now been revealed. While there are certainly many things about God that remain hidden to the finite, human mind, at the same time there has been much that has been clearly revealed through Christ, namely what is necessary for Christian conduct and eternal life. The implication is that in the new covenant inaugurated through Jesus Christ by His blood, mankind has been given the necessary information to overcome sin and walk in the light of truth.
Where believers find themselves in trouble is when Christian truth is overlooked, ignored, or misinterpreted by subjective opinions. It is at this point that belief becomes hijacked by lack of evidence leading to many errors and introducing much pain that could otherwise be avoided.
Further Dangers of a Superstitious Christian
Much damage has been done to Christian individuals as well as to the corporate church through a worldview that is driven by superstitious reasoning. Whether it is the practice of praying for dead saints to intercede over the circumstances of this world or unhealthy, unbiblical obsessions with demons or a failure to recognize Christ in the light that He has been revealed, much error may be traced back to a faith that is based on superstition. Often this comes by way of an incomplete understanding of God’s Word, whereby a little bit of knowledge can serve to be infinitely more dangerous than no knowledge at all. Furthermore, for the pure-hearted student of scripture, they may find themselves as a victim of unbiblical, superstitious teaching, needing to unlearn those beliefs which are not based on evidence, which can take a very long time.
Another danger of a faith that is built on superstition is that it often does great damage to others by misrepresenting God’s truth. A person who has the opportunity to speak into the lives of others, such as a Christian teacher, is under great responsibility to those who would listen, as well as to the Lord who called them. The warning is that not many should seek to be teachers. But if a person has received this calling, then it is with the utmost highest seriousness that their teaching be based on the clear truth of God’s revealed word. Anything less will only serve to weaken and confuse the Lord’s children.
A third danger that is common to superstition is a life of weak faith (although for this we are careful not to condemn). Many empty claims and strange practices have been done in the name of superstition. Paul points out in Romans 14 that the root of the contention behind whether or not a believer is to worship the Lord on the Sabbath or on every day of the week is because of a weak faith. One person has a confident, mature faith in Christ that liberates them from the bondage of the requirements of the Mosaic law, while others have a faith that has not yet grown to enable them to walk in the fullness of what God has called them to. At this point, Paul points out that the church should in no way look down on the one who is weak in faith, “…accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions” (Romans 14:1 NASB95). But at the same time, there should be an encouragement by the church to the weak to pursue and develop a strong, mature faith in Christ. Superstition, belief without evidence, will hinder this.
Avoiding a Christian Life Influenced by Superstition
So how does one avoid a life that is plagued by superstition, whether your own or that of others?
- First and most importantly, submit yourself to the Word of God, which is powerfully capable to equip us against belief without evidence, even if it involves unlearning past errors.
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul an spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 NASB95
Furthermore, Jesus pointed out that God’s word has the ability to bring about the deliverance of a mind and heart that is bound up in unbiblical superstitions through the means of truth. But it is also conditional in the sense that it requires a continuance in His Word that will produce the desired effect.
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32 NASB95
A sub point along these lines is critical to point out. God’s truth is objective not subjective. This means that the truth of what God has spoken in the scriptures is never trumped by a person’s personal experience, whether it be in a dream, a vision, a voice from heaven, or an incident from childhood.
- Secondly, pursuing the glory of God is the highest goal and final test for true believers.
Superstitious faith, a faith that lacks evidence, will often find itself festering in areas that do not bring ultimate glory and honor to the Lord. Unfortunately, the tendency is to shift the focus off of God entirely for something else, such as demons. One of the marks of the later times is that of a falling away from orthodox faith in Christ. Instead, historic faith will be replaced by an unhealthy attention by some to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. “But the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1 NASB95).
Many personal examples come to mind of those whom I have witnessed fulfilling the words of this prediction. I can remember the “Christian” gentleman who attempted to explain the intricacies of how he had learned to manipulate and control demons to do what he wanted them to, even forcing them against their will to confess the name of Christ. Or there was the individual who explained that demons were the source of every trouble on the planet, from hurricanes to the common cold, therefore it was necessary to learn everything possible about demons in order to be able to fight against them. Both examples place a very unhealthy focus on something that doesn’t deserve it.
Paying attention to doctrines of demons and deceptive spirits has its unhealthy root in superstitious faith. But the pursuit of the glory of God in all things will bring balance and health.
- Thirdly, it needs to be said that there is wisdom in remaining humble in the lifelong pursuit of an increasingly transformed, God-exalting mind.
Part of the Christian life is the call to a transformed and renewed mind that brings glory to God. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect”. Romans 12:2 NASB95).
Having a fallen, world-focused life transformed through a renewed mind that is able to discern and prove what God’s revealed will is, is a journey. While it may be a labor-intensive and difficult journey at times, it is a road worth traveling because the rewards are great. This road may require adjustments and fresh perspectives that hadn’t been seen before. Therefore, it requires that this road be traveled with great humility and teachableness from God’s word, by which superstition will be silenced.
Very well stated. Appreciate the stance taken. Thank you.