The US Capitol is the focus of global attention today. Police riot shields have been placed near doorways. Metal detectors stand outside the House of Representatives chamber. Capitol police officers are out in force in larger numbers and with heavier equipment than before. Fencing is in place in some locations.
All of this is in preparation for the first anniversary of the January 6 assault on the Capitol.
A year ago I wrote a Daily Article special edition as the crisis was unfolding titled “Chaos in Washington.” Millions of us watched on television as lawmakers were evacuated from the House and Senate chambers. Fox News‘ Chad Pergram stated, “This is the most significant breach of an American government institution since the British burned the Capitol after the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814.” Former President George W. Bush called the attack “a sickening and heartbreaking sight.”
The next day, I asked our readers to join me in praying for our leaders and people to seek reconciliation and peace, for Christians to respond with truth and grace, and for more Christians to be engaged in our democracy. You and I need to continue offering such intercession as much today as we did a year ago.
And we urgently need to renew our commitment to the most transformational yet countercultural way we can answer our prayers for our nation.
If I were Satan
The ultimate answer to every problem humans face is found in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. He alone can forgive our sins, empower us to truly forgive others, and make us the “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) we must become to experience abundant life in this fallen world (John 10:10).
Satan knows this as well as we do.
As a result, if I were Satan, I would try to convince all Americans to be atheists. The twentieth century saw firsthand the consequences of the denial of God, with one hundred million deaths due to atheistic communism around the world. Erwin Lutzer was right: “It is said that after God died in the nineteenth century, man died in the twentieth. For when God is dead, man becomes an untamed beast.”
If I could not convince Americans to be atheists, I would try to convince them to be agnostics. This is because the practical consequence is usually the same. I have never met an agnostic—someone who is not sure God is real—who acted as if he is.
Satan is having moderate success on both fronts: according to Pew Research Center, the share of Americans who identify as atheists has risen from 2 percent in 2009 to 4 percent in 2019. The share who call themselves agnostic has increased from 3 percent a decade ago to 5 percent today.
What should be done about the remaining 91 percent who persist in some form of faith in God?
A masterful satanic strategy
If I could not convince Americans to abandon faith entirely, I would have a third strategy ready: to have faith in faith. To be “spiritual but not religious.” To believe that so long as we have faith in a “higher power,” a spiritual feeling of some sort, that is all the “religion” we need.
Our enemy is having great success here. As I reported yesterday, 63 percent of American adults believe “having faith matters more than which faith you have.” This is a quintessential postmodern approach: we can be tolerant of all faiths while requiring none. We think we can derive the benefits of believing in God or the gods without choosing any particular religion and its demands on us.
Imagine, however, applying this logic to any other dimension of our lives. So long as you have faith in medicine, it doesn’t matter which medication you take. So long as you have faith in roads, it doesn’t matter which one you travel. So long as you have faith in people, it doesn’t matter which one you marry. Where in life does “faith in faith” work?
This is a masterful strategy by Satan. It causes us to be “inoculated” by faith in a way that keeps us from getting the real thing. We get to live by moonlight in the dark without being exposed to the light of the sun.
There is only one road to heaven, but there are many roads to hell. This is one of the most popular today.
When Christianity works
Lest we shake our heads at the “faith in faith” mentality that is so popular and deceptive, let’s consider its insidious attraction for Christians as well. If Satan cannot get us to boycott worship services, Bible studies, prayer, and other spiritual activities, he’ll tempt us to make them an end instead of a means—to think we’ve checked the “God box” by going to church on Sunday and spending a few minutes in religious activities during the week.
If we are not entering his transforming presence in worship, hearing his voice in his word, and connecting intimately with him in prayer, we are placing our faith in faith. We are substituting religion for relationship. And we are missing the empowering, daily encounter with the living Christ that is our only path to being “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
In addition, if we fall prey to the “faith in faith” delusion, we will sidestep the biblical call to evangelism (Acts 1:8) that our culture brands as “intolerant” since other people have their own “faith” as well. As I noted in my latest personal blog, this is an enticing way to appear tolerant in a post-Christian culture. But it victimizes those who need the salvation we have experienced and consigns them to an eternity separated from God.
If we want an end to the political animosity and divisiveness of our day, faith in political leaders and parties is not enough. If we want to prevent another January 6 riot, faith in law enforcement is not enough. If we want true hope in the midst of a pandemic, true peace in the midst of rising geopolitical threats, true joy in the midst of economic pain, faith in faith is not enough.
In her latest blog, my wife wrote these important words: “Christianity works when Christians allow God to work through their lives.” I would add that America works best when Christians do the same.
We can have faith in faith, or we can have faith in Jesus, but we cannot have both.
Which would he say you have chosen today?