When Salvation is a Psychological Disorder

Christianity is like an email scam. You get a message that there's an unverifiable problem with your account and then you're given an unverifiable solution to that unverifiable problem. Similarly, salvation comes through faith in a God to prevent us from a fate we take on faith.

That's a lot of faith. When skeptics say that Christianity lacks evidence, they're not wrong. We can claim that Jesus' resurrection has over five hundred eye-witness reports, but we still need faith to trust the veracity of those reports.

Evidentialist apologetics are less popular today, probably because someone figured out that non-empirical evidence isn't really evidence. Instead, many Christians are utilizing a more experiential apologetic--one of personal, miraculous deliverance.

Stories abound in the church of broken addictions and supernatural rescues from abuse. We hear of alcoholics recovering suddenly after decades of enslavement and domestic violence victims finding justice when despair was their only companion.

Many of these folks experienced salvation in this life at the same moment they chose to follow Jesus. For them, faith isn't hope for the future but gratitude for the past. They've seen God's power and it gave them all the confidence they could ever need to trust him.

There is no bolder Christian than the one who sees salvation as a present reality. And there is no better apologetic in an individualistic culture than a transformed life. The church gives these faith heroes tv shows, radio shows, book deals, and speaking engagements because they want the world to see that our faith is real. Even if their heroes' faith isn't.

We should never question God's work in another person's life, but we should ask if that person's zeal is from faith or fanaticism. As Kyle Idleman once said:
The biggest threat to the church is fans who call themselves Christians but aren't actually interested in following Christ.
Followers of Christ live a life of daily sacrifice. They understand that what Christ did for them on the cross was an example he intends for them to do for others. They love Jesus because he first loved them and they show that love by loving others.

Fans of Christ live a life of daily deliverance. They believe that what Christ did for them in their physical lives is exactly what he intends for others. They don't love Jesus as much as the work he did and they try to force that work on others.

Indeed, much of the legalism in Christianity is indebted to the faith heroes who treat the church like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. With their testimonies of transformation ever ready, they mislead God's people into a sanctification model that mirrors their own safeguards against addiction and abuse.

No, it's not wise for an alcoholic to go to a bar, but that doesn't mean that bars are unwise for everyone. Yet much of popular Christian teaching today looks like it was tailored for recovering addicts, not a diverse body of believers with diverse backgrounds to boot.

Some of us don't have miraculous stories of deliverance. Some of us grew up uneventfully and continue to live relatively uneventful lives. We may not have experienced God's power in our lives the same way, but we also haven't been tempted to idolize it either--to be addicted to it.

The danger of associating eternal salvation with physical deliverance is that it's easy to prefer the rescue to the relationship. Like a reverse Nightingale Syndrome, some people romanticize the faith into a one-size-fits-all victorious life. The sinners' prayer may very well be a salvation placebo for those seeking a meaningful experience rather than a persevering trust.

However, Jesus didn't die for us because he's a lonely white knight longing for the affection of lesser beings. He didn't die to grant us victory in this life--though it may be true for some. He died to grant us victory over death. He died so that we would be united to him and share that opportunity with others.

Putting faith in a salvation experience rather than a savior is a false religion. It turns Christianity into self-help clinic of co-dependent moralists.

We all have destructive habits but they're only broken by God's one-step program of loving people, not the multi-step approaches of judgmental people who make up their own rules rather than follow the ones Jesus already gave us.

No wonder Jesus said the gate was narrow because there is nothing glamorous about following him. If anything, the glamorous testimonies might just be a sign of a disorder, not faith.


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