True God, False Faith

by Aaron

This is my second blog where I wanted to delve a bit deeper into something I talked about in an updated Gospel Class that we called The Weekender. The original point of our Gospel Class was to give people who were considering making Element their home a quick primer on basic theology and the reasons Element functions the way it does (from our mission to our vision in how we accomplish God’s call as a church). This year we decided to streamline the course by holding a Friday night/Saturday morning class. In streamlining the class, there were certain things that became condensed, and one of those was a section we call “Creation and Sin.” I wanted to write a couple of short blogs to round out some of what may have gotten lost in the class. Since this is the second of these blogs, I want to write about what we call “The Fall.”

In Christian theology “the fall” references humankind’s rebellion against God by trying to “live our own truth” and ceasing to trust Him. Now you may be thinking…what? I wasn’t there! However, Scripture’s portrayal of Adam and Eve represents how all of humanity would respond in that situation. We all buy into lies about our identity and about God. In that sense, even though we were not there shortly after creation, we are responsible for the effects of the fall and can witness our own brokenness today. God had essentially given us the entire world as a gift, calling us to steward and take care of His creation, and we (in no time at all) did our best to destroy it. God called us to trust Him for what was good and true, and we bought into a lie that God was not as good as He claimed to be—that we could be more than we were created to be. We distrusted God (as we still distrust Him every day) and we did the one thing He commanded us not to do. In so doing we fell from relationship with Him into sin. As those who fell, there was/is nothing we could do to restore relationship with a holy and eternal God, so God Himself came to us to bring us back to Himself.

God coming for us ultimately leads to the proclamation of good news. The first proclamation is in Genesis 3:16 right after we fell. In Genesis 3:16 Jesus promises that He (Himself) would be the one to pay for the penalty of our rebellion…this is the essence of the Gospel. Jesus takes our death upon Himself and gives us His life; He takes our sin and rebellion and gives us His righteousness with God. In the Weekender I kind of blazed through this on the way to the session about salvation, but I want to take a step back and talk about what happened in the fall because it still relates to our lives today.

In the creation narrative, we see that God is creator and there is a distinction between Him and the creation. As I wrote in the last blog, God is self-contained. He is A SE (from Latin…this is where we get the word Aseity). He is dependent upon nothing, while creation (and humans particularly) is dependent upon our creator epistemologically (knowledge) and metaphysically (reality). This is why when God says we are to trust Him for what is good, there is no good that can be understood apart from Him. When the fall takes place in Genesis 3, there is a de-creation, a reversal, of what God did in Genesis 1-2. The order God created unravels and we are still living in the dysfunction that remains.

How? In Genesis 3 the serpent becomes humanity’s guide for the “good,” as humans eat fruit that was forbidden to them. Under the serpent’s advice, we dismissed the authority of God. In creation, the order (in terms of authority) went God, man, woman (who was created equal), creatures. In the de-creation of the fall, the serpent lies to and tempts the woman, the woman gives some fruit to her husband (who then eats) and we see a reverse cycle of whose authority we trust to determine our lives: serpent, woman, man, God. John Calvin wrote about how we turn aside from God’s truth to falsehoods: “…the first man revolted from God’s authority, not because of Satan’s blandishments, but also because, contemptuous of the truth, he turned aside to falsehood. And surely, once we hold God’s word in contempt, we shake off all reverence for Him.” The fall happened because we ceased to revere God for who He is; I would say that the same thing still happens in our world today.

In the fall we tried to shrink God from who He is. D. A. Carson wrote, “The true God is holy; He is unique, and cannot, by His very nature, tolerate those who try to relativize Him. We are not gods; and by death we learn we are only human.” In the fall God warned us that if we sin, we will die; part of what death does is blow away our pretentions. The most striking difference in today’s world is not between those who have “faith” and those who have none; it is between those who have true faith and those who have false faith. Adam and Eve didn’t become atheists and refuse to believe in God (God came walking in the garden, calling out to them). Instead, they left the true faith for a false faith that was centered on themselves and not God. Adam and Eve still sincerely believed in the existence of God, but in false faith, sincerity is not the issue—the truth of who God is is the issue. Mike Ovey writes, “…the truth or falsehood of the faith turns not on whether the person who has faith is sincere or not, but on whether the belief that person holds is true to the reality of the person of whom he or she believes it.” False faith believes lies about God. In this case, Adam and Eve chose to believe God wasn’t enough for them.

False faith today, culturally speaking, believes lies about God that are rationally and ethically justified by our own standards. False faith will treat what God does as bad, when He is clearly shown to be good. It argues that the legitimate sovereignty that God has over His creation is not legitimate. False faith treats God’s loving warnings as bad commands—calling His goodness into question. When we have false faith, it obscures and distorts who God made us to be; it continues to degrade our relationship with God and pushes us farther into the fall.

There are questions that we must ask that come out of the ways we diminish God:

  • In what ways are we listening to authorities, other than God, in our life?
  • In what ways are we adhering to false faith, rather than looking for who God has revealed Himself to be?
  • In what ways are we continuing to live in the lie that began the fall in the first place?

We naturally, because we are born into sin, run from God and toward false faith. It is why salvation comes from God’s hand alone. The Gospel is the good news of God’s rescue of us from our own lies and falsehoods we have adhered to. If God had not been for us, we would have never known restored relationship with Him again. Eugene Peterson translated Psalm 124:6 as Oh, blessed be God! He didn’t go off and leave us…when the entire world went against us, because of our own choices, God comes for us.

Psalm 124:8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.