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Why false faith is like counterfeit money

March 26, 2015

JesusBill-LGMany Christians (including their Messianic co-religionists) often point out to me that Christianity, the religion that placed a first century Jewish man at its center as god-incarnate, the lord and savior of the world, has brought a whole lot of good into the world (at least for the non-Jewish part of it). This, they tell me, is evidence that G-d Himself is behind Christianity and in their minds it is the confirmation, indeed part of the proof that their faith in Jesus is true. First and foremost, they say, millions of pagans who once worshiped the gods of the Roman pantheon, multitudes of other gods and various assorted demigod heroes and emperors, rejected them all in favor of Jesus, and are now worshiping the “G-d of Israel”, albeit in his “human” and “trinitarian” form. What’s more, I am also frequently reminded, Christianity had introduced untold numbers of former pagans to the Jewish scriptures, albeit in their Church-translated form and as an “Old Testament”, and this must be G-d’s own doing and explicit will. In addition to that accomplishment, I am pointed out that Christianity has also done a lot of humanitarian work all over the world as part of its mission to spread the Christian gospel, improving (arguably) lives of multitudes of people. And what about the so many who, after embracing Jesus and Christian tenets, have forsaken destructive lifestyles and habits, saved failing marriages, became more honest and kind to those around them? Are not all these things the evidence that Christianity is true and the will of G-d for humanity? But what if their faith in Jesus, despite of all the apparent good it wrought in minds of the devout, was based on a lie? What if it is a false faith and not from G-d, what then? And if it is indeed a false faith, can it still be seen as “good” and should it be lauded because of all of the apparent good it has accomplished for so many?

I was surprised to come across a very profound answer to this question not from a Jewish source, but on a Christian apologetics website, of all places.

In his article Are Mormons Christians?, Gordon R. Lewis of Christian Research Institute, delves into the claimed goodness of a “false faith” (represented in his analysis by Mormonism):

If the object is not really trustworthy then the faith is a false faith. It is perfectly true that such a false faith will often help a man. Things that are false will accomplish a great many useful things in the world. If I take a counterfeit coin and buy a dinner with it, the dinner is every bit as good as if the coin were a product of the mint. And what a very useful thing a dinner is! But just as I am on my way downtown to buy a dinner for a poor man, an expert tells me that my coin is a counterfeit. The miserable, heartless theorizer! While he is going into his uninteresting, learned details about the primitive history of that coin, a poor man is dying for want of bread. So it is with faith. Faith is so very useful, they tell us, that we must not scrutinize its basis in truth. But the great trouble is, such an avoidance of scrutiny itself involves the destruction of faith. For faith is essentially dogmatic. Despite all you can do, you cannot remove the element of faith from it. Faith is the opinion that some person will do something for you. If that person really will do that thing for you, then the faith is true. If he will not do it, then the faith is false. In the latter case, not all the benefits in the world will make the faith true. Though it has transformed the world from darkness to light, though it has produced thousands of glorious healthy lives, it remains a pathological phenomena. It is false, and sooner or later it is sure to be found out. (Are Mormons Christians? Gordon R. Lewis, Christian Research Institute).

False faith, a religion based on a lie, is very much like a counterfeit currency. You may believe your money is legitimate because someone whom you trusted paid you with it and it appeared to you so authentic when you first accepted it. How can something that looked so real be fake, you ask yourself. Still, although you were later made aware that the issuer of the true currency put out a severe warning to watch out for fakes, you chose to ignore it. After all, you already spent so much of it – last thing you wanted is examine it more closely to see if you have the real thing. And so you fed your family with it, used it to buy many good things and generally had a wonderful life spending it. Because it looked so authentic, you didn’t have much of a problem convincing others to accept it. But in the end, as with all fake money, it will still be found out as a lie. One day it will certainly be exposed by someone who can tell the difference. One day currency experts will compare your “money” with a real legal tender and it will be very embarrassing both to you and to all those you shared it with. So, if you are afraid to take your money to the experts for fear that they will judge it as fraudulent, enjoy it while you can. But know that when your folly is finally revealed, you will be forced to make full restitution with the true currency and return all of the property you bought with it to the rightful owners.

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