10 February 2021

“Name it and claim it”: Misplaced faith.

Faith, as I wrote in my previous piece on the subject, is belief, trust, assurance, and moral conviction. If you have faith, you believe. Preferably in something or someone solid. For us Christians that’d be Jesus: We trust him. Everything else, less so. Although not much less; I trust the scriptures pretty strongly. Hopefully you do too.

I also wrote a segment in that previous piece about how way too many people believe faith is the power to believe the unbelievable. Antichrists, who think Christianity is rubbish and we’re idiots for getting mixed up in it, love this definition. They figure we have no basis whatsoever for the beliefs we hold: We believe it only because we want to believe it so very badly. So we suppress all our doubts, suppress any doubters, and wish really, really hard. ’Cause if we wish hard enough, maybe it’ll become real, like the Velveteen Rabbit.

Thing is, this wish-it-into-reality idea has been around for a mighty long time. So long, you get people claiming it’s “the Secret,” a mysterious ancient truth about how the universe works—that all you have to do is declare to the universe your deepest wishes, “put it all out there” so to speak, and the cosmos will magnetically pull your desires towards you. Apparently this “law of attraction” has been found in literature going all the way back into history… and of course it has. Ain’t nothing new under the sun. Ec 1.9

Pagan religions have always seriously taught if you want something to be so, your earnestness, righteousness, or worthiness would get the gods to create it for you. (Or if you don’t have any of that, find a lamp with a djinn in it.) But the storyline woven into just about every single human culture is that if we want something bad enough, and if we’re motivated and deserving, we can get it; we can have it. You want knowledge of good and evil? There’s the fruit; go eat it.

It got mixed into Christianity by the gnostics, particularly those of them who claim reality is just an invention of the human mind, and doesn’t exist outside the mind. And if the mind creates reality, the mind can change reality… so if we actually do wish really hard, we actually can make things happen. Various gnostics have taught this for centuries under various names, and in the 1800s they were calling it “mind science.” One of its practitioners, Mary Baker Eddy, combined it with Christianity to create “Christian Science,” and her church still exists today. (They own a pretty good newspaper.) Problem is, if reality is just a mental construct, Jesus didn’t die in reality… so yeah, they’re heretic.

Other Christians won’t go so far as to claim reality isn’t real: It is, but they still claim if we wish really hard, we can make things happen. They claim God granted us the very same power to “calleth those things which be not as though they were.” Ro 4.7 They insist it’s because the passage where I got that pull quote, says Abraham ben Terah totally did it.

Romans 4.18-25 KJV
[Abraham,] 18 who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. Ge 15.5 19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: 20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

If you follow their reasoning, this passage isn’t at all about being justified by faith. It’s about how Abraham’s faith made stuff happen. Really.

God promised Abraham a son, and millions of descendants. So Abraham believed. Really hard. Regardless of his circumstances: He was really old, as was his wife. But he dismissed unbelief, kept his eyes on God, and God rewarded this faith with a son. And if we believe in God just as much, he’ll reward our faith with anything we ask of him.

So they do. Unfortunately a lot of the churches which tell Christians to “name it and claim it” this way, tend to be a little too fixated on Mammon, and tend to equate riches and wealth with God’s favor. They covet. A lot. And y’notice a lot of them fall for get-rich-quick schemes (’cause much like Abraham losing patience and fathering Ishmael, they figure they’ve gotta be proactive if they wanna seize those blessings!) and regularly get fleeced by their church leaders. The love of Mammon is the root of all sorts of evil.

It’s based on human depravity, you know.

Humans were built with a self-preservation instinct. All creatures are. (And if this instinct goes wrong, or gets bred out of them, they won’t last; they’ll die out. Note the dodo.) But when humanity sinned, this instinct got warped, and now self-preservation isn’t just self-preservation. It’s become selfishness: We want what we want, and don’t care if it’s sinful, denies reality, harms others, or even harms ourselves.

Christians are taught to resist this; that “law of attraction”the fruit of the Spirit is love and kindness and patience and other acts of selflessness. But like I said, we want what we want. If we don’t wanna follow the Spirit and produce his fruit, we’ll find ways around it. We’ll relabel all our bad behaviors and disguise ’em as fruit. We’ll stay the same selfish beings we’ve always been. We’ll even repurpose God himself: Now he becomes the means to get all the things we selfishly desire. Now he becomes the justification for all the wealth we amass for ourselves. Ambrose Bierce jokingly defined wealth, as defined by billionaires, as “A gift from heaven signifying, ‘This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.’ ” To listen to certain billionaires talk about it, Bierce described them quite correctly.

Thing is: Naming and claiming things is not really faith in God. It’s faith in ourselves.

It’s our belief that we know what we need. That our desires aren’t distractions, aren’t temptations to sin, are what’s best for us; that “my will be done” is okay with God and compatible with his will being done.

It claims to be faith in God, ’cause name-it-claim-it folks claim God is what empowers it. He makes us able to declare things into existence. He grants the desires. It doesn’t happen unless he’s behind it! And once it does happen, they’re totally quick to give him credit, and praise his name, and point to their newfound wealth and testify to God’s generosity. Doesn’t that make God central to it? Doesn’t it give him glory?

Well it surely appears to. But wealth, even miraculous wealth, isn’t evidence of God’s involvement. The Spirit’s fruit is. Did getting your heart’s desire make you more fruitful, or more fleshly? Does your lifestyle resemble Jesus any more than it did, or do you have to engage in an awful lot of playacting in front of your Christian friends in order to justify your excesses and conspicuous consumption?

If God granting your wishes really does grow his kingdom—and hey, sometimes those wishes legitimately are meant to grow his kingdom!—that’s good fruit. But if they really just grow your kingdom, and his less so, it’s just as likely you’ve got tempters who have discovered the best way to rein you in is to get you attached to earthly things. Then whenever you start acting as Jesus would have you act, they just gotta tug those reins a little, and you’ll cut it out.

And lastly it’s a massive temptation to ignore discernment. ’Cause whenever people get what they’ve always sorely coveted, they tend not look too hard at how they got it. If I stumble across a bag full of money, and I really wanted some money (sometimes for legitimate reasons, like healthcare bills; sometimes not, like expensive video game consoles), I might not consider where the bag came from: Some old lady who just misplaced her life’s savings, or some bank robber. I might not consider giving it back. And if I lack the Spirit’s fruit in my life, much like some Mammonist who’s been faking this fruit for years, I’ll come up with all sorts of hypocritical excuses for why God gave me this sudden windfall, and I should never give it up. Much less give it away.

Ain’t no faith in God involved. Or even necessary.