Should a Christian eat ice cream? (and other important questions.)

There it is. The question might sound absurd but it’s a very important question that you should consider. I just had a discussion about it with my friend Jack. I’m reproducing it from memory for your benefit.

I was sitting on a bench, eating ice cream when all of a sudden I heard a voice behind me,

Jack: Noel?

(Me, looking back…)

Me: Jack! Hello! How are you?

Jack: I’m fine. How about you?

Me: I’m great as well. What a long time since we met! Must be a couple of years!

Jack: Yes. Indeed.

Me: (As he was still standing behind the bench) Come, sit. (Looking towards the store where I bought the ice cream and shouting) Can you send one more ice cream?

Jack: (Reluctantly) Um… I don’t eat ice cream.

Me: What? You don’t eat ice cream? What kind of person are you?

Jack: Um… normal? But I’m surprised that you eat ice cream. I thought you were a christian…

Me: What’s being a christian have to do with it?

Jack: A lot. In fact.

Me: Please explain.

Jack: You see, as Christians, Jesus called us to live a simple life. Even he himself led a very simple life. This should be reflected in every part of our lives. May it be housing, clothing or even food. We should only eat simple food. Dal & rice are enough. Ice cream is a luxury. Many people don’t even have the fortune to eat simple food, much less something as luxurious as ice cream.

Me: Hmmm… I see.

Jack: Yes. Instead of eating this ice cream, you could’ve purchased something simple and given to someone who doesn’t have food.

Me: (Ashamed and silent. Looking down.)

Jack: Furthermore, by eating ice cream, you are guilty of gluttony. While there are people who don’t have even simple food, here you are eating ice cream. Fulfilling your own fleshly desires. Putting your own desires above God’s command of living a simple life and loving others.

Even if you say that ice cream is a simple food, keep eating it and it will eventually make you sick. Simple food will never make you sick. It will give you strength and nourishment that you require to do God’s work.

Me: What must I do?

Jack: Repent!

The words pierced my heart. I dropped the half eaten cone of ice cream by the bench side and walked away from there. Taking a decision to never ever eat ice cream again. I have shared this life changing experience with many of my friends and many have accepted it. They have also taken a decision to never eat ice cream. There are 23 of us who meet weekly. You are also welcome to join us. However, I’m concerned about my other friends who have rejected this doctrine. It is for them, and many others like them I am writing this.

There are many Christian friends of mine who are good Christians but still do not understand the value of following Jesus in his simplicity and holiness. Many are still caught in the allure of this worldly pleasure. I pray that their eyes are also opened to this truth.

Disclaimer: All the events depicted above are purely imaginary and any resemblance with actual events or characters in the real world is purely co-incidental. Furthermore, no animals (except for a few mosquitoes) were hurt during the writing.

Was that cheesy enough?

You must be wondering if there’s an actual point in here somewhere… Well, there is. There’s a whole class of questions just like this one. Should a christian wear jewellery? Should a christian listen to rock music? Can a christian make tattoos over his/her body? Can a christian drink wine? Should a christian girl wear jeans?

These are the questions that I have heard over and over again for years. All these questions can be debated rigorously. Arguments exist on both side of the fence. Books can be written (and have been written) addressing just one of the issue above. However, it seems to me that there are more similarities than differences between the arguments that support each of these views.

The churches seem to be divided in regards to these issues. While fundamentalists or traditional churches are largely restrictive, liberals are … well … liberal. And the real victims of this debate are youths. It creates a great confusion among the youths whose elders are restrictive. And when they see their peers, their friends enjoying the (false) freedom that the world provides, for them, this restrictions become a reason to part ways from Christianity.

To be frank, I have nothing against being a fundamentalists or a traditionalists. I identify myself as one. But I’d rather reserve that hard nosed fundamentalist attitude for the issues that matter the most. Like the core doctrines of Christianity. To me, wearing jewellery or listening to a certain kind of music do not qualify as a core doctrine. But let me come back to the original questions. The questions that are very real for those who face them everyday.

With that very long introduction, let me come to the real content of the post. That is, to provide an answer to the question. I will address my answer to 2 different persons. The first person is the one who is actually facing the question. A young christian who might be wondering about jewellery or rock music. The second person is the person who doesn’t like my answer to the first person (because it’s leaning on the side of liberalism).

Here’s the answer to the first person:

I do not have answer to your question. But since you have come to me expecting an answer, and I don’t have an answer, I’ll invent some questions of my own and answer them instead! (I won’t let you return empty handed!)

  • Can a person wear jewellery and still be a christian? Yes.
  • Can a person listen to rock music and still be a christian? Yes.
  • Can a person have tattoos over his body and still be a christian? Yes. (But, why? I must ask…)
  • Can a person drink wine and still be a christian? Yes.
  • Can a girl wear jeans & still be christian? Yes.
  • …. and on & on ….

You get the general idea. But wait! I have another set of questions & answers as well! And this set is much more important that the above one.

  • Does the bible teach us to respect our elders? Yes.
  • Does the bible teach us to obey our parents? Yes.

And just to be through, I must also present a third set of questions.

  • Does bible promote being pompous and filled with vanity? No.
  • Does bible promote excessive drinking that ruins your life? No.
  • Does bible promote subscribing to vulgarity just because it’s packaged with good music? No.
  • Does bible promote being immodest? No.

I have given above sets of questions to create a framework for an answer that is specific to your situation. I don’t have a general Yes or No answer. However, these questions will help you come up with your own concrete yes or no answer. If you are still confused, ask me in the comments.

I will now address those who don’t like the above answer. Pleased to meet you! My answer above is positioned in such a way that it rules out everyone else except for those who believe that wearing jewellery or listening to rock music or wearing jeans is “essentially” evil & sinful. Hear me out.

Note: If you don’t think “listening to rock music” or “wearing jewellery” is essentially evil, and still disagree with my first answer, I think you don’t exist. But if you do, meet me in the comments. I’d love to hear you out.

First of all, as an exercise, I would like you to figure out what is wrong with the story that I started this post with. What’s the problem with the arguments presented in favor of total abstinence of ice cream from our daily life? If you can’t, does it mean that eating ice cream is inherently an evil thing to do?

All of the above questions are regarding highly superficial details of the christian life and if answered with a simple Yes or No, leaves the questioner with a rule without a reason to back that rule. As we have seen throughout history, all irrational beliefs eventually collapse or make people intellectually impaired and superstitious.

I understand that a person can be overzealous because of passion or love for something. If a church traditionally bans wearing jewellery and then a kid like me comes and tells them that all their rules & traditions are absurd & pointless, it might seem like an attack to the church itself. But that is not always the case. I’d rather request you to go back to the history of your church and find out the reason for these restrictions. The decision to not wear jewellery was valiant indeed. It required a surrender, a death, from the privileged members of the church for the sake of those who were not so fortunate to afford such luxury. Only a church truly led by God could’ve accomplished such a feat. But taking that one event, one instance and generalizing it, and following it blindly makes up more problems than it’s worth. If traditions & events are so important, why don’t we sell off all our property and live like the church of the first century?

So, mainly to those who firmly believe that all Christians shouldn’t wear jewellery or jeans, I request you to reevaluate your beliefs. This is the Internet generation. We sees too much and reasons far more recklessly than the generations gone before. We are not geniuses, just over-educated & over-exposed. We do not think through the decisions we make. And if the Christian religion becomes an inconvenience to us, we won’t think twice before we leave it.

If, even after doing all of the above, you are convinced that there’s a certain rule that we should follow, rather than imposing it externally, lead us to Christ. Let us taste and see that he is good. If you can’t convince us about the rule, and if we rebel too much, be gracious to us and lead us to the cross. Let God convict and convince us.

Addendum: It seems that many of my readers are now confused about whether to eat ice cream or not. While I’m tempted to keep the question open, I think I should make myself clear. So, here’s my response to my own (idiotic) question:

Everyone (including myself) seems to be of the opinion that eating ice cream is perfectly fine. However, no one (excluding me) seems to be able to provide arguments that are sufficient to refute the arguments presented in the above story. So, let me point out exactly what I have done wrong in creating the above story. It can be said that I have proved too much with a very limited part of the bible. I am creating a straw man argument by cherry picked the positions & passages of the bible that allow me to support the case while conveniently ignoring other passages of the bible which may contradict the positions of my imaginary cult.

Generally, I can say that God didn’t create us to be miserable. A life without ice cream would certainly be a lesser life. But going deeper into the scripture, we can see instances such as the first miracle of Jesus, the woman with alabaster oil and many more… These passages do not make sense when viewed from the lense of “no ice-cream” belief system. And thus, our “no ice-cream” cult can’t be a true Christianity. I think that should clear things up.

In Defense of Faith

This post came into being as a result of a recent debate on Facebook. The debate was about different religions. While discussing the whole range of issues covered in that debate is out of the scope of this post, I’d like to comment on one particular point that I wasn’t able to explain articulately during the debate.

During the debate, a statement, which I don’t see as an argument, was used as an argument. “Christianity is based on faith”. This statement was brought up repeatedly as if it was weakening the case for Christianity. I have written about faith earlier. If you’re interested, you can read this and this. However, this post should stand on its own.

It seems that it’s assumed that if anything is based on faith, it has no connection to reality whatsoever. However, my relationship with my friend is also based on faith. Does that mean our friendship doesn’t really exist?

In our times, where empiricism reigns supreme, it has become a fashion to denounce anything that has any relation to faith whatsoever. And if that thing is religion, even more so. But if a faith is based on reason (as my post here illustrates) then denouncing that faith is equal to denouncing the reasons of that faith. Let’s look at the central claims of Christianity and see if they are reasonable.

  1. Existence of God

    “If there was no God, there would be no atheists.” – G. K. Chesterton (Note: That’s not an argument. I’m just poking fun. Listing down all the arguments is out of the scope for one blog post. However, if anyone wants to argue, I hear comments are the place to be!)

  2. Historicity of Christ

    Wikipedia says, “Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed historically”. So, if any of you have doubts about his existence, take it up to the “modern scholars of antiquity”. Whoever that might be…

  3. Resurrection of Christ

    Yes, I know, it’s a crazy claim. You know what’s crazier? The alternative. Suppose Christ was never resurrected but still, there are 2.2 billion people in the world believing that he did. How? The most common response is that they were raised up to believe that. So, there’s a boy who believes in Santa Claus and Jesus Christ. He grows up and stops believing in Santa Claus but still believes in Jesus Christ even more intensely. Why?

    There’s a better question. If Christ was never resurrected, how and why did the greatest civilization on earth at the time, Rome, after opposing and trying to exterminate Christianity for nearly 3 centuries, bowed to the cult of “one dead man”?

    The answer to both of these question can be given in one simple statement. “He was resurrected.” Every other explanation comes from either the tea table of conspiracy theorists or the people with an agenda.

    (Note: If you want to study the matter in detail, the case for the resurrection is well described in the books of Lee Strobel. If you’re not the reading kind, try a video.)

I can write much more about the subject, but for now, this should suffice. None of these three claims can be justly eliminated. But still, there remains a subconscious bias against faith, that anything based on it should be thrown out. Only the things that are empirically verifiable should be trusted. This is a recipe for madness. Because, if faith is ever eliminated from our daily lives, reason will go with it and what will remain, will be unreason.

Let me illustrate. Let me tell you a story of a man who decided to eliminate all traces of faith from his daily life. Incidentally, (or consequently) on the same day, he fell sick. Being an empiricist, he took a thermometer and checked his temperature. The mercury was at a level where it shouldn’t be. So, he decided to go to a doctor. He wanted to take a taxi, but couldn’t bring himself to trust any taxi driver. So instead, he took his bike and somehow managed ride it to the nearest hospital. After filling some forms, registering his case and waiting in a long queue, at long last, it was his turn to go to the doctor. And this is what happened in the doctor’s office: The doctor said, “How do you feel? What’s the issue?” “I’d like to see your license to practice medicine.” “What?” “Your license. Please.” “Is this some kind of surprise inspection?” “No, I just want to make sure that you have a proper license” “Well, I don’t have it on me right now… it’s at home. But, you don’t look so well. Why don’t you tell me how you are feeling?” “I can’t do that. How do I know you are a doctor?” “Well, I’m working at a renowned hospital which has very strict regulations for hiring…” “Well, you could’ve paid your way to your job…” “Seriously?” “I’d like to see those strict regulations…” “Mister, there’s a long line of people waiting outside who need my help. So, please, can you stop being so difficult and let me diagnose you already?” “No. I want proof that you’re a doctor.” The doctor picked up a phone and called security, and security escorted our hero out of the hospital.

Still, not feeling well, he went to another doctor. The doctor, fortunately (or unfortunately) was able to show him his credentials, but it was from an authority that our hero didn’t recognize. So, he decided to not get treated and instead look up the authenticity of the said authority. He hired a private detective to investigate the said authority. The investigator said that he’d contact him back 3 days later with the required information. Still sick, going back home, he realized what a grave mistake he had made! He “put faith” in a private detective without checking him out… “The fever must be getting to my head…” he said to himself. Went home and rested.

Long story short, two weeks later, he was still sick and his credit card was overdrawn. In his mad decision to never put faith in anything, he had managed to anger 4 doctors, 3 private investigators, 1 police officer, a parrot (don’t ask) and the head of the medical department of a renowned hospital. It was a public spectacle at his home, when on the morning of the 15th day of his life changing decision, an ambulance came and our hero was dragged to a lunatic asylum, kicking and screaming…

That story never took place in reality but it’s a very plausible scenario. And if only one person’s mad decision can cause so much havoc, what will happen if the whole world made a similar decision?

There’s one more point that I’d like to make. Someone might say that the use of faith in our everyday lives and religious faith are two different things. To those people, I’d like to ask a simple question. “How is it different?”. To me, both of them are one and the same things. Both of them depend on reasons. And these reasons are available for everyone to evaluate and criticize. As for me, I’ve not found a single philosophy/religion/belief system that is as worthy of trust as that of the crucified Christ.

God, You and Your Influence

Just a few days ago, when I was outside my house under the light of a bulb, I noticed how perfectly this analogy can be used to describe our influence or our impact on this world.

The illustration is really simple. The closer you are to the bulb, the bigger your shadow. The bulb symbolizes God, you are you and the shadow is your influence. So, the closer you are to God, the bigger impact you can make on this world.

When I was thinking about the same, I thought, if this illustration is true, then maybe, to some extent, some of us are laboring after wrong things. For example, we spend time organizing big programs, we prepare big speeches then we go out and try to gather people to come to our big programs and hear our big speeches. And I am not against all these things, my question to myself and all of us is that, in doing all these things, have we forgotten about the one for whom we are doing all these things? Has seeking God became a thing secondary to all these things. In doing all these things, have we stopped moving closer to the God?

Basics of Warfare

If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles. -Sun Tzu, ancient chinese strategist and philosopher

That is one of my favorite quotes. It is in my opinion, one of the basic principle of warfare.

Now let me tell you, the art of war, I know well.
I have led many a battalions on the red battlefield.
I have fought on land and I have fought in water.
I have fought in air and I have fought in space.
I have led armies equipped with swords and spears.
Led them to charge the enemy castle on horseback.
I have led armies of tanks and fighter jets.
And also armies equipped with the technology that is to be invented yet.
I have led armies that use dark magic to raise the dead.
And make them fight against their former comrades.
What I have led, I have also fought against.
But through all of it, one principal remains the same.
Know thyself and thy adversary…

Hmm… now that I have put my feelings aside in form of a not so well formed poetry, I can move on to the real content. Strategy games have a special place in my heart. Because in those games you have to use your mind to win. Of course, you can just build a gigantic army and massacre the enemy forces but what's the fun in that? The way I like to play is to have a smaller specialized army with a plan!

There are many tactics to be used in warfare. However, they all can be categorized in 3 main activities. They are as following.

  1. Reconnaissance(Gathering intelligence):
    • Exploration: One of the basic activity of any strategy game is, exploration. It is also the most important one. The information gathered doing exploration is used in every other activity in the game. It is also important for staying updated on the advances of your enemy. But let me point out some very important things.
      • Locate and capture the resources: It goes without saying that if you want to train a capable army, you need a lot of resources. Exploration helps you to find those resources.
      • Locate your enemy: Another very important point is the location of your enemy. If you know where your enemy's stronghold is, you can, to some extent, predict the direction of attack.
    • Gather info about your enemy: Information about you enemy is also very important. What kind of weapons do they use? What are the numbers of enemy forces. How many foot soldiers/mounted units(mounted on horses or camels)/ranged units/siege units(the ones that can do some mass destruction) are there.
    • Map of enemy stronghold: How is the enemy base is structured. Which place should you avoid and which place if struck effectively, will be most deadly to the enemy.
  2. Applying the information: Now that you have gathered information, it's time to apply that information to formulate an effective strategy to win the game! Let's look at some important points.
    • Shortest and safest routes to important places: Sometimes the enemy may be between you and some important resources. In that case, you may need to find a safe route. If that's not the case, go for the shortest route.
    • Know your enemy's strength: From the information you gathered about the numbers of enemy forces you can understand the attack tactics of the enemy. You will be able to decide if the enemy likes melee combat or ranged. Or, if they like tanks or jets.
    • Plan your defenses: According to the type of tactics the enemy uses, you can set up your defenses to counter their most powerful weapons.
    • Know your enemy's weaknesses: Now that you know the strengths of the enemy, think about at which places the enemy's forces are lacking. Find out their weak points.
    • Know your strengths: Understand your military forces and what the strengths are. You might have very advanced melee units but maybe your ranged units are lacking or vice versa.
    • Know your allies: It is very important to understand your allies. If you cooperate with your allies well, you may become unstoppable. Because, your allies may be able to supplement for your weaknesses and you for theirs.
    • Find the ideal battleground: At which place you will fight when you attack? The place must favor your forces/tactics and make it difficult to fight for the enemy.
    • Form a strategy: Now that you have done all that analyzing, it's time to formulate a strategy. A strategy that exploits your enemy's weaknesses and uses your strength to do so. If your enemy relies on a lot of melee units, create a few strong and powerful melee units to hold them back. While, a large number of archers rain death upon enemy's melee forces! If he relies on archers, then you need very mobile and powerful units to counter the archers. A knight, melee warriour mounted on a horse or a camel will be very good. But if you can not find out that the enemy uses a lot of melee units but you do not have powerful ranged units, then go for your strength. Whatever it may be. The last thing you should do is to go in one on one battle. That way anyone can win.
      • Hit and run: While you are doing all these planning and exploration, one of the very important strategy to use is hit and run. Annoy your enemy! Distract him from his own planning. Especially, hinder the enemy in resource collection. If he does not have enough resources, he will not be able to train a very good army.
    • Support is very important: When your army goes into war, take a few healers/medic/monks with you to heal your units. Also, if your army is mostly melee, take some heavy hitting ranged units with you so that while your melee forces deal with most of the enemies, 1 or 2 enemies per 10 are killed using ranged weapons.
  3. Execution:
    • Hit and run: Execute hit and run as planned. You should use very mobile units for this. Preferably, mounted archers. If you do not have any such unit then use something that moves very fast so that they can run away alive when the enemies come!
    • Full attack: As planned, lure the enemy in your ideal battleground and then finish them off!
    • Be ruthless: Once you have formulated a plan, execute it ruthlessly! Do not stop, or give the enemy a second chance to make the fight more interesting… I have done it and lost many battles!

That is not all that I know but I think it covers most of the very important points. Why did I write this? Well, I find a lot of similarities in strategy games and my christian life. Pretty much every one of these points can also be made about christian life. So, I am going to make those points. Here I go…

  1. Reconnaissance(Gathering intelligence):
    • Exploration: In real life, the activity of exploration consists of exploring your environment. Places and people around you. You will also need to explore yourself, as some of the offense comes from our own self. The information gathered through exploration will be used in every aspect of your christian life.
      • Locate and capture the resources: What are the resources in christian life? Bible. Good books. A good church. Good mentors. Locate and capture them!(Also, once you are through with the books, pass them around)
      • Locate your enemy: In christian life, the enemy doesn't have a specific place. So how do you locate him? Well, for that you have to explore yourself. What is your sin? What temptation lures you in doing sin most of the time? That is the enemy's stronghold on you. Locate it.
    • Gather info about your enemy: Now that you have located your enemy, gather info about him. How? Read books about the particular sin/temptation you are facing. How does the attack of temptation start. Is it in a particular place/situation? Or in a presence of your friends? Gather information about it.
    • Map of the enemy stronghold: What are the sins/temptations that are there in your life other than the one that we talked about. Other than the stronghold, what wrongs are you doing in your daily life that you know you shouldn't do.
  2. Applying the information:
    • Shortest and safest routes to important places: Well, what are the important places in christian life? The church I think is very important one. Then there is library. There might be more that I might have missed. But, there isn't much difference in this aspect of christian life from the game. Find out the shortest and safest routes to those important places!
    • Know your enemy's strength: From the information you have gathered, see if there are any patterns. There might be a certain place or situation. Maybe it is because of the company of your friends.
    • Plan your defenses: Once you have identified the patterns avoid being in those places/situations at all cost.
    • Know your enemy's weaknesses: For this, you don't have to go anywhere looking for answers. I'll tell you what the enemy's weakness is. If you are a christian, the enemy doesn't have any authority over you. You have authority over him. The authority to you is given in the name of Jesus Christ. Call on that name and see the enemy flee!
    • Know your strengths: What are the things that you are good at? Focus on those things. Make your skills more sharper. Use them to attack the enemy. You can take pretty much any skill and turn it in a weapon against the enemy! If you are confused or don't know, ask me in the comments. I'll be happy to help you. Also, help others who don't have the talents that you have.
    • Know your allies: In games you won't find may allies. However in a christian walk you will find many. Help them and they will help you. One of the ways to cooperate or keep in touch with your allies is to go to the weekly fellowships or cell groups. Don't miss it. You and your allies will grow together. Don't let the enemy isolate you.
    • Find the ideal battleground: In a christian life where are the battle fought? If you don't know, let me tell you. They are fought on your knees. In a prayer. Only there you can fight and win. Only in the presence of God, you have assurance of victory. So, you need to have a place where you can go and pray. A place without distractions. A quiet place. You should also have a specific time for prayer. Early in the morning or late in the night works good.
    • Form a strategy: A war is a short term thing(especially in a game). However, christianity is lifelong. So we need to have a mission statement for our life. For this, I would suggest you go and read Rick Warren's Purpose driven Life(download ebook).
      • Hit and run: How can one do hit and run in a christian life? Well, by saying “No”. When your peers ask you to do something that you know is wrong, say “No”. They might or might not ask why. If they do, you got your chance to do some damage to the enemy!
    • Support is very important: Yes support is very important. However, how can you support your christian life? No, it's not the people that will support your christian life. It's your habits that will support you. So, form good habits for basic things as reading bible and praying. Also, form habits for things that you have included in your mission statement.
  3. Execution:
    • Hit and run: I have told you how to do hit and run. The only thing I can say here is do it as frequently as you can.
    • Full attack: Full attack comes in the form of execution of your mission statement. It will take a long time, so you need to be persistent, consistent and strong. Take on the full armor of God.
    • Be ruthless: Yes, be ruthless. Once you have decided to do it, do it. It doesn't matter if you are tired or not. Being tired is not a reason to break your habit. It's just an excuse.

One more thing I'd like to mention is this:

James 1:13-14 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (ESV)

In a christian walk, the attack does not come from only outside. It also comes from within. If you apply the quote that I started with in a christian life, to some extent, your self and the enemy are one and the same. So, knowing yourself, your weaknesses and strengths are very important. However, If you are to dish out any offensive, you can not do it by yourself. You must rely on God.

Superstition, faith and christian faith

What is faith? I asked at our local ICPF cell group. One replied, “Believing in something unseen”. Another said, “Believing without any proof”. Another said it is written in Hebrews 11:1. I said, “If you are going to quote the bible, you better be ready to explain what that verse means!”. We all laughed. Then the youngest in the group said “If I lend my book to my friend, I have faith that he will return it to me”. I said, “Exactly, that is what faith is!”. Then I went on and explained a little bit, but because I wasn't prepared to deal with this topic, I wasn't able to explain in detail. When I was coming back home from the cell group I thought, many people don't understand this. I thought, I will write about it, and deal with this question in detail in the next cell group.

So that is how this post came to be. In this post I would like to do 3 things.

  1. Explain superstition
  2. Explain faith
  3. Explain christian faith

The first issue we are going to deal with is superstition. So from where did superstition come in the discussion of faith? Well, the second answer I received to my question in the cell group, “Believing without any proof” is actually very close to the definition of superstition, and in fact a lot of people mistakenly think that faith and superstition are synonymous but of course, they are mistaken! But before we go into the topic of faith let's put superstition under the microscope and analyze it. The definition of superstition would be something like this: Believing in something without any proof or reason, and holding onto that belief even if evidence is presented against that belief. (Keep in mind the two words, proof and reason. They might do a trick.) I think the problem with a superstitious person is, he doesn't want to think. They accept pretty much anything they hear without giving it much thought. A little bit of education can easily erase any superstitions.

However, a lot of sane people, myself included (except the sane part, of course!) have no interest in educating these superstitious people. I have no interest in explaining things to people who themselves don't want things explained. I have no interest in disproving what is not. I think the worst thing you can do with your time is to try to disprove things that don't exist or isn't real. (If you don't agree, do this: Take a paper and a pen, and then start disproving that the shape of the planet earth is square. I'm sure after some time we will be buddies.) And for that reason, there are still superstitions left in this so called “post-modern” age. That I think sums up pretty much all that there is to superstitions.

That leads us to the second topic. Faith. I said that people who think faith and superstition are synonymous are mistaken. The reason is this: One of the antonym for superstition is rational, which in turn is synonymous to reasonable. And faith, is reasonable. What do I mean by faith is reasonable? Behind every sensible faith or belief there is a reason. A faith without reason is no different than superstition. So the difference between superstition and faith is this: Superstition is not reasonable, faith is. Let me illustrate the difference with examples. First superstition: A cat crossing one's path is bad omen. You get the idea, there is no reason to believe that because a cat crossed one's path, bad things will happen to that person. Yet, some people believe it to be true without any reason or proof.

Now, onto the example of faith. I will use the example that was given in the cell group.”If I lend my book to my friend, I have faith that he will return it to me”. So what is the reason behind him thinking that his friend will return his book? Because he knows his friend. Maybe he has lent books in the past and they were safely returned. Because of his dealings with his friend in the past, he has reason to believe that his book will be returned safely. Now if he had said “if I lend my book to a stranger, I have faith that he will return it to me” that would be superstition. So basically faith means “Because someone has behaved in a certain way in the past I think they will continue to behave the same way in the future.” That is why you can not point your finger to a stranger and say “That guy/girl is faithful.” You can only say that about a person you have known for some time. I think that explains the point of faith being reasonable reasonably well.

Remember, after the definition of superstition I told you to something about two words? Sorry to disappoint you guys but those two aren't going to do any tricks here. Because faith is sick of being called superstition(that's why they called me! I'm the doctor!). The reason I told you to remember that is to understand the difference between superstition and faith. We have seen the difference in the matter of reason. Let us look at the difference in the matter of proof. Superstition has no proof because it isn't real. However faith can not have a proof. Because the very moment faith has it's proof, the faith is no more. Faith transforms into truth. So the cause of faith is reason and the result of faith is truth unless faith is violated. We will get to the violation part soon. But first let me properly explain what I mean by what I just said. Let's take a look at the example of faith I used earlier. When his friend returns his book, will he have faith about his friend returning his book? No. Because his friend doesn't posses the book anymore. The friend has returned it. So what once was faith has already become the truth. Faith applies only to the things that are unknown. The moment it becomes known, there is no need of faith. I think we need to fix the meaning of faith in light of this new revelation. It would be like this: Because someone has behaved in a certain way in the past I think they will continue to behave the same way in the future or when I'm not looking.

Up until now, it was smooth sailing and we didn't need to go deeper into the concept of faith because we were only discussing the differences between superstition and faith. However, faith is much more than just those differences and to understand the topic of violation of faith, we need to dissect faith. As far as I can understand it, there are 3 parts to the concept of faith.

  1. The person putting his faith
  2. The object on which faith is placed upon (I use the word object because faith is not limited to human-human relationships. For example, you can have faith in your dog. The reason I put the word “person” in the first part is because I believe only “persons” or “humans” will read this post. If you are something else, I apologize.)
  3. The subject of faith (This needs to be mutually agreed upon. In the example that I have used, returning the book is mutually agreeable. However if his friend says that I will not return the book, that might not be mutually agreeable.)

Disclaimer: I have read no faith theory or faithology. Nor do I have any idea if one exists. I have named the three parts as I understand it and if there is any such thing as official jargon to describe these parts, please pardon my ignorance.

So, in the example of faith that we have used, “He” is the person putting his faith, “his friend” is the object on which faith is placed upon and “return the book” is the subject of faith. So what is the violation of faith? It is an event in which the object on which the faith is placed upon does not behave in a way that corresponds to the subject of faith. So for our example the violation would be “his friend doesn't return his book”. Which means when his friend told him that he will return the book, he lied(of course, in real world, this may not mean that the friend was lying and there might be a genuine reason behind him not being able to return the book. However, here, for hypothetical purposes, I am simplifying the situation). So the preservation of faith results in truth(as in, the subject of faith becomes real) and violation of faith results in disclosure of a lie.

Is there any other mystery that faith holds? I can think of one more. It is this: Faith can increase or decrease over time. Up until now, we were analyzing faith on a single case bases. Now we are going to put faith in the context of a relationship. How does faith increase or decrease? What does relationships have to do with that? Preservation of faith increase faith and violation of faith decreases faith. I will again use the same example to illustrate the point. In a relationship, over time,”He” will have to put his faith on “his friend” for more than one time for different “subjects”. Now every time the faith is preserved by “his friend”, “his” faith on “his friend” will increase. In the same way, every time the faith is violated by “his friend”, “his” faith on “his friend” will decrease. You wouldn't want to trust a liar, would you?

Faith can increase of decrease. So what? Why is that important? It is important because relationships are dependent upon faith. The more trust between the individuals, the thicker the bond of relationship is between them. So the preservation of faith is the key of building relationships. But enough about relationships, we are talking about faith here so let's move on.

I want to mention a very interesting observation here, it is not a major point, but it is important. Humans like being trusted by someone and they dislike being doubted. It doesn't matter if the doubt is valid or not, fact is, humans don't like being doubted.(notice the period) I think it is because doubt accuses you of being a liar. And a truthful person doesn't want to be called a liar because it's not fair and a liar doesn't want to be called a liar because it reveals him for what he is. However that topic also, is out of the scope of this post.

Before we go on to the last topic, let me summarize the points:

  • Superstition: Believing in something without any proof or reason, and holding onto that belief even if evidence is presented against that belief.
  • Faith: Because someone has behaved in a certain way in the past I think they will continue to behave the same way in the future, or when I'm not looking.
  • Differences between faith and reason:
    • Faith is reasonable. Superstition has no reason behind it.
    • Faith can not have a proof. Superstition has nothing to do with proofs because proofs are real, but superstitious beliefs does not correspond to reality.
  • Violation of faith: It is an event in which the object on which the faith is placed upon does not behave in a way that corresponds to the subject of faith.
  • the preservation of faith results in truth and violation of faith results in disclosure of a lie.
  • In a relationship, preservation of faith increases faith and violation of faith decreases faith.

So how is the christian faith any different from normal faith? Well fundamentally, it isn't different at all. However the equation of faith changes drastically because God enters the equation. The object on which faith is placed upon changes from from natural to supernatural and from mutable to immutable. What difference does it make? Let me explain.

First, we will deal with natural and supernatural. But before going further, I'd like to tell you in which meaning I have used the word natural. By natural, I mean limited by the laws of nature. A natural being is limited but a supernatural is not. Because supernatural one has created the nature. So when the object is changed from natural to supernatural, it is not bound by the situations or circumstances around it. It means, God is not dominated by his circumstances. There are no circumstances that can dominate God because circumstances can not exist unless God creates them.

In our example, if the borrowed book falls into fire, his friend will not be able to return it. His friend is limited. He can not bring the book back from the ashes. God can. So let's make his friend is a christian. The book fell into the fire. So, he prays to God for help. If he dares to pray to God to solidify the book from the ashes, I think his prayer is reasonable considering to whom he is praying to. For people who say that no such thing can happen, let me say, I haven't seen books solidify from ashes but I have certainly seen my share of supernatural things that nature can not explain.

That brings us to the second point. Immutability of God. Immutability means “Not subject or susceptible to change”. If the subject of faith is agreed upon by both parties(a christian and God), christian faith will never be violated. It's more like it can not be violated. Because if God says anything, it is so. It comes to be true. God because who he is, can not violate faith. So if the object on which faith is placed upon is perfect, the subject of faith is agreed upon by both parties(a christian and God) then the result of that faith will always be the truth. In the sense that what you believe will come to be real. But…

Remember, I told another point. Humans like being trusted by someone and they dislike being doubted. Where do you think that trait comes from? From our maker, because God created us in his own image. God also dislikes being doubted. Bible says this not I, for it is written:

Hebrews 11:6: And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (ESV)

Would you like to be in a relationship with a fellow who constantly doubts you even when you have given him no reason to doubt you? Would you be pleased at that fellow? Would you like to continue the relationship with him? Answer this questions and you will understand what the term “christian faith” actually means. All the activity that is needed for christian faith to sustain is only on the part of christian. God doesn't have to do anything special to be faithful. He only needs to be who he already is. It is only the christian that needs to believe. There is no question of doubt. There is no question like “if God will do it or not?”. He always will. That is why christians say things like “you must have faith” or “put your trust in God”. So let me end this long discussion by saying “Just believe in him”. I think you will now understand the weight and reasoning behind those words.

ICPF – Inter Collegiate Prayer Fellowship

ICPF Now for more than a year, I have been a part of ICPF. ICPF stands for Inter collegiate prayer fellowship. It's an organization that works among the youth to educate them about the love of Christ.

Let me tell you how I became a part of ICPF's ministry. Finz, a friend of mine invited me and my brother to a nearby cell group of ICPF. So I went there and I had a great time in the presence of God. So I started going there regularly. After that there was a retreat in August. I also attended that. But up until that time I was a part of ICPF just for the sake of being a part of it. Nothing more, nothing less. A big change happened in September 2010. When I attended the Restoration camp. It was a 3 day camp. I had not attended any camp of any kind before that, and I had no plans of attending this one either. But the camp site was very near to my house (about 2 kilo meters). The camp was going to start at 5 pm in the evening. They needed help in preparations, and I had noting else to do on that day so I went there. After the preparations I was going to leave but my friends from the cell group forced me to attend the first session and then they registered my name for the camp. And I'm glad they did that! I'm very thankful to both Jo and Finz. Thanks guys:). Because the second day of that camp was simply great. What happened on that day was a life changing experience. It was a great blessing. Now if I look back and search for the one experience why that camp had such a great impact on my life I find none. But if I remember how I was before the camp and after the camp I can say that I was changed for the better. I was truly restored.

After that I continued to attend the ICPF cell groups and other events. In November 2010 there was another camp called “Udaan” meaning (flight). It wasn't nearby my house. Quite the contrary, it was in Surendranagar. Plus I was pretty sick at that time. But I wasn't going to miss this camp for anything(can you see the difference?). So I went there & that was also a great blessing. There I met B Varghese. There I was controlling the projector through a laptop. So after we had lunch I went to my seat and he was sitting in the seat next to me and we talked about some things. At that time I didn't knew he was a pastor. Afterwards in the next session he was introduced properly and I thought what the heck? Is he a pastor? That's how I came to know him. After 2 and a half month later I knew that he is also director of an Italian company in India. That camp was also great.

After that there was a retreat in Aanand on the Christmas day. I also went there and had a great time. But the two camps influenced me a lot. Those two camps laid the foundation on which I am living now. So that's how it all started in the last quarter of the last year. After that A Markose, ICPF's staff worker in the state, asked me to join the student forum in the February, and I was more than happy to oblige. So that's how it all started.

On the ending note I'd like to say that in the last one year my life has been changed drastically for the better. And ICPF played a very big role in it. I thank God for all the things he has taught me in the past year in different ways and through different means.