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Certainly there's little difference between the average Catholic's attitude toward crucifixes and that of primitive tribals toward the trinkets offered them by their healers and holy men.

But the difference between superstition and real faith is quite dramatic. Superstition is based on a desire to control/use God. Faith is based on a desire to let God control/use you.

Superstitious faith is the kind of faith the devil has. (James 2:19) Rather than humbly submit to a superior God, superstitious people believe in a Force that can be manipulated if they learn which ropes to pull.

Their faith is not in the Force, but in their ability to control the force. The belief that miracles (magic?) can be wrought through many people praying long and hard is the most common manifestation of this kind of superstition amongst professing Christians. (Matthew 6:7)

But along with these schemes to get health and wealth from God are superstitions about getting into heaven as well.

BB4 18Years ago, charismatics in Australia made headlines when a woman they were trying to cast devils from died during their exorcism. They prayed over her body for days in the hope she would be resurrected.We call this "name it and claim it" theology, or salvation by bluff. The idea is to make God feel obliged to turn the "confession of faith" into reality. They think if they say often enough and loudly enough that they know that they know that they KNOW they are saved (or healed), they might actually BE saved (or healed).

It was blind faith in their rightness with God that made the Pharisees such arrogant pigs. And much the same can be said for the average evangelical. They leave no room for the possibility that their pat formulas for salvation may be flawed.

Faith in a salvation formula rather than faith in God himself is a form of superstition. The fact that the apostles never once suggested that saying a little prayer would guarantee a place in heaven, and the fact that Christ said people must obey him to be Christians rarely get through to them. Such thoughts are seen as demonic attacks on their "faith", so that even Christ himself must be forced out of their minds.

Like that poor band of fanatics praying around a dead woman, they have invented a superstition that suits them; and they risk everything on the hope that, if they repeat it often enough, it'll eventually come true.
BB4 19
We hasten to add that God may still respond to people who use superstitious practices, if he knows that they are doing so in ignorance. This explains why some people have a genuine conversion experience (i.e. their lives are actually changed and a lifelong relationship with Christ results) when they perform some religious ritual associated with his name.

But what God is responding to is their sincere faith, and not the ritual. That is why rituals that "work" in one situation do not work in others. The ritual is a superstitious lie, but the faith behind it is not.

Knowing this should help us to understand how faith works in the life of a non-Christian as well, even if the underlying ritual or practice is quite superstitious.

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