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People use terms like superstition and magic when referring to non-Christian religions, and terms like faith and miracles when referring to Christian beliefs. Is there a difference? Or are these just loaded words to make us sound spiritually superior to the opposition? The answer is a bit of both.

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

But this doesn't mean real faith is nonexistent. In fact the difference between superstition and faith is almost as dramatic as that between good and evil. Superstition is based on a desire to control and use God; while faith is based on a desire to let God control you.

Superstitious faith is the kind of faith the devil has (James 2:19). Rather than believing in and fully trusting an all-powerful, all-loving supreme Being, superstitious people believe in a Force which can be controlled if they learn which ropes to pull. They assume that their human intellect can outsmart this Force, in the same way that we have learned to make electricity our servant. Their faith is in their ability to control the force.

SuperstitionPrayer chains or similar demonstrations are based on the assumption that the more people who pray and the longer they pray, the greater is your chance of wrestling God into conforming with your desires. This is superstition.

Rarely does churchianity ever rise above the level of superstition. If we aren't using religion to get health, wealth, or a good feeling, we're using it to impress people or to guarantee a seat in heaven.

But Jesus taught that the only way we'll ever get any of this is to let go of it all. He said a servant doesn't get a trophy just for doing his job (Luke 17:7-10). And our job is to serve God, not to use him.

God has, through Jesus, made a way for us to receive eternal life, but only if he sees in our actions proof of genuine faith in him first. It does not come through superstition. Faith in the 'sinner's prayer' or other salvation rituals is nothing more than superstition... the belief that you can do some trivial act or religious work that will bring God and all his forces onto your side.

What God wants is awesome respect for his authority, and humble obedience to all that he says. Faith without such obedience is superstition.

(See also God's No Fool.)

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