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Christianity and self-deception


   Leo Tolstoy on reading religious literature:

   "I have never been able to understand the mania some people 
   have for confusing their judgement by devoting themselves to 
   mystical books which only arouse their doubts and excite their 
   imaginations, giving them a bent for exaggeration utterly 
   contrary to Christian simplicity.  Let us rather read the 
   Epistles and the Gospels." 

                          War and Peace, Penguin Classics, p. 105

   How much truth is there in this criticism?  Are evangelicals 
   guilty of self-deception?  To what extent and how?  Do people 
   confuse their judgment by the tendency to read Christian 
   literature (i.e. "mystical books"), literature with particular 
   theological slants, rather than sticking with the Bible itself?  

   Let us pick an evangelical song.  Any one.  Let's pick the song 
   "He Lives".  We sing "He walks with me and talks with me."  
   Is there perhaps some exaggeration here?  Are we being totally 
   honest in singing these words.  Are we deceiving ourselves a 
   little?  Are, at least, a great number of people deceiving 
   themselves when they sing this?  In what sense does he walk 
   with us or talk with us?  How does Christ's presence in a 
   Christian manifest itself?  In any supernatural feelings or 
   experiences?  Is his presence "in us" manifested in any other 
   way than simply through the peace and serenity that comes from 
   being at ease with oneself and with God (that peace that comes 
   to one's soul when one turns from the world and sin and turns 
   to God --- seeking the approval of God only and forgetting what 
   the world may think)? 

   Nov 1976

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