Thursday

Suspending Belief - It Works for Star Wars, but Not for Faith

I struggle with science fiction/fantasy movies. 

Alien invasions, super powers, and time travel don’t set very well in my logical mind. The basis of many movies of this genre is so far-fetched that I just can’t convince myself the events could happen.

There’s a literary term for this. It’s called “suspending disbelief.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined it in 1817 and defined it as “a willingness to suspend one’s critical faculties and believe the unbelievable; a sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment.” 

Children are especially gifted at suspending disbelief, and many children’s books depend on a child’s ability to do this. Remember Pippi Longstocking? The brainchild of Astrid Lindgren, the red-haired little girl lives by herself in a cottage called Villakulla with her monkey, Mr. Nilsson, and her horse. She seldom goes to school, gives others presents on her birthday, and regularly sticks bullies and rude policemen in trees. As a 10-year-old girl, I quite happily set aside my disbelief to enter into the make-believe world of Pippi Longstocking. 

Many people think Christians simply suspend disbelief. They see people of faith in one of two ways—either as either simpletons who have yet to be “enlightened,” or as those who have set aside their senses of realism and logic in order to enter into a fantasy world. 

How else can you explain why someone would believe men can rise from the dead and people live forever? Or that you can repeat a list of wishes over and over in your mind and most will come true? Or that saying a simple prayer can make an alcoholic, drug-using, drop out become a clear-headed, educated, contributing member of society? 

Faith appears ludicrous to the unsaved. 

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). 

Faith, however, isn’t a suspension of disbelief. It's an intelligent, rational course of action based on centuries of irrefutable logic and evidence. The resurrection of Christ, for example, is a well-attested and well-documented event in history. The power of prayer has been proven over and over and over again, even being recognized as an irrefutable source of healing

And God’s ability to transform lives has been demonstrated from the dawn of time. Consider John Newton, the 18th-century slave trader turned hymn writer and preacher. Or my husband, David, once a 17-year-old alcoholic and drug abuser who was miraculously redeemed when he confessed his sin to God and asked him to take control of his life. 

We may have to suspend disbelief, set aside logic, and embrace the impossible in order to enjoy the new Star Wars movie, but not so with faith. Logic, common sense, and intelligence can sit quite comfortably on a church pew. In fact, believing in Jesus Christ and his redemptive work on the cross is unquestioningly the wisest thing anyone can do.

I'd love to hear from you. Do you think you have to suspend disbelief to have faith? Leave a comment below and join the conversation.







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