The Nature of Belief

The nature of belief fascinates me. The reasons why people believe what they believe occupies much of my middle-of-the-night thinking. Actually, the reasons I believe what I believe occupies that time, but you get the idea.

I think for some simple belief in God is enough. And the phrase “simple belief” is not meant as an insult. I wish I could be that person. Life would certainly be easier. For whatever reason, I have been blessed (or cursed) with a reflective mind. Some would probably say it is my sinful nature at work, and for many years I felt guilty about my doubts, but I gave up that type of guilt long ago.

But I look at the people around me who believe in God and those who are very active in their churches, and I wonder: When they lay their heads down at night, and everything around them is quiet, do they really believe as strongly as they say they do? Or do they just say they believe because they always have and therefore it’s comfortable? Have many of them just gotten to the point that no matter what, believing in belief in God is paramount to actually believing in Him.

Ok, maybe this doesn’t make sense… but to me there is an important distinction. And I think it’s worth a few reflective thoughts.

15 thoughts on “The Nature of Belief”

  1. I guess I’m one of those “stupid church people”.1) Biblically speaking, there is no difference between “believing” & “faith”; they have the same root–much like we have in English the words “believe” & “belief”. One is a verb & one is a noun, but the concept is the same.2) Also, God’s Word teaches that there are different kinds of faith, only one of which is linked with salvation.3) “Saving faith” is a good term, but easily misunderstood. Faith itself saves no one; Jesus Christ is the Savior! Faith never hanged on a cross; faith never appeased the wrath of God; faith doesn’t intercede for anyone in heaven.4) Faith is not some quality in us which attracts God, as if God looks for people who have faith, and then loves & saves them. Biblical faith is a most alien & unnatural thing for us. True faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2.8-10; Philippians 1.29). If God were looking for people with faith, he never would have settled on me; but instead, he has graciously given this hell-deserving sinner the faith I need to be saved. That doesn’t show my ability or greatness, but God’s goodness & grace.5) The strength or weakness of my faith–mine by possession, not by production–is irrelevant. Faith is the God-given instrument for laying hold of Christ, and the blessings of God found only in him. If you have young children, you know that it’s not the strength or weakness of the child which keeps him from falling when you hold him, but the strength of the parent; indeed, a new born with no strength at all can be safe in the arms of his daddy. What keeps me from falling? Is it my faith? Absolutely, NOT! Christ keeps me from falling (John 10.27,28). The Father keeps me from falling (John 10.29). The Holy Spirit keeps me from falling (Ephesians 4.30). I’m kept by the power of God (1Peter 1.5).6) Faith in faith (or as Steve put it: “Believing in belief in God is paramount to actually believing in Him”) is really faith in self. It is saying: I have the wisdom, the knowledge, the power to attain unto the knowledge of God or keep myself from despair & madness by my own believing. Why do you need God, if your own power of faith will keep you going?7) When I have doubts, and I do because I still have the sinful nature within me, all I can do is look to Jesus. Where else can I go: all other hopes are vain. Just like when the multitudes forsook Jesus, he asked the 12 if they would, also, go. Then Peter declared: “Lord, to whom shall we go; thou [i.e., you alone] hast the words of eternal life.” (John 6.68) Will my faith fail? If God left it up to me, my faith would fail. But my comfort in times of trouble is that Christ prayed that the Father would not let my faith fail (Luke 22.32). In other words, God gives me true faith, and he will never fail to give me faith, but will keep me unto the end (Jude 24,25).8) Therefore, we do not need faith but the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t trust in the power of your faith, but trust in the power of the only Savior. He is gracious & able to give you even the faith you need to lay hold of him. Christ alone is able to save you, and he keeps everyone he saves (John 6.37)–you wouldn’t really be safe, if you were’nt kept safe. Jesus Christ is both the originator, and the perfector of true faith (Hebrews 12.2). Look to Jesus!

  2. “believing in belief in God is paramount to actually believing in Him” (Steve)Interesting observation. Maybe this is distinction between what faith should be and what it is within structured religion. The churches have set everything up to flow flawlessly so the believer just has to step in and learn how and what to believe. I believe Steve Taylor called this ‘cloneliness is next to godliness’. Funny enough, one could go to church just to gain culture or a community of some sort and forego an honest search for God altogether. These same people would ferevntly defend their beliefs in the system – to the point that debating church stances is debating with them personally (almost as if you just insulted God). There is a fine line there – and you almost have to leave church to see it.

  3. HI Steve, I just came across your blog in blog land and I find it truly refreshing. Your reflective mind is a gift from God and makes you AUTHENTIC. I too have been reflecting on “believing”. I can go from having huge faith one day to wondering if God actually exists the next day. But it is sooooooo good to be honest with ourselves and God.I look forward to hearing more of your reflections.

  4. “It’s really easy to believe that everything happens for a reason and that everything is working together for your good (Romans 8:8), but is that a realistic belief?” (Becky)Interesting observation – I think people in this faith use the idea as a crutch for doing nothing in the face of actual problems – at least that’s when I see this card get pulled. I think the idea has hope as it’s foundation – that we will hit some rough patches in life but in the end – we will survive and heal. Life can ge harder than we think – I think maybe this is what Paul is looking at here.

  5. Not sure if this makes sense, but I believe God because I’m not convinced that I have the capacity to believe “not God.” Don’t take that the wrong way. I don’t mean it as a Dobsonian declaration of superhuman faith. I mean it as an admission of utter weakness. I’m just not prepared to deal with the implications of “not God.”Now, what I believe ABOUT God… that’s a different story. There’s a lot of freedom in uncertainty. I think that’s what Jesus meant by “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I think he was saying, “let me deal with it.” Theologians will call it a cop-out, and rationalists will think it weak-minded, but I’m growing more content to let God worry about the absolutes. I just want to live.

  6. Belief and faith are different. Belief is static. It just is. Faith, on the other hand, is alive and motivating. There are too many in the church who simply believe, and too few with that vital faith that motivates not only themselves but others to act on what they believe.Just my 2 cents.

  7. good topic…I’m new here. Life IS harder than I thought. For me, belief comes down to putting one foot in front of the other…trusting that it is the right thing to do–that there is highly personal, divine providence guiding my steps.

  8. Darwin didn’t invent didn’t invent the law of survival of the fitest, God did…as it related to those who choose to follow Him.If you look at the unbelievable amount of obsticales that God has placed in our paths (not the least of which being ourselves!) it seems clear to me, that God is interrested in those who are willing to go through the insane “Ninja Warrior” obstacle course to get to Him. He has absolutely no interest in those who would prefer Christ served up on a fancy dish placed on their fat theighs which have been coagulating on the slothful couch of life.We should fear this kind of spiritual gut check as much as we should embrace it.When you stop asking these questions, that’s when you might as well pack it in.

  9. Makes sense to me. The more I regard Christ as my only hope, the more nervous people get about my chances. As near as I can tell, they seem to think I should make the strength of my faith the oject of my faith.

  10. My belief started with a process of elimination. I logically eliminated nearly every worldview people follow. What I was left with was either:1) The bible is true2) Nothing is true (Buddism or similar)From here, I can’t find evidence to support case 2. I started seeking evidence for or against the bible being true. I’ve found many confusing issues and many that are beyond my ability to resolve, but never anything against the bible being true.Thankfully, living out this belief isn’t nearly as clinical as how it developed.

  11. I think the ones who are the most unsure about their faith or belief in God are the same ones who are the most vocal critics about stuff that dares to challenge it (<>The DaVinci Code<>, the alleged finding of Jesus’ tomb, etc.). I’d agree with Zeke on this, too; they’re afraid not to believe.I think one of the Eddies from Edge of Faith once said something to the effect of they’d rather dialogue/interact with a theist who outright admitted they didn’t know something about their faith or whatnot than with one who tried to explain stuff away with a bunch of crap. I second that. I’d rather not know something than pretend that I do.

  12. I have come to the realization that most church people are blissfully delusional in the fact that they either attribute or blame everything on a higher power, thus removing responsibility from themselves. It’s really easy to believe that everything happens for a reason and that everything is working together for your good (Romans 8:8), but is that a realistic belief?

  13. I find that believing isn’t hard. Anyone can believe in God and even do the Church-tian thing…it’s the “pick up your cross and follow Me…” part that hangs us up. We may have to die to ourselves, give stuff up, not fit in, admit ignorance, etc… I hate that and I suck at it…but I struggle through it out of gratefulness…

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