Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Got Belief?

At my book club on Sunday, a question arose that has certainly reared its head many a time for me:

Why is belief a necessary component of Christianity? Of salvation?

Why this mental affirmation of the death and resurrection of Christ for our salvation?

Why even Christ's command to love God?

Yes, belief in these things may well motivate us greatly to love others, be forgiving, be willing to obey the commands of God and Christ and certainly have been motivating to me. But, is that the only reason for the command to believe? What if we do these things without belief? Why is belief necessary, particularly, when it is so hard, if not practically impossible for some?


  1. The priests conceived of faith as a response to those troubled by the glaring lack of evidence. Imagine buying a house or used car on the basis of faith. Only on the matter of religion (and maybe romantic love) will people stick their brains in the bottom drawer and sally forth.

  2. Very intriguing question. I was always taught it was because we can't love fully enough without that belief. We're not capable of that kind of love for God or others without the Holy Spirit's indwelling to empower us to it. Kind of makes me scratch my head and wonder the same things, though, when the HS doesn't seem to be doing his job. There's not much difference between those with and those without.

  3. Hi,

    Funny, I am just reading "The Secret Message of Jesus"by Brian McLaren. I'm just about a quarter of the way through; and he's discussing that Jesus' message may be one of remaking the world rather than creating a belief system to which we are all supposed to adhere. He suggests that all of the parables are designed for us to question the meaning and question ourselves (seems like we're falling into place on that one!) Generally. Recommend reading it. But he has this to say about faith and I thought it was interesting:

    "This understanding of the secret message of Jesus makes sense of a number of odd details of the gospel story, such as why the resurrection of Jesus wouldn't be miraculously broadcasted to millions as irrefutable evidence of Jesus' legitimacy. Can you see it? As soon as the evidence becomes irrefutable, it takes on a kind of domineering power- the kind of force so effectively yielded by principalities and powers. Instead, in keeping with the kingdom of God's secret, paradoxical, and apparently weak power, the first in on the secret are a few women- unacceptable in their own day as legitimate witnesses in court- vulnerable people who can easily be ignored and dismissed by those who prefer the status quo, the powers that be, the systems and regimes that function as 'kingdoms of this world.' These humble women will be believed by only those who want to believe, those who freely choose to believe."(71)

    I don't know if this helps us. It something to think about anyway. I know a lot of people consider McLaren some sort of heretic, but if some of what he writes can help me not entirely throw in the towel, I think it's a good thing.

  4. IsToo,
    Give me the cliffnotes version when you're done. Maybe I'll check it out as well. My first reaction to the quote was, "here we go with the free will defense again to explain why the gospel wasn't shared immediately to all in a direct, clear way. "Domineering power" of evidence would be welcome! But, it's interesting that McLaren doesn't view faith as a set of doctrines to be believed. I'll have to give him a hearing.

  5. Doug,
    Thanks for stopping by. I continue to enjoy your blog

    And why would belief be necessary for the indwelling of the holy spirit? People in the Bible are sometimes described as being overshadowed by the spirit without their apparent consent.

  6. DoOrDoNot,

    I'm as puzzled by this as you are. What I offered up was what my spoon fed understanding was before I entered my doubts. That's what I always assumed to be true. I thought I had all the "right" answers. Now I'm scratching my head wondering what sense any of that ever made to me. So I understand the question. I just don't have any answers. Why is faith necessary?


    Interesting perspective. Maybe if I ever get done with The Human Faces of God I'll give that book a look. Thanks for the tip.

  7. I don't think "believe" is just "agree with." I think there are parallels between "believe in me" and "follow me," but I need to study it more carefully. John quotes Jesus at the last supper equating loving him with obeying him, so it wouldn't be the only time that two words covered the same general meaning.

    And I don't know that "overwhelming evidence" is always overwhelming. Jesus had Abraham say in a parable that some people wouldn't believe even if someone rose from the dead, and a thousand conspiracy theories are alive and well to illustrate that. Ever tried to talk to a 911 truther?

  8. "Faith" is a meme to keep people from thinking too much about the baloney they're being fed.

    And I guess conscious belief and acceptance are probably necessary precursors to tithing.

    It's kind of like this: http://www.jhuger.com/kisshank.php

  9. I'm late to the party, but I think that at least one way of approaching your question is to look at the early Church and its relationship with the Gnostic Christians of the time. The relationship is a very complex one, but the gist of is that Church placed an emphasis on belief in part to distinguish itself from the Gnostics. But, perhaps, only in part.