Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Knowing Why We Believe

Many TV evangelists proclaim, “Just believe,” but they never tell us “why” to believe. This is very important because we want to be sure that we believe the right beliefs!

Richard Bonnie, a University of Virginia law professor, states that Andrea Yates, the Texas mom who drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001, believed they "were 'stumbling' into the throes of the devil and were going to burn in the fires of eternity…By killing them, she would save them from this fate. … Satan would be vanquished."

For Yates, her beliefs might have felt as real to her as ours feel to us. How do we know that Yates had been deluded, while we are in touch with spiritual reality? We have to take a step back from what we are feeling and invite our minds to play their ordained role. This is just what the Bereans did. They didn’t simply believe in their heart what Paul was preaching. They checked everything against the truth of Scripture:

• “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true”
(Acts 17:11).

Jesus also warned against thoughtless faith: "If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid” (John 5:31). He then clarified that he should be believed because of all of His confirmatory evidence – miracles, Scripture, and the testimonies of the Father and of John the Baptist.

The Biblical faith was never a faith that was to be accepted blindly. It not only required a change of heart, but also a change of thinking based upon the evidence:

“One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Deut. 19:15).

This principle especially pertains to the things of the faith. It is no wonder therefore that Jesus taught that we had to love God with all of our being, including our minds:

• “Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'”
(Matthew 22:37).

If we only have the evidence of the heart – perhaps like Andrea – it is difficult to talk to others about our faith. They too have evidence of the heart for whatever they believe. They may ask you, “Why is your experience any more valid than my experience?” Without the evidence of the mind, there is little more that you can say. Besides, the adroit skeptic will charge you with arrogance for suggesting that you have the truth based on your subjective experience.

Therefore, Christian maturity isn’t just a matter of love but also of wisdom. Paul wrote:

“Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Cor. 14:20).

Becoming an adult requires that we can not only explain what we believe but also why we believe it (Jude 3; 1 Peter 3:15). Without this necessary ingredient, we are not only depriving ourselves of assurance, but we will also be defensive in the face of skepticism and doubt.

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