A Guide to Examining the Way We Believe So That What We Believe Will be Secure

A bit over a decade ago, Evangelical pollster and sociologist George Barna concluded, based on numerous surveys, that nearly 40% of the individuals sitting in the pews in Evangelical Churches do not have enough content even to be saved. Christian Smith, the director of the National Study of Youth and Religion and associate chair of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, coined the label “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” to describe the religion of America’s youth in his 2005 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. This means that the God that today’s youth is accepting is very different than the God of the Bible. In her fascinating book Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean, associate professor of Princeton Theological Seminary, talks about the faith of America’s youth. In it she says that while 75% of today’s youth claim the name “Christian,” only 8% take their faith seriously. In a chapter provocatively entitled “Mormon Envy” she argues that Mormons are doing a much better job of passing on the content of their faith to their kids. Most Evangelicals, she argues, are more content to hope that the content of their faith will sooner or later be assumed by their children. But this is not happening.

I remember a Peanuts cartoon where Linus is waiting for the Great Pumpkin who is dreadfully late. I think it was Lucy who attempts to comfort him with the words “It does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.”

As well, I recall an AT&T commercial a few years ago where people are standing in lines in downtown New York City holding up signs that said, “I believe.” The scene then goes to a sky rise apartment where a banner is dropped out of a window that says, “I believe.” Then a plane flies by with a banner, “I believe.” Finally, there is a police officer sitting on his horse in the middle of the street with a sign, “I believe.” Then the AT&T logo came on the screen and the commercial was over. I thought to myself, “You believe what?” When I was in Washington DC a few months ago, I saw over the window of Macy’s their new slogan: “Believe.” Believe what?

We live in a culture that loves to talk about faith, belief, and spirituality. But the one common element that we often find is that this belief is going to the prom stag. It is not accompanied by any content.  More often than not, there is nothing to believe in or to believe that. It is just that people believe. No object necessary. It is a virtue to be a “believer” so long as you don’t know what you believe. In fact, if you accompany your belief with an object, your “faith” will quickly become the subject of ridicule and scorn. This is especially the case if the content of your belief necessarily excludes other options. Many think it is best these days to just believe.

We call this postmodernism.

We also live in a time where the basic content of the Christian faith is not being passed on accurately. It is being screened through a filter of political correctness, therapeutic necessity, and seeker sensitivity. It seems we are taking a que from Burger King telling people to “have it your way.” Have God your way!

We call this American individualism and commerce.

With regard to the Christian faith, a content-less faith is not possible. When the Reformers talked about faith, they understood that faith must include substance. One’s faith can only grow to the degree that substantial and definite content is present. Both a lack of content and accuracy can cause one’s faith to be seriously troubled.

Postmodern Faith

Notice here the “consent” meter. Consent represents the idea of trust. The postmodern mindset is very favorable toward “spirituality” and belief. Therefore, their consent (trust) meter is theoretically very high. They are people of faith, remember. But due to the confusion that is out there with regards to the content, they are unwilling to commit themselves to a belief in or belief that. It is a naked belief. There are simply too many options out there. To commit to one is to condemn the other. Who are we to say that we are right and they are wrong. Besides all this, there is internal conflict among those who agree. In other words, even those who agree, eventually part ways over disagreements. The postmodern looks at Christianity and says “Which one? Catholic? Orthodox? Baptist? Presbyterian? Methodist? or one of the divisions of these? It is just better to be a person of faith, but not choose which faith.”

Notice the conviction meter is turned off since there is no content about which to be convicted. The big meter, which represents the totality of ones faith from a Biblical standpoint, is at zero. No matter how high the consent meter, one’s faith is not going to be affected. It is impossible to have faith without any content, no matter what Lucy, AT&T, and Macy’s tells you. One cannot be a believer without an object in which to believe. 

Least-Common-Denominator Faith

Often, people’s solution to the problem of disagreements in the church and society about content is to opt for as little content as possible. This is a sort-of “least common denominator” type faith. Most liberally, this may boil down to a simple belief in a God who is good, loves all people, wants us to do what is right, and has goodies for us in the afterlife. This way all people can make it to heaven. That way the content, while low, is accompanied by a large degree of conviction and consent. However, as can be seen, this definition of faith does affect the large meter at all. Why? Because in order for the large meter to begin to move at all (saving faith), there has to be a minimal amount of content that is sufficient to construct the essentials of the Gospel. If the Gospel is absent or grossly distorted, the faith meter cannot budge. In the current graphic, the content meter must move beyond the yellow area before there is a chance for true biblical faith to be possessed. This type of faith is that which we see in liberal churches all over the world, no matter what denomination.

The content of belief that I would include in the yellow includes:

  • Belief in God
  • Belief that Jesus is God’s Son
  • Belief that Jesus died on the cross for their sins
  • Belief that Jesus rose from the grave
  • Belief that the person is sinful and in need of God’s mercy

Essentially, after a belief in God is established, I boil the essentials for salvation (as far as content is concerned) down to the person and work of Christ as defined by historic Christianity.

Shallow Faith

Next I present to you what I call “shallow faith.” Unlike the previous version, we now have a minimal amount of content that is able to issue forth saving faith. In other words, the content of their conviction and consent rests in the person and work of Christ. However, notice that the content does not go much further than this. While the conviction is pretty high, it is not as high as the previous due to the amount of content. The more the content, the harder it is for the conviction to come intuitively. The consent (trust) is still very high though.

But the key thing to notice is that this person’s overall faith is still not very strong. The primary faith meter, while it increased, did not increase much. This is due to the lack of content involved. People can have a strong trust and conviction in Christ, but remain as children in their faith due to a lack of information. I believe that this is representative of so many in pop-Evangelicalism today. The seeker mentality of a “taste-great-less-filling” church, while wonderful in getting people above the yellow, will not go too far in increasing people’s faith too far. I know that not all seeker churches are this way, but most that I have seen are.

But isn’t this enough? We have the person saved, with a good degree of conviction and consent, why burden them with more content than is necessary to bring them into the Kingdom?

The best way to describe this is by way of analogy. Let me try here.

Men, suppose you were to approach your wife in this attitude. Just after you get married, your wife seeks to deepen the relationship through getting to know one another. You respond, “Hold on there. I know enough about you to love you. I don’t want or need to know any more.” Your wife says, “Yes, you know many of the main things about me, but I want you to get to know me more.” You respond, “Nope. I know enough. I know your name, height, weight, what you look like, that you are a Republican, that you are a girl, that you love God, and that you love me. That is all I need. I don’t want to know about your past, your family, what your high school experience was like, how many kids you want, what kind of music you like, who your best friend is and why, nor do I want to know about your brothers and sisters.” “But,” she says, “I have so much to tell you.” “No way,” you bite back, “There might be something I don’t like. Plus, it is hard to sit and listen to all of that. Who knows if I will interpret you right anyway. Those kind of things get confusing. Let me just love you based on these few things and no more.”

As you know, this would never work. The relationship would never grow. In fact, eventually, it would go in the wrong direction leading to disaster. It is the same with God. When we enter into a relationship with him, yes it is important to get the most important things first. However, there is so much God wants to share with us. He has written a rather large book to inform us about all the things he has done, what he is going to do, and how we can live for him. He has told us about himself in great detail. Yes, a lot of it is confusing and, even, can be discouraging. But there is a lot more content than just the basics.

In sum, our faith cannot grow much without much content, no matter how sincerely we believe it. This is why it is so important for us, as Christians, to study God’s word and God’s world. This is why we spend so much time in Bible study and interpretation. This is why we read the whole of the Scripture, not just the parts we like and are easy to believe. God calls on us to increase our faith, but without continually examining the content that he has given us, we will never be able to grow in faith. Many people are stagnant in their faith, not because of a lack of trust or conviction, but because of the lack of information upon which to base their trust and conviction.

Mormons may be doing a better job of passing on the content of their faith, but the content is the wrong content. Content cannot be abandoned. We need to be writing it on the doorposts of our houses and on the collars of our shirt. We need to talk about it as we rise and as we sit. Most importantly, content does not just happen. It has to be taught and it has to be taught often.

It does matter what you believe; sencerity alone is worth very little.

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    32 replies to "The Anatomy of Belief (2): Belief Without Content"

    • Ounbbl

      “Believe!”

      “I believe!”

      So?

    • Lynn

      So, indoctrination? I think that does work. If you hear something constantly-signs around your house, family devotions, surrounded by other Christians, church at least three times a week, life centered around church activities and people, etc.-yes, that usually works to keep people in the faith. Well, maybe having Christian parents that are also good people also contributes a huge amount.

      Anyway, this has been my observation. Also, just as an aside-cults work the same way, no?

    • C Michael Patton

      Lynn, wait until we get to conviction.

    • Carl D'Agostino

      Not passed on accurately. “Accurately” according to whom? Not successfully passed on? Yes. Even the Puritans felt that way with their first generation children. Maybe it is the content. That literal interpretation from 7 days to the whale to the virgin birth. I don’t think that will be passed on to discerning 21st century people. We need to focus on what is the essence of Christian living means in our tumultuous world and away from smoke and mirrors which were added to Gospel by editors trying to appeal to pagans 2nd and 3rd Century. They mythologized the Gospel. I don’t need that nonsense to be impressed into accepting the wonderful glory and healing power of Jesus.

    • Hodge

      Lynn,

      “Anyway, this has been my observation. Also, just as an aside-cults work the same way, no?”

      Actually, all social groups and cultures work this way. The criticism you’re espousing right now is one you have adopted from a massive indoctrination against certain dogmas, but it is evidence itself of all sorts of other presuppositions that have been bred into your thinking. One cannot get away from this. Instead, the intelligent thing to ask is what is true, not whether someone should fill their children’s and church’s heads with content.

    • Daniel

      I’m not sure this is about indoctrination as much as it is about passing on a complete and thorough doctrine of belief from one generation to the next. To me, the idea of indoctrination speaks more about taking a few items of propaganda and inundating our kids with it repeatedly.

      CMP, here, seems to be more talking about passing along the full content of our beliefs to the next generation, not just repeating the same small handful of slogans so that our kids are just automatons.

      I love how Sean McDowell talks about coming to his dad and telling him that he was questioning the faith. Rather than get upset, his dad was happy that his son was not just accepting the Christian faith on the basis of his parents’ teaching and was, instead, examining the claims of Christianity for himself in order to draw his own conclusions.

      Are there some who just teach there kids the whole “God said it. I believe it. That does it.” type of approach. But if we are confident that what we believe is true, then we should be comfortable putting our beliefs to the test, knowing that they will stand up the the closest scrutiny.

    • Lynn

      Hodge,
      Agreed. But having your head full of untrue or half-true stuff can certainly make if unlikely or difficult or unpleasant to finally find the truth, if what you’re in happens to not be the truth.

      I think it’s great that Michael is telling people to put their faith to the test. If their faith passes the test, great. I’m happy for them. respect them for wanting not just to believe, but to feel pretty sure they are actually believing somthing that’s true.

      I don’t think his approach would be popular in much of Christianity though. When I’ve expresed my doubts about the faith to Christians, I have yet to have one single person want to hear my whole story or discuss the issues or say they would love to read what I’m reading to see if they think it could be right. So I haven’t found any “open” Christians personally.

    • Lynn

      Hodge,
      You mentioned I have a massive indoctrination against certain dogmas. I’m not sure how you could know that. But anyway basically my whole life was filled with Ind. Bapt. dogma, then some Calvinist dogma (a lesser amount of time,) then I read a few atheist books over the last two years. So I guess I’ve had atheist dogma added on now. So now I just need to figure out which dogma was the truth.

      And as far as filling children’s heads with content-I guess that’s everybody’s right to do, but it can have harmful consequences-depending on what you’re filling it with.

    • C Michael Patton

      Lynn, I will listen. 🙂

    • John Carroll

      It seems to me that what is missing (but perhaps assumed) in this whole faith meter graph is what starts all the pointers moving in the first place. Hodge says all groups work this way. That is so. Some radicalized Muslims certainly have content, conviction and consent – the last two in spades! But no man can come to Christ unless the Spirit draws him. But once you say that, the ‘natural man’ is going to accuse you of circular thinking. I doubt that can be avoided. Of course, one can always point out that circular thinking isn’t just characteristic of people of faith. Everyone comes back to their ultimate presuppositions. Where do these presuppositions of ultimate value come from?

    • C Michael Patton

      John, That is indeed a good point. I will attempt to argue that the Spirit works in and with all of these.

    • Hodge

      Lynn,

      I have listened to what you’ve told us thus far in regard to your story. I’m sure there’s more, but my point specifically is that you are evaluating one belief with another belief, and eventually you’re going to come to the fact that you are just have to assume certain beliefs with which you have been indoctrinated in order to evaluate other beliefs. I agree that it’s horrible to be indoctrinated with false beliefs, but that goes back to asking what is true over whether one ought to be continually taught a particular view.
      So no one evaluates Christianity from a transcendent perspective. Hence, “testing” should also include being aware of what untested presuppositions one is using and realize that indoctrination flies both ways.

    • John Carroll

      Hodge – I see what you are saying but exactly how would you go about ‘testing’ what I would call an ultimate presupposition? i.e. There is a God – There is no God? Can a natural test ‘prove’ a supernatural event? It is clear that no matter what evidence either side produces, the other side by and large will reject it. Each will accuse the other of being blind or prejudiced. Like a hung jury – some believe the evidence of the prosecution and some the defense. And if we do not evaluate Christianity from some kind of transcendance (which we will be told is purely subjective) than we must fall back on pure reason. But I do not believe that anyone comes into the kingdom of God on reason alone. It seems to me that if God is Spirit then my entrance into the kingdom must also be in spirit. The Scripture says that this will be foolishness to the natural man. Can’t help that!

    • Lynn

      First, thanks Michael, Hodge, and anybody else for listening. It’s harder to be mad and dislike someone if they do actually show an interest in what you’re saying and take it seriously-Bill Clinton being a famous example-lol.

      Anyway, what do ya’ll mean by presuppositions? Things that you’re considering a “given” so you can even begin discussing?

      I do know we all have backgrounds-where we were born, when, to whom, our intelligence, personalities, experiences with other people, etc.-That is our starting place. I have no idea what it feels like to be a Muslim from Saudi Arabia, or to be from Thailand or even Europe.

      In spite of my pretty small world experience, I can also say I’m a reader. So this reading got me eventually into an atheist or agnostic perspective-actually much more of a deconvert perspective. Anyway, a WHOLE NEW WORLD! A world that seemed to make more sense in many ways. And one thing about the atheist or agnostic world is that you don’t already assume a bunch of stuff to actually be true before you even start.

      If someone says, well, there was the empty tomb. You say, wait a minute-how do you know so certainly that there was an empty tomb? That kind of thinking is quite refreshing.

      Anyway, this is getting long. What presuppositions do you think I now have (which are affecting my thinking) or which ones do you have?

    • John Carroll

      Hi Lynn – you sound a lot like my daughter – who was brought up in the faith ( I am a Baptist pastor), made a profession and was baptized around the age of 10 and continued making it until she was about 24. Now she would describe herself as agnostic and is deeply interested in what all religions have to say but remains uncommitted to any world view. Of course that is impossible for she is committed to the view that there are no absolutes! Anyway, by presuppositions, yes we do mean things that we take as a given. Some presuppositions are natural and can be proved or disproved by the scientific method. For example if your parents and grandparents and the community you grew up in believed that aliens lived inside the moon, then, by going to the moon and doing extensive drilling and testing, you would either prove or disprove the presupposition. One way or the other there would always be people who would still believe it to be true, saying you did not do enough tests or that the aliens are invisible or something. Now Christians operate on the faith or trust that the cornerstone of Christianity indeed did take place, i.e., the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Given the internal evidence from the Scriptures, this seems a reasonable belief. But not everyone accepts it. And I don’t know any argument which would convince someone of it on a purely rational basis. But you said the one thing about being an agnostic or atheist is that you don’t already assume a bunch of stuff to be true before you start. But are you not making the assumption there is no God or at least no God you can prove?

    • Lynn

      Hi John,

      I’m saying I no longer find it as convincing as I once did that there is a God. I’m questioning my former belief.

      I guess I’m a lot like the pastor Michael spoke with-I’m questioning the whole thing.

    • Lynn

      Just to add-you have some things you are convinced are true, so you start there. I’m just starting with- not assuming they are all false- but finding them doubtful.

      I see myself as very different than someone who’s been an atheist from birth and thinks it’s all far-fetched.

      I’m seriously questioning.

    • cherylu

      Lynn,

      I don’t know if this will help any. You have likely already thought about it. But for me, I simply do not see how it is reasonable to think that everything we see around us every day could of possibly come into existence without a Creator, a Cause.

      Where did it all come from in the first place? Could everything have just popped into existence from absolutely nothing one day or even over a period of millions or billions of years? To me it doesn’t seem to be possible. Or if possible, certainly highly unprobable. A creation demands a Creator in my mind.

    • Hodge

      Lynn,

      “A world that seemed to make more sense in many ways. And one thing about the atheist or agnostic world is that you don’t already assume a bunch of stuff to actually be true before you even start.”

      Actually, you do. It’s in your metaphysics. You are assuming something about the metaphysical world (i.e., that it does not exist, or at least, is not “occupied” by God). That then gives you a naturalistic worldview that can only function through empirical (i.e. sensory verification). Since we don’t empirically verify God’s existence, God does not exist until empirically proven otherwise. Of course, as said before, it’s all circular, and frankly, self refuting. One must assume there is no God to say that there isn’t enough evidence for the existence of God. Evidence isn’t the issue though. Presuppositions that interpret that evidence are. So the only way that atheism/agnosticism can resonate with you, from a philosophical and sociological perspective that is, is because you have already assumed it in your methodology of inquiry (and yes, most likely this was done long ago even amidst your fundamentalist upbringing).

      (cont.)

    • Hodge

      Indoctrination takes place in two different ways (to oversimplify it): directly and indirectly. We actually pick up more of our worldview indirectly through beliefs and daily practices that assume it than directly through explicit teaching. I think the Holy Spirit works primarily through the second, however, so it’s interesting that I see Christianity as very different than a natural belief system (that’s not to say He doesn’t work through the other, just to say that the former is primary).
      All that to say, I wouldn’t hold your former explicit indoctrination on par with your former (and current) indoctrination of the philosophic naturalism that pervades our modern culture’s presupps about the world. The former is much stronger than the latter unless the Spirit of God, who keeps what He catches, moves against it.

    • Hodge

      I do want to answer what my presupps are. I actually share the same culture with you, so my original presupps were also that of naturalism in most of what I believed and practiced. However, since I have become a Christian, my presupps have steered closer to the explicit teachings that assume the existence of the metaphysical and supernatural world that I was taught by the various churches growing up. So my presupps are the opposite than the atheist’s, not because I don’t understand his presupps, but because I assume the existence of the metaphysical and the existence of God in my methodology of inquiry. I also think, once I have done that, that the laws of logic make much more sense in a universe of minds that evidence thinking that is governed by them. So I do think there is consistency to one versus the other, but one cannot prove an ultimate belief, or test it for that matter, without assuming another ultimate belief by which it must be proved or tested. One must believe and then evaluate all other claims based upon that belief.

    • Mary

      I find this to be amazingly interesting! I peek in here and listen from time to time. I have been a believer in Christ for 20+ years and was a “faithful” church goer, until I really started studying and seeing the huge gulf that seems to become more fixed with each passing Sunday. This “gulf” is the gap in what Christ taught his disciples and what they did vs. what He still is teaching today and what the so-called disciples are doing. I think we spend more time studying the cultural church contained in history rather than the solid rock Foundation and Head. I am really leaning more to thinking that the lawlessness (every man doing as his own spirit thinks is right, rather than what God declared is righteous works) of hypocritical christian culturalism is at the root of making faith in Christ less viable and visible to a world looking for proof that He is real. Most good christians today are mere professors and in the process prove to be clouds without rain. I am thankful for the openess that Michael and others here share.

    • Bible Study Online

      Faith without works truly is dead according to James. I sure don’t want to be one of those clouds without water, the double minded that are driven with the wind and tossed.

    • Lynn

      Hodge,
      Maybe you’re right. I kept trying for years on end to feel something. All the other Christians seemed to be sensing God’s presence. It was torturous.

      So maybe this not feeling the Holy Spirit or anything would eventually lead me to conclude maybe there’s no such thing. But that could be a wrong conclusion.

      I never considered that possibility for about 50 years. But then I considered it as possible.

      Do you feel something that reassures you that there is a God? Would you assume there is even though you’d never felt anything, but there must be cause all these other Christians have all kinds of God experiences?

    • Hodge

      Lynn,

      Sorry for the delay. My wife and I were out all day yesterday for our anniversary.

      I appreciate your openness and honesty to think about these things. I’ve had many experiences in my life that I interpret to be the hand of God, but my faith is not based on these. For me, belief precedes these reassurances rather than being something that is based upon them. The individual who bases his or her faith on spiritual experiences is no different, IMHO, than the atheist who seeks the same, doesn’t have them, so rejects Christianity. These spiritual experiences are simply data/evidence that can be interpreted either way by one’s ultimate beliefs, so we’re back to the beginning again. If one has faith then spiritual experiences or the lack thereof will be interpreted accordingly (especially in my camp that does not see God’s involvement with us as primarily an overt feeling of a miraculous presence or something). Jesus lamented the fact that the wicked generation seeks for a sign rather than just believing what God has revealed to them through word/report. So for me, belief should neither be based upon, nor perpetuated by, feelings. In fact, the Bible never emphasizes feeling as a primary way of detecting God in one’s life, but rather whether one believes and practices the truth evidences His presence. I think when you rely upon feeling God’s presence as an evidence you seek to confirm belief, you have already assumed a false religion that God is not going to verify. You are then left with atheism, agnosticism, or an alternate religion, but biblical Christianity is not detected in such ways. American folk religion, based heavily upon Enlightenment principles of empirical verification, drives that belief–a belief shared by, and ultimately leading to, a disbelief in Christianity at the get go. It’s like trying to find a living organism with a metal detector and then concluding that such an organism must not exist. Wrong method of detection will inevitably…

    • Hodge

      … lead to the wrong conclusion.

    • Lynn

      Hodge,
      I think I understand what you’re saying. Don’t base it on feelings. I do know feelings come and go, we feel a certain way because we want to feel that way, etc.

      I guess it boils down to me being an unhappy Christian and blaming myself for that-then eventually feeling angry because maybe what I was trying to believe is not even true-so no wonder it wasn’t “working.”

      Even though you say it’s not wise to lean on feelings, there do seem to be tons of Christians with lots of feelings that they are sure came from God. Like Pentecostal-types-it’s all about the emotion. I’d say Christianity wouldn’t be much fun without any feelings. How would you sustain your belief if you never felt God’s presence, had no dramatic salvation experience, etc. to keep you in it. As I said before, lots of Christians have told me of all their experiences, and I assume those feelings have great impact on their daily Christian life.

      In the NT aren’t Christians supposed to be joyful, etc.? After all they are new creatures with God inside them. You can’t get any more drastically different than that.

      I realize you’re saying salvation is not based on feelings, but if you listen to Christians talk, they speak of feelings non-stop.

      And from the atheist point of view, they would see feelings of Christians as possibly coming from other sources besides God.

      I don’t think unhappy people continue in their lifestyle on and on. Eventually they find a way to be happier. The unhappiness and confusion was the beginning of my leaving the faith; then I started studying. But when I told my very dedicated Christian friend from childhood about losing my faith, she told me to pray, keep trying, etc.-which to me was absurd advice, since I am now 53, not new to all this. Should I continue the confusion til my dying day? That certainly held no attraction. If God hadn’t given me peace about it all at this late date, all I could conclude was it’s all baloney, or I’m…

    • Lynn

      not one of the chosen. (can’t remember what I said after that!)

    • Lynn

      Hodge,
      One more thing–what IS the correct method of detection if we can’t trust feelings?

    • Bible Study Online

      Christian living cannot be based on feelings. I spoke to one yesterday who said what they are doing is sin, but believe God understands why they are doing it and therefore is not angry with them. I told them sin is transgression of the law, and God is angry with the wicked everyday. God does not like sin, or at least in him is not sin and he wants us to be as him in this world. I told them even though they may believe they are ok with God, there are many the bible tells us who believe a lie and will be damned, we cannot walk after feelings, but the word of God.

    • Lynn

      This thing re feelings. From what I’ve seen, Christians are mostly like everybody else. Feelings are a big part of their life. Feelings are a huge part of the Christian life-they make it very real and satisfying.

      And I think too that most people’s feelings triump over what the Bible says. They ignore the Bible and do what they want to do, or they find a way to make the Bible say what they want it to say, etc.

      This is complicated and there are so many different angles to it. I just think the human mind has lots of different ways to justify what it wants to do, even in religion.

      And ofcourse this can all apply to me too. Ofcourse I have some negative feelings re Christianity. I am human, after all. But anyway, as Hodge pointed out-what really matters the most is-is it true or not.

    • Hodge

      Lynn,

      I hope, and think, you understand that I am not saying that Christians shouldn’t have feelings about God. My point is that feelings cannot detect His presence and what is true. I think you got that by your last comment.
      I also think that you are right in that most professing Christians in our culture look to their feelings for the purposes of detecting God in their lives; but the question remains as to whether this is due to our culture or a biblical/Christian idea. It is not. The Bible emphasizes believing over seeing, as I think is logically correct (i.e., that old Bible understands thought better than we as moderns do). Feelings are guided by belief, not the other way around. They may be chronologically simultaneous, but they are often logically prior, and they certainly don’t cause genuine belief in Christianity, as the Holy Spirit using the content of the Bible does that according to Christianity. So we detect God according to whether we have become submissive to God in order to believe the truth and practice the truth.
      So we’re back to just believing and then asking whether what we believe can be worked out consistently with other beliefs and what we know. So I would ask you whether the universality of the laws of logic stem from material alone or whether they need a transcendent mind as their source and is your answer consistent with your metaphysical beliefs? Then I would just proceed from there; but as I said before, belief precedes everything else, so you must decide what to believe in without blaming it on feelings, “evidence,” empirical verification, or the like. It’s all you then. The ball’s in your court.

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