Believing Well -- Part 2
"Different people, in good faith, can look at the same fact and interpret it differently. But that's where an interesting conversation begins." (Eric Schlosser)
I believe there are absolute truths which are true whether I believe them or not. I believe the Bible is reliable and authoritative. I’ve spent a lot of time studying to make sure the contents of my beliefs are right – that they correspond to reality. I think everybody should do this.
Oh, and I believe that ultimate reality is a Person and that Person is Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the One and Only Son of God, Jesus our Lord and Savior, Immanuel, The Way, The Truth, The Life. That Jesus.
I believe it is wrong to say, for example, that the Bible is full of myths written by men and compiled as part of a big power grab in the fourth century. I believe it is flat wrong to say that Jesus was just a wise and moral teacher who lived and died and may have had a wife and a child. I believe it is wrong to set Jesus alongside other teachers like Buddha, Muhammad, or Gandhi. He is categorically different from all others who came before or since.
Furthermore, I believe that what you believe about Jesus will determine the trajectory of your life here on earth and your eternal destiny.
I also believe that each person was created and will live forever, either in relationship with God or eternally banished from his presence by the hardness of their own hearts.
On all these topics – the Bible, the Trinity, the Person of Jesus, salvation, heaven, and hell – I believe there are true beliefs and false beliefs, rights and wrongs. It is my hope to study and think and write and read and listen and speak and eventually arrive at the closest proximity to truth in these matters as possible.
The friend I mentioned yesterday -- the who called me on the phone and asked me to pray for him -- he believes most of the same things I do. But this isn’t what was giving him trouble.
What troubled him that day — and what troubles me many days — is the realization that you can believe all the right things in all the wrong ways.
There’s more to faith than content; there’s also quality. You can believe the right things well, or you can believe the right things poorly. On the other hand (how many hands is that?), you can believe the wrong things well, or you can believe the wrong things poorly. There’s right faith and wrong faith; but there’s also good faith and bad faith.
Good faith is open, humble, and gentle. Bad faith is closed and arrogant. Sadly, bad faith is everywhere lately. On social media. On talk radio. Bad faith is what gives Christians such a terrible reputation in their community. Bad faith is why churches are shrinking.
Good faith asks questions and seeks answers. Bad faith is afraid of questions and believes it has already found all the answers it needs.
Good faith is courageous and humble. Bad faith is just loud.
Good faith listens patiently and learns. Bad faith shouts and interrupts and refuses to consider the notion that it could learn anything new from anyone else.
Several years ago, Time Magazine interviewed George Lucas about the spiritual themes in the “Star Wars” movies. He said, “I put the Force in the movie in order to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people – more a belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system. I wanted to make it so that young people would begin to ask questions about the mystery. Not having enough interest in the mysteries of life to ask the question, ‘Is there a God or is there not a God?’ – this is for me the worst thing that can happen. I think you should have an opinion about that. Or you should be saying, ‘I’m looking. I’m very curious about this and am going to continue to look until I can find an answer, and if I can’t find an answer then I’ll die trying.’” (April 18, 1999)
I’ve read enough about the content of Mr. Lucas’ spiritual beliefs to say I believe he believes some wrong things. But I appreciate and applaud his efforts to inspire curiosity and desire. In that sense, Mr. Lucas may be one of those people who believe wrong things in a good way.
In the end, bad faith will produce bad fruit. People who believe poorly are often sour, harsh, judgmental, and mean. Likewise, good faith will eventually begin to produce good fruit. People who believe well are far more likely to demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Good faith ultimately leads to right faith. In fact, it is the only true path to real faith.
So, the wisdom of Ms. Dona rings true. There are Christians who have sullied the name of Christ – sometimes by believing and spreading falsehood. More often, though, it had nothing to do with the content of their faith but with its quality. They believed badly, so they behaved badly.
What are we to do now?
We could change our names. We could leave town. But it might be better to stay put, live well, and redeem our family name.
Photo Credit: Kathy Hillacre