Trail Blazer Ministries
Base Camp for Life: A Spiritual Journey...

What Exactly Does it Mean to Believe?

Thanks to Nathan for this well thought out response to my question:

"I think I'm going to order this book; a Christian philosophy prof recommended this to me. I'm struggling with the question, "What do we really know?" I know some things, but some important things in Christianity, I'm questioning whether I really believe them to be intellectually honest with myself."

What exactly does it mean to believe? The word "belief" has evolved over the years. In the 14th Century with Chaucer it meant "beloved." In the 1st Century, it meant something completely different. In Life of Flavious Josephus, he writes about confronting a rebel during the Jewish / Roman War. Josephus wanted to convince this rebel to stop the futile attempts of attacking the Roman Empire and look for other ways to achieve his desired results. Josephus told the rebel to “Repent and believe in me”. In Greek that is, “metanoesein kai pistos emoi genesesthai”. This is precisely the same exact greek phrase that Jesus uses, which even the most skeptical Jesus scholars would admit.

Josephus isn't simply saying repent and believe in me as some sort of mental excercise. He's more or less saying turn away from your methods of violence and follow my way. However, as a member of the Jewish aristocracy, and a pawn of the Roman Empire, he obviously had an agenda. Jesus call to repentance was certainly more, but certainly not less. The mental exercise is needed to initiate the process, but can't be expected to remain fixed, and isn't so much the point as following the way of Jesus. Imagine if the rebel told Josephus that, yes, he believed (with our current concept of belief), but didn't follow. He surely would have been put to death by the Roman Empire. The Gospel is trans formative not affirmative.

Belief will evolve as well as your doubt. But in my opinion as well as Jewish tradition, doubt is a spiritual practice that comes from God. But the secret is to continue to doubt the doubt and never be satisfied, always be maladjusted with your conclusions. Always leave room for discussion and uncertainty.

I think that doubt keeps us from putting God into a box, making Him/Her an idol, or a Rorschach test in our image. The desert Christian mystics used to call God "Nothing" as the word "God" was/is essentially a placeholder for a name of the Ineffable Being. We have no words to define the Divine.

One thing that I've been mulling over lately is I'm quite tired of Christianity. I love Jesus, and search for God, but I see Christians pushing Christianity over Jesus, which is in my mind complete idolatry and heresy...although they would call me a heretic.

totally random, but I was reading on how to make a Halloween for Jaxin, and I took a complete rabbit trail and wound up reading about the Magi (the Three Kings...where we get our word "Magic" from). They weren't Christian or even Jewish. They were Zoroastrian astrologers. In fact the greek uses the same word to describe a sorcerer in Acts. Yet they blessed Jesus. How many churches, (even myself) would be humble enough to receive a blessing from a self described Wiccan?

Here is something that CS Lewis wrote in "Mere Christianity" which is where I'm at.

""The world does not consist of 100 percent Christians and 100 percent non-Christians. There are people (a great many of them) who are slowly ceasing to be Christians but who still call themselves by that name: some of them are clergymen."
"There are other people who are slowly becoming Christians though they do not yet call themselves so. There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand."
"There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ’s birth may have been in this position. And always, of course, there are a great many people who are just confused in mind and have a lot of inconsistent beliefs all jumbled up together. Consequently, it is not much use trying to make judgments about Christians and non-Christians in the mass."

The world needs Jesus, and less of Christianity piling up mental sets of certainties. The Muslim world is realizing this. Recently at an Islamic conference, the leader was talking about how Islam is going through now (with Shia and Sunni) what Christians and Catholics went through during the 100 years war. They said the only way we will make it through this without blowing each other up is to follow the teachings of the Prophet Isa...(Jesus).

That was a long answer, but I say read the book, and let me know what you think. Never end the search, and never underestimate the strength of community in wrestling with the doubts. It's often tough to find a "safe" place to express the questions, but you always have a safe non-judgmental ear in me. I'd also be curious to hear where exactly, if you can pinpoint it, do your doubts lie?

Recent Comments