Troubleshooting Belief

Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised.  Amen.  Romans 1:22-25.

I find it rather disturbing when people call themselves open-minded then turn right around in the next breath and call another person down for a different POV.  It’s even more unsettling to listen to many people praise open-minded thinking only to have them begin bad-mouthing those who don’t agree with them.

As I think about truth and belief, I realize more and more the two are mutually exclusive principles.  Truth is non-negotiable, immutable and wholly real no matter what our perceptions or preferences might be.  Belief hangs on the preferences, indoctrination or perceptions of whoever is practicing it.  It’s a pretty hard nut to swallow to accept our own twists in these categories.  What I mean is we don’t have any advantage over anyone else when it comes to ridding ourselves of off-the-mark beliefs, for we are just as human as Christians as those who believe in other gods.

The truth of belief is though  I may believe something as true, this doesn’t make it reality or fact, which means it doesn’t necessarily make it is true.  So strong belief doesn’t indicate or dictate what is true.

Here’s the crux of the point I want to work from today:  If, as many claim today, all religions and beliefs are the same (as in they all point to god one way or another), then why is there such a worldwide effort to take the edge off their differences?

 As near as I can get to understanding it at this point in my life, those who ignore the differences do so in order to downplay specific moral obligations or teachings which might not be palatable to the Western mind.  Ideology tends to grow exclusive in its application and those who have thrown the door open to all beliefs have become more and more selective in what they accept or reject from all teachings.  It’s part of our natural tendancy to refine our “truths” down to the core principles.  The problem is, of course, the more we pare away the more “unacceptable” teachings in an ethic we “accept”, the less it makes sense within the context of its own origin, which means outside of its context, we can then make what it says mean anything we want it to mean.

The move to assimilate all teachings as true holds some validity, as far as I’m concerned, because I believe all teachings hold some truth.  The percentage of truth, however, is not necessarily the same.  I’d say most religions teach a majority of truth while tempering their truth with different teachings on how to practice it.  For instance, most religions teach the Golden Rule in one form or another, and Karma is just another way of speaking about the Christian teaching of sowing and reaping which both Jesus and Paul warned us about.  Karma, however, is the natural order of things acting out of our attracting good or evil results from our choices between them.  If we choose more good than evil, we receive more good than evil; and the converse is true as well.  The concept of sowing and reaping uses the same kind of reasoning to a degree but makes it more a dictate of God’s hand rather than natural, mindless results of choice.

In other words, what we sow and reap might be natural consequences of our choices, but the results also depend on the presence of God in our lives as well.  If God’s hand is on us, what we receive will be peace, joy and a sense of contentment.  Yet these latter results might be in complete contrast to what is happening around us or to us.  For instance, when Paul wrote to the Philippian church, he was in prison awaiting trial before Nero.  Yet he told them he had learned to be content no matter the circumstances because of Christ.  This flies in the face of the teaching of karma because karma is a works based program which uses circumstances to gage our behavior and choices. 

Jesus told us the world would hate us on account of Him.  This works against the concept of karma 100%.  However, in Christ, we will be mistreated, ostracized, marginalized, outcasts in our own blood relationships, persecuted and killed for our positive choice for Him.  He claims if we choose Him we are making a moral and righteous choice, therefore, if He is good, then accordiing to karma we should receive nothing but good from the universe.  But since He warns us we of rejection for wearing His name, concluding anything from our circumstances becomes a false trail leading to a wrong conclusion, for the two might be mutually exclusive.

If karma were true, why do we have so many books on why good things happen to bad people and bad things to good people?  The psalmist Asaph concluded God had put the wicked on a slippery slope to judgment (see Psalm 73), though a few verses before he complained,  “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain I have washed my hands in innocence.”  Those who work hard are not guaranteed wealth and those who are lazy don’t always end up poor.  Those who are honest are not guaranteed respect or rewards and those who are dishonest may gain great respect and rewards.  These are truths in our world displayed for all to see; our beliefs about them, for or against, don’t change the clear demonstraton of history.

Following this understanding we conclude that belief doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with truth and behavior may not have anything to do with results.  Therefore we choose truth based on not so much the reactions of others or the outcomes we might encounter but from the character it develops.  Again, as an illustration, just because it’s true there are terrorists in the world doesn’t make it a lifestyle I embrace or espouse.  Terrorists are a truth of this world, but their beliefs are not in harmony with the teachings of Jesus, therefore, accordingly, we believe them to be completely false.

Another truth we must accept is that we cannot prove the Christian ethic to the world around us as true except by the lives we live.  In other words, the perceived truth of our ethic depends entirely on how we live it rather than what we say.  Jesus must make a change in us so radically different from what is generally accepted as normal that the contrast cannot help but shine.  We must display the fruits of the Spirit clearly in our dealings with not only the world at large but within our closest associations.  This is not to say the world will or does accept our lifestyle or beliefs as true, but at least they will see the truth of it displayed in our behavior and attitude.

Jesus told us to stand for Him no matter what the reaction of the world around us—this could mean our family or country.  This truth subjugates us to inner results rather than outside consequences.  We begin to see God’s way as the only way for us, therefore the reactions of others lose significance or weight to sway our choices in this matter.  Paul tells us that as far as it depends on us, we must live at peace with all men.  This is not a request but a command or dictate of Christ-likeness; to sidestep this truth negates our belief in His truth and sets Jesus up for public ridicule.  So we live an ethic which is not works based and cannot be so, for works based ethics depend on results to gage success or failure.  Our grace based ethic depends on the character of Christ growing in us to demostrate our success.


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2 Responses to “Troubleshooting Belief”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    That verse in Romans is the verse that scares the hell out of me! God gave them over to their own lies and desires. It’s the place where we believe our own lies and see them as truths. My one prayer to God regularly is know me, search me and let me know when I am totally wrong because I never want to be where you’re not.

  2. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    I think all of us are capable and probably practicing in some form self-deception, it’s kinda’ unavoidable. What think Paul is getting at in Romans, though, is more the lies which direct one’s thinking away from salvation and upright living.

    We all grow to know truth at different rates, therefore we can conclude our ability to see the lies we practice or have been convinced of will also be cleared up at varied times as well. I don’t believe God worries too much about it as long as we are pointing ourselves in His direction where He can work on us.

    It’s part of the sanctification process Paul speaks about in Philippians 2:13. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling because we want to please God. If this is true, then we confront every sin face to face and don’t avoid the truth of it—even if we can’t beat right away or for a long time. At least we admit that it’s sin and submit to God by confessing it as such in repentence.

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