Why do you believe what you believe?
Over a quarter century ago, a church with a Christian school suddenly lost their Pastor and asked me to teach his Bible class at the school. Shortly before they asked, I had gone through a series of events that gave me a burden about Christendom. My concern came because I found so many believers that could tell me what they believed, but had great difficulty telling me why they believed it.
Within the classroom, there would be a diversity of churches and denominations represented. When I gave an explanation to the class on how the studies would be structured, they were shocked.
First, the class voted on the topics discussed. Regardless of the subject, it was still a Bible class, and we would look at the issues in light of the Bible.
Second, the grades would not come from a test, but at the end of a topic, I wanted the students to tell me what they believed about said topic and, most importantly, why they believed it. I would not grade them on if they agreed with me, but on how well their arguments were Biblically-based. Using Scripture with a logical progression was a must.
It was a fantastic half of the school year; these high school kids saw the Bible come to life. Nearly all the students have been attending church every Sunday since the day they were born. Almost all of them could give an extensive list of the things they believed.
However, when the class began, few, if any, could explain why they believed what they believed. It was beautiful to watch as these teenagers, for the first time in their life was putting A+B=C into their faith. Once a person knows why they believe what they believe it makes it easier to put your faith to practical use in life.
For decades, when I ask Christians “why?” Often I am met with stammers, or, “It is what the church teaches” or, “That is what my Preacher says.” or “It’s in the Bible, I don’t know where, but the Bible talks about it somewhere.” What they believe may be spot on, but their explanations will fail any high school debate class. The problem is not that people have a hard time expressing themselves; the problem is there is no study, no deep conviction, no searching the scripture for themselves.
Those kids in my class all came from good Christian parents, but less than a handful could explain why they believed what they believed. Either there was a lack of teaching the purpose behind the doctrines or the explanations had never sunken in, or they had never seen the beliefs lived out in life.
A couple of generations of not being able to explain the “why” to our beliefs leads us to a generation of Christians where their views have no Biblical base. Faith and the belief system instead of being placed on the Bible now finds its foundation on an individual’s emotions.
Example – the word “hell” is found in 54 verses of the Bible. Hell, also called the place of eternal punishment, “the bottomless pit,” “the lake of fire,” among other things. Hell is a topic found throughout the Bible. I have heard professing Christians say things like, “Hell?, Any God that would throw people into a lake of fire is not a God I want to believe. My God would never do such a thing.”
Why does this person not believe in hell? She has no Biblical backing at all. The thought of hell is so painful to her, she blocked it out of her belief system and created a God within her mind that would never allow punishment for sins.
I have also heard Christians mention that God would never be angry at someone because He loves them. The passage that gives us the great explanation of God’s love in John 3:16 ends with John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
Why do you believe what you believe? Is it your gut feeling? Is it because it is the teaching of the church you attend? Is it because you refuse to accept the alternative? Or is it because you use Scripture to lay a foundation of truth to build your faith?
Timothy Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Kingman, Indiana. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sermons and archived Preacher’s Points can be found at www.preacherspoint.wordpress.com.