Why do you believe what you believe? Last week I discussed the important idea that not every belief is created equal; in fact, some beliefs are outright wrong. Just because an individual is sincere and devout about a particular set of ideas does not make them true. This may be a hard “pill” to swallow, but truth is important and grasping truth is important.
For instance, the idea that the earth is the center of the universe, geocentrism, was the commonly held belief among the best and brightest minds for 1,500 years following Ptolomy’s work, “Almagest”, which codified this model in the second century AD. However, the idea was wrong. We know this today: the earth is not the center of the universe. That is not to say that Ptolomy was an idiot and we should make fun of him. Nor were those who came after him who believed in and even built off of his work. Yet the fact remains they were wrong about the geocentric model of the universe. Is that rude or mean-spirited to say? Is it wrong to point out?
Do you believe anything that is false? “Well,” you may respond, “that’s a stupid question. Why would anyone knowingly believe something that is false?” That is exactly the point. No one thinks any of their beliefs are wrong, otherwise they wouldn’t believe them. But obviously, with all of the varying and contradictory beliefs out in the world, some people must be wrong. Now, I don’t know about you, but I do not want to base my life on false ideas and assumptions. I want, as much as humanly possible, to know and believe only that which is true. Therefore, I am constantly examining my ideas and beliefs in order to discern whether or not they are viable. When was the last time you questioned a firmly held belief? Whether the topic is political ideologies, sociological concerns, or religious beliefs, are you willing and able to assess what you have thought to be the truth?
Now, obviously I am personally coming from a particular perspective and worldview and I am not shy about it. I am writing as a Bible-believing, Christ-following, local church pastor; however, I commend inquiry to all people, even those I shepherd in the local church. You see, if one believes they possess truth about any given subject, there should be no fear of examination. Truth remains truth even in the midst of intense scrutiny.
Likewise, the Bible itself commends people to examine whatever is presented as truth. Contrary to commonly held assumptions, Biblical Christianity does not require nor demand blind faith. Rather, any idea put forth is to be scrutinized. The Apostle Paul writes, “Test everything; hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).” Christians are not simply to believe something because a leader or teacher asserts it as truth.
In fact, the Bible praises the people of the ancient city of Berea because they did not simply believe Paul’s preaching; instead they examined his teaching, thought it through, and weighed his logic in order to come to a conclusion. “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11).” Similarly, as I present truth in my own local church, I constantly remind the congregation to not simply believe something because I say it, but to test what I say. Again, truth has nothing to fear.
On my bookshelf are a number of volumes with which I have enormous disagreements, authors ranging from Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens to Bart Ehrman and Rob Bell, each with its own slant and each trying to uproot historical Christianity in its own way. Why are these books be in my office? Why would I want to read through pages and pages of material that I believe to be false information? Because inquiry is important and truth has nothing to fear. I am willing to give these authors a fair hearing. I am willing to listen to their arguments and to try to understand where they are coming from. Finally, I then am able to make an educated, well thought-out response to that which I disagree with in their belief systems. This is what healthy dialogue looks like, listening and thinking before responding.
Are there books or articles that you won’t read because they go against your worldview? Do you believe that the “other side” has nothing to say that will ever change your mind, so you will never give them a fair listen? Do you have religious leaders who warn you to stay away from “anti” material, content that goes against your organization, and to only consume material produced by your particular group? Surely, truth has nothing to fear, so why not do the research, read the books, have the conversation with a person who has opposing views? In the end, don’t we all just want to know what is true? Or does our pride and arrogance come before truth and inquiry?
Over the next few weeks, I want to engage each reader with a number of arguments and propositions intended to get us all to examine what we think we know. If you consider yourself a Christian, an atheist, a spiritualist, or nothing at all, I encourage you to read and test what is presented. Let us humbly seek truth together.
Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to AskPastorJones@gmail.com.
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ