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Friday, May 18, 2007

Why do you believe...?

Missy said...

KC, maybe an interesting question would be whether one can believe what they do not have at least a basic understanding of?
Kc said...

Missy, that’s an excellent question and I think one that cuts to the very core of our faith. I would understand any question pertaining to epistemology to be easily addressed by the scripture but since my understanding, in itself, is a rationalization I have to remain open to a better understanding.

Why do you believe something you don’t understand?

Labels: ,

25 Comments:

Anonymous rrbj said...

Why do you believe something you don't understand ? KC that question is in the back of many peoples minds. First I must say from a very early age I was taught ? I think most little children start with the first song they ever learn " Jesus Loves Me This I Know cause The Bible Tells Me So " ? I think that among other songs we start as little ones to learn and add more knowledge in our minds as we grow older? Sure there is many questions that bounce around in our head but that is where the parents and Sunday school teachers along with lots of fellowship in Bible studies will help to grow us in our knowledge of Who God is ? I think anyone who has questions about our creator would just take the time and look all around them that they should know that man was not intelligent enough to create our surroundings and make our weather conditions as we see them? As it says in the book of Genesis God wrote to help us to know Who He is ! I believe that the reason our world is like it is and sad so many people rebel against christianity is the parents fault {not always }to start teaching their children at an early age ? Blessings. Ron.

5/18/2007 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

I don't know what you mean.

But I believe you.

; )

5/18/2007 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger Missy said...

KC, when I asked that question, I was referring to the belief in a creed - or more specifically, the expectation of someone to agree to one they do not understand. I asked because it seems like it would take years to understand many of the affirmative statements made in Christian creeds, if not a lifetime. Like signing a contract only later to discover that a carefully worded phrase meant that you had to paint yourself red once a month and swim with sharks or be subject to torture through full- body illumination (that would mean "lit on fire").

Like Dorsey, I get that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are real, but I do not understand the full theological concept of "The Trinity" and to some Christians, refusing to acknowledge that very complicated theology denies my place in God's kingdom.

SO, in a round-about way, I'm trying to say that my answer would have been that I can't believe in something I do not understand.

The truth, however, is that I place faith in things I do not understand all the time. I know that when I flip a switch a light will come on, but I have no idea how. I believe the wisdom or knowledge of trusted friends many times without confirmation.

My faith in God, however, FEELS like it comes with an understanding. It is not an understanding that comes with knowledge though. It can seem reasonable, but if I stop to think about it, it's not really. I can never understand God. But I believe. I CAN understand Jesus. Maybe that's why I can believe God - through the wisdom and knowledge of a trusted friend?

5/18/2007 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

I think Missy may have hit upon an apt analogy. I haven't thought it through, but here goes.

I flip the switch, and trust the light to come on. I don't understand it (well, I do, cuz it's my job, but, let's just say.), but I believe in the ability of the guy who wired the switch (which, again, was me, but let's pretend it was somebody else). It's easy to trust in that guy's ability to wire a switch, so long as the light keeps working. But, when the light flickers, or only comes on sometimes, or worse, tries to defibrillate you when you touch it, then you start to wonder if the guy who wired your switch got his electrical education at The Ray Charles Institute of Technology.

In the other post, I said that a creed or confession that I have not arrived at by my own wrestling can be a dangerous shortcut to belief. Perhaps short-circuit would have been a better term.

Paul talked about working it out yourself. I appreciate the efforts of others to do it for me, but the flickering lights and their Stevie Wonder Seminary t-shirts make me hesitate.

5/18/2007 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous rrbj said...

Missy and Dorsey I probably didn't make it clear but I don't understand all of it either and I agree with what you all said ! I do however agree that the illustration in my comment has an awful lot to do with our getting more of an understanding at a later time in our life! I believe in Gods Word but there are a lot of scriptures I don't understand fully? I also believe that if you put the light switch anology that is said in comparision with what the Book Of John says and turn on Gods light in your world which separates Light from Darkness in our lives , then the reflection of our lives will be more like Jesus ? Blessings. Ron.

5/18/2007 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

You guys are brilliant, as usual. I have quite a few thoughts on this subject (spread out all over my blog) and I'll try to pull them together into something coherent this weekend.

The crux of my thinking comes down to revelation vs rationalization. I don’t believe that spiritual matters are discerned rationally but that, once discerned, the rational becomes apparent.

5/18/2007 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger Missy said...

Br. Ron, I was not countering your thoughts at all! Just as I learned the "three R's" in school, I also gained much of what I know of the Bible as a child - although not from my parents. I also agree that understanding can be progressive.

KC, I think I understand some of what you mean. Based on my personal testimony, I agree very much with a sort of revelational understanding. Not so much like a vision or prophesy, but rather the Gospel being presented at such a time in my life that my ears could hear and my eyes could see - a moment of clarity in the timing, if you will. But I will admit I have not done much personal study on the matter.

I have been studying the story of Jesus and the woman at the well, which has made it very apparent that each encounter with Christ is so very personal. There is no "cookie-cutter" approach to faith, try as we might to make it so. Dorsey, I think I agree with your revision of "shortcut" to "short-circuit" - because it's often a false assumption that another man's path will get us there.

My two-cents, again. Change back would be appreciated!

5/18/2007 07:29:00 PM  
Anonymous rrbj said...

Thanks Missy but I didn't think that at all ? I just wanted to let you all understand that I don't fully understand the Trinity either but I do believe what the Bible teaches us ? I appreciate your comments because they are always interesting . I'm sorry I couldn't give you any change back but I do wish everyone a Blessed weekend ? Ron.

5/18/2007 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

One can believe in a thing one is aware of but does not understand, but one cannot believe in a thing if one does not understand that it exists.

5/19/2007 04:06:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Well said Matthew. Revelation is critical.

Ron, having your thoughts here is priceless to me. ;-)

5/19/2007 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Gordon Cloud said...

There are times that faith can lead us to understanding.

I don't have my Bible right here in front of me so I may not have the exact verse correct, but I think it is Hebrews 11:3 that states, "By faith we understand that the worlds were formed."

I think sometimes God presents truth that requires us to believe before we can gain an understanding of it. It seems as if His leading us to greater knowledge is His response to our faith.

There's probably a sermon or two in there somewhere.

5/19/2007 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

I think Gordon has hit on a key point to a lot of understanding the things of Scripture... I didn't understand the position of convenantal/infant baptism when I first accepted it. In fact, I accepted the position because I knew there were godly men in my life that had accepted that position, and they seemed by far, more godly than those I knew who railed against the position. It wasn't until I accepted that it could be a valid position that I saw the truth of the matter on my own. The point is not infant baptism, but much of the truth in Scripture must be accepted before we fully understand it, and quite frankly, I don't think we will ever fully understand much of it. Who can fathom the mind of God?

The problem I have with some of the rejection that is being put forth here is that you are basing your acceptance or rejection on your ability to understand it. This seems, and I tread lightly, a bit arrogant because it seems like we are saying that unless little ol me can understand the truths handed down to us from the apostles, or it's not acceptable, then that exalts little ol me to the height of what should and should not be believed in Christendom. I know that we are bound by conscience, but where is the humility in all of that?

Can we not say: I believe in the Trinity, not because I fully understand it, but because those who are more godly than I have helped us to see that this is the best representation of God found in Scripture? Or, are we in the spirit of the age, going to do each according to our own will?

The scriptures say that we are to submit to our elders, and that means those that God has used in past ages as well. If they are wrong on an area, and can be proven wrong using scripture, yes we throw that out. But where the bulk of truth is found, and support for their arguments for doctrine, should we not humbly submit to it? Especially regarding a key and important doctrine like the Trinity, which is Theology proper, or that which He has revealed about Himself.

Part of me thinks that so much of what is put forth in Christendom today is simply a disguised way of saying: "Just Jesus and me!" Well, no, God never intended the church to be a group of individuals living out their faith by themselves, determining what is right and not right. The church is, after all, a body... and therefore something far more organic than most of us are willing to admit.

That is why heresy is so dangerous. It is a cancer, and needs to be cut from the body... but I don't think many here would agree...


Blessings

5/19/2007 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Pastor what you described is exactly what I refer to as understanding.

"I knew there were godly men in my life that had accepted that position, and they seemed by far, more godly than those I knew who railed against the position. It wasn't until I accepted that it could be a valid position that I saw the truth of the matter on my own"

We first have a suspicion of truth, either through proposition or observation. We then rationalize and determine whether the proposition be true and judge it to be so or not based on our own reasoning. The basis of our faith is then layered, first in our confidence of the one(s) proposing a truth or our own observation and then second in our own rationalization and ability to clearly understand. While I consider this effort essential if we are to honestly say that we walk by faith I think it a grievous error to consider our understanding to be knowledge of God. The only accounts given in scripture where this type of understanding is to be binding on the Church is where the whole were in agreement and covenanted together.

In order to contrast this understanding with the knowledge of God that comes by faith first consider your conversion. Did the one preaching Christ first have your confidence through which you then rationalized all he said to be true or did the truth of what he was saying burn in your heart as if you had never heard it before? Wasn't the knowledge of Christ was revealed in your heart and against all reason you believed it, not because of your rationalization, but only because God, in His infinite love, allowed you to clearly perceive it? Given this perception, coupled with the insistence of His Spirit, you determined, or accepted, these things concerning Christ to be true. Beyond this I can only ask you to contrast your understanding to those times, that for no apparent reason, certain scriptures are called to remembrance and their meaning made clear or perhaps those times when reason would conclude all hope is lost but instead you're filled with the peaceful assurance that all is well. I say that this alone is knowledge of God and all else is only speculation on our part.

"The problem I have with some of the rejection that is being put forth here is that you are basing your acceptance or rejection on your ability to understand it. This seems, and I tread lightly, a bit arrogant because it seems like we are saying that unless little ol me can understand the truths handed down to us from the apostles, or it's not acceptable, then that exalts little ol me to the height of what should and should not be believed in Christendom"

If it were the truths handed down by the Apostles that were in question then I would be in total agreement. I'm concerned that what's happened is that we've elevated our theologies in our own minds to the same level of authority as these truths.

"I know that we are bound by conscience, but where is the humility in all of that?"

I think this is an excellent point and one I know I am guilty of overlooking far too often. If we are to commend others to the scripture then we have to be willing to confess our own ignorance. I think far too often we feel pressed to have an answer for every question asked and I can only think that it is nothing but pride that would cause us to "fill in the blanks" on those points where the scripture is silent with our own theology as if it were Apostolic Doctrine.

"Can we not say: I believe in the Trinity, not because I fully understand it, but because those who are more godly than I have helped us to see that this is the best representation of God found in Scripture?"

In order for the term to have meaning the doctrines that comprise the foundations for the construct of the Trinity must be clearly articulated from the scripture or otherwise we are simply agreeing to use the same term to reference the Godhead. I suspect that this particular term may be one of the very first examples of the problems created when we elevate theology above doctrine and substitute scripture with theological terminology. I know of no local assemblies that actually take the time to explain the scriptural foundation for this concept but worse than this is the fear instilled in any who would venture to question it even in the hope of finding some understanding.

"Or, are we in the spirit of the age, going to do each according to our own will?"

I would sadly concede that this is the case but I would point to the proliferation of dogma and denominations as the evidence and not the heartfelt desire of many to return to the teachings of Christ and the Apostols.

"The scriptures say that we are to submit to our elders, and that means those that God has used in past ages as well. If they are wrong on an area, and can be proven wrong using scripture, yes we throw that out. But where the bulk of truth is found, and support for their arguments for doctrine, should we not humbly submit to it? Especially regarding a key and important doctrine like the Trinity, which is Theology proper, or that which He has revealed about Himself."

I would say that the key here is in finding "the bulk of the truth". I'm concerned that for many that effort is thwarted from the onset. Too often we fail to give an answer for the hope within us and offer instead our justification for asserting ourselves against those with the arrogance to dare and question it. With respect to the construct of the Trinity, I say again we've attempted to short cut the Apostolic Doctrines with a theological construct that, no matter how true, only serves to obscure what God has revealed about Himself.

"Part of me thinks that so much of what is put forth in Christendom today is simply a disguised way of saying: "Just Jesus and me!" Well, no, God never intended the church to be a group of individuals living out their faith by themselves, determining what is right and not right. The church is, after all, a body... and therefore something far more organic than most of us are willing to admit."

I absolutely agree but isn't that exactly what we have within each denomination, "a group of individuals living out their faith by themselves"? The type of dialog that we're having here could never take place inside of any local assembly and yet that's exactly where it should be occurring! Why isn't it? Why do we have to step outside of the assembly before we can even discuss theology or the issues that hinder fellowship and the growth of the body? The first Churches always addressed these things in the assembly until Nice. The persecuted Church continued to do so. The early Reformers did so as well until Geneva and then againf the persecuted Church continued to do so.

"That is why heresy is so dangerous. It is a cancer, and needs to be cut from the body... but I don't think many here would agree..."

What is a heresy? How would we define it and how would we identify it? I would say it is a doctrine that contradicts the Doctrines of Christ and the Apostles and not simply a disagreement in theology or praxis.

5/20/2007 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Gordon Cloud said...

Bro. Timothy, when I was referring to faith leading to understanding, I was referring to truth revealed in Scripture,not creeds or systems of theology.

Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

While I know men of God in whom I have a great deal of confidence, I do not take anyone's word, other than God's, in matters of truth. As a believer, I have the Spirit-led ability to discern truth (as do all believers). God forbid that I should ever forfeit that right by simply accepting someone else's teaching without taking the time to search for the truth myself.

5/20/2007 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

"The scriptures say that we are to submit to our elders, and that means those that God has used in past ages as well."

Um, can you point me to the scriptures that say that (ALL of that)?

"Can we not say: I believe in the Trinity, not because I fully understand it, but because those who are more godly than I have helped us to see that this is the best representation of God found in Scripture? Or, are we in the spirit of the age, going to do each according to our own will?"

Y'know, I don't think it's a bad representation of God. It might even very well be the best representation available. But that doesn't elevate it to the level of an absolute truth (nor do I think it's critical to salvation).

I find this take-my-word-for-it theology to be another very dangerous shortcut to belief, and far more heretical than reserving judgement until it's settled in my own mind. Such myopic submission to the godlier-than-thou is what brought about the Spanish Inquisition and the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

5/20/2007 04:54:00 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Hi KC,
Well reasoned response...

Gordon and Dorsey
I need to think about your responses some more...

I will try to get back to all of you on Tuesday.
Many blessings

5/20/2007 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Mrs Zeke said...

I don't understand God's forgiveness of me but I believe because I can forgive and I delight in it.

I don't understand God's love but I believe it because I know how it can change so profoundly.

I don't understand Pharaoh's hard heart but I believe it because anyone else would have broke down but because God said so it was.


I don't understand the over 1908 gene mutations of Cystic Fibrosis but I know I have one and believe it.

I don't understand why I would ever submit to a man and I would have never believed it but I do for Zeke.

I don't understand Dorsey as much as I would like to but I believe if I called him at 3am he would answer.

I don't understand why I ever had to sin but I believe I am a sinner.

I don't understand most of anything really and most of everything I do is about a belief in something I don't understand.

Like we bloggers don't really understand everything about everyone who blogs but we believe what is typed by them.

CS Lewis thought that we are born with an innate sense of right and wrong or rather an innate sense of God and right. I believe this because of the countless children I have been around all from different environments. Maybe if Lewis is right that innate sense of we are born with is what makes us look to God in the first place and does not require understanding.

Be loved...you are

5/20/2007 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

"I don't understand Dorsey as much as I would like to..."

Me, neither.

"...but I believe if I called him at 3am he would answer."

You know it, sis (although you'll probably talk to Mrs. D first, I won't hear the phone at 3am. hehe).


I wish I more fully understood the mechanics of belief. It's tough enough deciding what to believe is true. The greater challenge is sorting through which beliefs really matter in real world living. Determinism is a fun debate, but it's largely irrelevant to my everyday life. Same with election, same with the trinity. My salvation is not dependent on believing someone else's description of God's nature, nor does it matter to me whether Jesus can be both God and His son. I have confessed with my mouth (and my keyboard) that Jesus Christ is Lord and I believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob raised Him from the dead. The evidence of that is the love that I have for others (alternately, the indictment of me is the love that I don't have, sometimes). I'm doing my best to shake all the other stuff that well-meaning people have told me is critical to being a good christian. I just don't believe THAT, anymore.

5/21/2007 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger Mrs Zeke said...

Well meaning people who have told me the same things have no idea the stumbling blocks they have thrown in front of me.

Can we believe simply because we realize ourselves left alone is a absolute self destruction with no need to consider others.

How would that make sense with the fact that we have the capacity to consider others?

I can scream from my rooftop Jesus Christ is Lord, type is with my keyboard and while that may or may not be enough what does it mean when I don't consider my brother?

Maybe understanding God has little to do with study and debate and more to do with understanding the people He puts in our path or at least trying to. The more I take the time to attempt to form real relationships the more God shows Himself. The more He shows the more I understand but my belief in Him is no different.

I don't understand that either my belief stays the same but it does. I know it is true that Jesus Christ is Lord it has so little to do with my understating or submission to Him or lack of submission.

I might start drinking :)

Anyway isn't understanding only based on what we think we know at the time? I mean God stays the same but don't we understand different things about Him at different times?

Love now tomorrow is not promised to anyone

5/21/2007 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

"Such myopic submission to the godlier-than-thou is what brought about the Spanish Inquisition and the Trinity Broadcasting Network."

ROTFL...Don't forget Jonestown & the freddy phelpses either.

"Why do you believe something you don't understand?"

I didn't think I did until I got married. :)

5/21/2007 09:48:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

mmm...careful quoting me...it could be "presbyopic"...I can never remember the difference.

; )

5/21/2007 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

I really appreciate everyone’s participation in this discussion. I’ve been considering the comments and it seems to me that our faith has much more to do with perception than reason and understanding and further that what we perceive is heavily influenced by what we value. IOW if we value the knowledge of God and look to Him for it then the more likely we are to perceive it. If we value the traditions of men and/or our own reasoning and philosophy then the more obscure our perception of God becomes. Oddly enough we seem to become more satisfied with the extent of our knowledge when we value these things whereas when we look to God then the more we perceive the more we realize how limited our knowledge really is.

The one exception I find to this observation is our common experience in conversion. In this case it is God’s love for us and not our value for Him that allows us to perceive Christ Jesus. If we then look to Christ I think we could never become satisfied with what we know of the truth and the knowledge of our ignorance would help serve to keep us humble before God and one another.

5/22/2007 04:41:00 AM  
Blogger Missy said...

Well stated, KC. I think that is my perception as well. However, I am fully aware that further knowledge could change it at any moment! {c;

Thanks for humoring me with the discussion. It very much altered my initial inclination. I think it was interesting that almost everyone is in agreement that you do not have to understand to believe, but can disagree in who to believe. That surprised me.

I can get understanding from many sources, but the understanding I get from God is that which I crave most.

5/22/2007 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger Mrs Zeke said...

I don't know KC, I can't jump on the perception concept. Because our perception is so often molded by circumstances and dependant on our self value (great, awful) I don't trust them much like emotions.

Perception unless God has gifted you with a sort of Divine perception and that would be like having knowledge you would have no way of obtaining will change.

However I also think if ones perceptions leads them to God then God has indeed blessed them. So I am not saying they are of no use.

Maybe in this sense I could agree...
If one has a perception and then ask God to erase it and give them the perception that is what He wants I could lean on perception more.

I say this even though I am a blessed person according to some with a fairly unnerving perception. It is a double edge sword if you will though because the danger is when God has granted you with correct perception and confusing that with thinking your perception is always correct.

Make sense?
Love you

5/22/2007 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Missy this discussion has been a blessing to me and I agree it’s wise to remain open to a better understanding.

Lady Z I think we’re in agreement. Our perception is so limited that we should probably never believe we see everything clearly yet it never fails that we are convinced that we do. We can only truly rely on the knowledge that God has revealed in our heart.

One thing you mentioned that I hope we can discuss soon is our perception of ourselves. I think that a proper self image is critical to our faith.

Love you too Sis!

5/23/2007 05:05:00 AM  

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