Friday, December 2, 2011

The Importance of Right Beliefs

As a Christian, how important are 'right beliefs'?  Does it really matter what I believe so long as Jesus is my savior and I live a good life?  Are all beliefs equally important?  I have grappled with questions similar to these over the years as I have studied and come to grips with what I personally believe, and why.  For me, the answers to the above questions are, 'It depends', 'Yes', and 'No'.

The Importance of Right Beliefs
So just why are my beliefs important?  I believe there are a number of reasons for this including:

  • The truth is important.  What I believe is important because I want to believe what is true.  It is more important to me to have right beliefs than just popular beliefs.
  • My beliefs will shape how I view God.  Is he a loving God who cares about what happens to people, or is he a judgmental God who punishes sin, or is he indifferent to what goes on here?
  • My beliefs will also affect how I see myself serving God.  Is he satisfied with me living a good life, regularly going to church and contributing to the offering?  Or does he equipment me for service within his kingdom and expect me to be more actively involved?
  • My beliefs can also impact how I relate to others in the church.  Do we come together to be ministered to, in which case I am concerned what others can do for me.  Or do we come together to minister, in which case I am more concerned with what I can do for others.
  • And how I view the world around me will be affected by what I believe.  Are the folks in Somalia godless heathen deserving only judgment.  Or are they lost and in need or a savior.  Or are they hungry and in need of what we have to offer them.
In my mind, beliefs are critically important if they impact my relationship with God.  They are moderately important if they impact my relationship with other believers and my ability to work alongside them, or if they make a big impact on how I serve God.  They are not important if they do not impact my service for God in any appreciable way nor affect my fellowship with other believers.  It is worth noting here that not everyone will agree concerning where the division should be.  What I might view as relatively unimportant may be viewed as of utmost importance to someone else, and thus impacting my ability to serve alongside them.


Critically Important Beliefs
I do believe that there are some beliefs that are vital if one is to call himself (or herself) a Christian.  I tend toward looking at the emphasis the scriptures place on some beliefs to evaluate their importance.  For instance Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God and then tells us two things about faith: we must believe that God exists, and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  So those would seem to be critically important beliefs.

In 1 John 4:2-3 John emphasizes the importance of acknowledging that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.  Those who do are of God, while those who do not are not of God.  John makes it clear in this letter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that he is divine.  But here he also says he is a man; that he has come in the flesh.  Belief that Jesus is God as well as human is a critical belief according to John.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 Paul identifies those beliefs that were of first importance, including the redemptive death of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead.  I find it hard to understand how one could claim to be a follower of Jesus who disputes that he died for them and rose to bring them new life.  These beliefs are critical according to Paul.

Christianity is based on belief
  • in the existence of God
  • that he has a future for those who seek him
  • that Jesus is God and man
  • that Jesus death was redemptive
  • that his resurrection brings new life.
If a person disputes one of these foundational beliefs, are they really Christians, at least in the Biblical sense?

Beliefs that are not important
On the other hand, what difference does it make where I stand concerning the rapture / tribulation / millennium kingdom?  For the first year of my Christian journey I was a pre-trib pre-millennialist, but after some serious study of the Bible instead of Hal Lindsey I became a post-trib pre-millenialist.  And I find that at some time in my life I have become an amillennialist.  While some will view me as moving further and further into heresy because of this, I have a hard time understanding what real difference it makes, other than in the position I take when discussing last things.  My faith in God is unchanged, the way I live my life is unchanged, and my hope for the future is unchanged.  Nor should this difference in belief affect my ability to worship and serve alongside of people with contrasting beliefs.  I would personally view what you believe about the rapture / tribulation / millennium kingdom as relatively unimportant.

How important is the reconciliation of Jesus genealogies in Matthew and Luke?  While I would like to know the truth about it, I can really think of little practical value that it would provide to me.  At this point it is an unknown to me, and I don't worry too much about it.  It is relatively unimportant.

Important but non-critical beliefs
But there is a middle ground here as well, beliefs that are important, but not necessarily critical to my claim to being a child of God.  Biblical inerrancy is an example of this.  Which side of this debate I stand on does not impact my salvation, so long as I hold to the critical beliefs.  But it can dramatically impact what I believe about a number of other things, such as the Genesis stories and the place of women in the church. And that can make it difficult to serve closely with others who have a different belief on some of these hot topic items.

Who is called to serve God, a selected few, or all believers?  While I do not believe your answer to this question will impact your salvation, it will affect your relationship to God.  If he has called all of us to serve and yet I am satisfied with delegating that service to a professional clergy, then I am not going to be looking for his leading in my life and for opportunities to serve him.  It is the difference between being a spectator and a participant in the kingdoms work.  This is an important belief because of the impact it will have on my life, my relationship to other believers, and, most importantly, my walk with God.  But this is not a critical belief because it does not affect my salvation.

Conclusion
I do believe that each of us is responsible to God for our beliefs.  It is important to know what you believe and why.  And it is important to seek the truth.  Prayerfully search the scriptures, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide you into truth.  Know and understand what your church teaches.  Don't be afraid to ask other people the what's and why's of their beliefs, but remember your own personal responsibility in the matter.  Focus most on those beliefs that are more important, that most impact your relationship with God and with your fellow believers.  Become rooted and grounded in the faith and resistant to every strange teaching that comes your way.  That is the path to maturity in your faith.

12 comments:

  1. Hard to take you seriously when you say "truth is important" yet you do not reject Biblical claims falsified by science. Instead you call them metaphors.

    When that fails even for your level of cognitive dissonance you revert to believing without evidence because that same book claims that God requires exactly that.

    Life is short, you have wasted enough time on this nonsense, time to reject what has been falsified and leave your world a better place for your progeny.

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  2. Does the truth mean anything to you? I am actually quite willing to simply label the scientifically inaccurate parts as being scientifically inaccurate. I feel no need to label them as metaphor.

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  3. "What difference does it make where I stand concerning the rapture / tribulation / millennium kingdom?"

    If a person's beliefs about end times lead them to believe the end could not possibly come yet, this hurts one's ability to prepare for Christ's immanent coming. If a person believe Christ will rule on earth for a 1000 years, he believes Christ's kingdom will be of this world, and will be spiritually distracted by such earthly things as politics and geography. If the millennium is a "second chance" for unbelievers, it puts a damper on my own spiritual preparation and on my mission zeal.

    I believe that if the Bible teaches it, then it is a critical teaching. Yes, faith in Christ alone is what saves. But every teaching in Scripture is connected to "faith in Christ" in some way.

    Can you find any statement in Scripture that leads us to believe that there are critical and non-critical teachings of Christ?

    Regards,
    Mike

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  4. Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable,
    and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all
    liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and
    brimstone: which is the second death.


    What is "unbelievers get thrown into a lake of fire"
    supposed to mean, Ed?

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  5. Michael, 1 Corinthians 15:3 tells me that there are some beliefs that are of 'first importance', implying that there are others that are not as important.

    My use of the term 'critical beliefs' was not meant to imply that others had no value to me. Rather they are beliefs that are essential if one is to be a Christian, at least in the New Testament sense.

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  6. Certainly, of first importance is faith in Christ crucified for me. This does not warrant your claim that there are tiers of doctrine that can be ranked from most important to least important. Every teaching of Christ ties in to the central "Christ crucified" hub. Think spokes on a bicycle tire. Every spoke (doctrine) is important for the strength of the wheel (faith.) And of course, take out the hub (Christ crucified) and every spoke is useless.

    My point is that I see no indication anywhere in Scripture that Christ considers some of the spokes vital, and others optional, negotiable or malleable. He himself said we must teach them (all nations) *everything* he commanded. (Matt. 28:19-19).

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  7. Well we are just going to disagree on this then. I truly believe that what I believe about who Jesus is and what he came to do affects my salvation. I do not believe whether I accept a post or pre tribulational view of end times impacts my salvation, my relationship with God, or in general my ability to serve alongside other believers. And that, after all, was what this blog post was about.

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  8. Let's just take "End Times" as an example. Say a Christian has an End Time belief which causes them to focus on politics instead of spiritual realities. Wouldn't this spiritual distraction weaken their faith? I agree that in most people it won't destroy their faith... just like a little bit of rat poison in your dinner won't kill you. In fact, in small enough quantities, it might not even make you ill. But does that mean that putting rat poison in meals is advisable or something we would do right to ignore?

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  9. Michael, I have never intended to say that it makes no difference what we believe concerning the non-critical things. I want to know and hold to the truth and I believe all Christ followers should as well. But, if I am walking in faith, what practical difference should it make in my life whether or not I believe that there will be a literal 1000 year reign of Christ on this earth? It should not affect how how live my life now.

    Focusing on politics, or anything else in this world, to the neglect of my faith, is something I could do even if I did have the 'correct' view of end times.

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  10. Hi, I personally believe that Faith comes about because of knowledge in the first place. And I think that God (at least the God I know) is not so superficial as to condemn people to eternal suffering based on what they know or what they don't know. Rather, He is God of the heart, a piece of knowledge given.. Is considered a talent. My God (the God I know) will judge based on what is given to the individual (much is given, much is expected). So a piece of knowledge of the salvation of Jesus Christ that is given, fruits of the Holy Spirit is expected, from the faith of such.

    There are many others who do not know God, no doubt their good deeds may not grant them any favor in the eyes of the Most High, but judgment belongs to God and Him alone. I think God's grace is sufficient, to cover even those whom are ignorant of the truth. (or have incomplete or partial knowledge) That is the power of salvation. For by faith, they believed in the good, in their conscience, that their deeds or how they lived their lives will have an effect no matter whether they have a piece of correct knowledge. And God is a God of the heart, He sees the hearts of men, and He knows each by name. He calls everyone to Him because His mercy is great. But of course, He awards those whom are faithful, and those who have turned from the faith He also rejected. (that is conscience, by killing and raping or etc etc) Haha i personally think a rapist cant be forgiven but a murderer can still be forgiven... Why? Maybe that's me. But He forgives those who repents. Since He is the God of the heart, so faith comes from hearing the truth, and believing in the truth. And faith will guide the heart.

    I also believe in blood, as in blood ties. I think the Bible put an emphasis on blood ties. (this is coming to dangerous grounds of beliefs) From generations to generations, the bible emphasize how one generation blood ties to another generation. So i think, salvation maybe related by blood as well. Why? Consider a baby who died at the age of 3 months old. The parents were grieved because the baby did not know Jesus? But the parents know the Lord and has commissioned their baby to God already! So i think God knows the baby because of the parents, in the same way, from generations down, God will draw all by their blood ties, all the way back to Adam the first man.


    Too many things I think God works by His ways and His mysteries no one can fathom. So cannot judge anyone's faith, to each his own! As long as at the end of the day, they answer to their God of their own heart and soul (conscience). And to those whom have been given divine knowledge, consider yourself the firstborn (Jesus is elder brother firstborn, we are like the Israel (firstborn), and through us many will be blessed, but final judgment and flames belong to God and the LORD alone. What I speak maybe profound hidden knowledge, and I am not sure whether anyone may understand my point of view, or if it mattered even if they did understand, but since a lack of knowledge only serves to break the conscience and lead the heart astray, i guess sharing this piece of knowledge is somewhat good in a way. Correct me if I am wrong. =)

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  11. Hi again its me, haha I thought I will come back here and post to be accountable for my actions. Ok yest I consulted a bible teacher of my church and learnt some new things. For the case scenario of the 3 month old baby, the baby is not morally accountable for his/her sins. God does not hold the baby accountable because the baby is blameless, same as with the juvenile court logic. There is a few bible passages supporting this including David's child who died and God sparing the people under a certain age when they sinned against God at mount Sinai. So, once a person is mature and can be held accountable for their actions, they will be held responsible. So does that mean it is better to be young den be old??? I think it depends on what is given, a balancing scale is in place here, more that is given, more will be expected. For eg, if a person is mentally retarded at the age of 60 but still thinks like a 5 year old, I don't think they will be held accountable.. yes? Since they cannot perhaps even understand the logic of Christ and the need of a Savior. What they can only understand perhaps are direct needs and perhaps a heart to heart link with Christ that cannot be fully interpreted in their mind.


    Oh and another thing, that we are saved for the relationship and not saved because of the relationship. That means something. That our relationship with Christ begins after salvation? I guess that is true in a way. So prior to salvation, people (by conscience) instinctively know there is a greater being, a creator, and a God (like in athens the God somewhere paul saw). So God already put in our conscience that He is there and He is real, that we must find out who He is and establish that lost relationship with Him through Jesus Christ our savior.

    I think in a way it is good that our mind is wiped clean from full knowledge so grace can be extended to us. I think if Adam the first man knew that the serpent was deceiving him and his wife he wouldnt have eaten the fruit yes? But because he didnt knew and was deceived by the serpent, God's grace to adam came in the form of Jesus Christ. That man would be blameless but not sinless. the serpent however is not spared from God's judgment cause the serpent KNEW what is true. But purposely went against God, similarly I think what the bible means by blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is when people purposely go against God when they already have full knowledge knowing what they are doing is a sin and rebelling against God (that would be the ultimate sin like the serpent). So we see here how important is knowledge is metting out judgment.

    Overall, I think.... Ignorance perhaps... Is indeed a bliss. Hahahah but cannot be completely ignorant because hosea 4:6 says ignorance will destroy God's people. But full knowledge will not come about (adam dont have full knowledge either). Only God is omni scient and we will never be equipped with full knowledge. we can however be equipped more so as to be on guard against the devil's schemes. But, hmm... more knowledge.. more accountable for your actions as more is given more is expected... Zzzz den how... better dont learn too much?? Hahhaa not true, at the end of the day is the heart of worship, heart of obedience, heart of wanting to know God, a contrite heart of worship, to experience God on earth in spirit AND in Truth. - Truth is knowledge that is true. When you worship God in spirit and in truth, that pleases God. To worship and love Him with all heart(desire), mind(truth), soul(emotion) and strength(physical actions).

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    Replies
    1. Hi to clarify things abit, the part on the blood ties turns out to be wrong on my part and that my understanding was slurred. To put it simply, salvation is by faith in Christ alone.

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