Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Oh, you can't help it. That's just what you believe.

So in one of my fantasy leagues James drops this little nugget of information. I haven't fully digested it but I thought I'd throw it out there and see what everyone else thought.

The nugget is: You can't choose your beliefs.

This statement can be proven with a simple test. Take something you believe and then choose to believe opposite. So I believe that my friend Cris is in California. I can say that Cris is in Virginia but I can't believe it.

Try it out and let me know if you can choose to believe something else. How does this impact us? Will it allow us to work better with "unbelievers" because they can't choose to believe?

It's head hurts.


  1. I'm confused...didn't you choose to believe whatever it was in the first place? And what about changing your mind about something? I guess that is more about changing an opinion, but my first comment still choose to believe something in the first place...maybe I'm just not completely understanding what you are saying.

  2. well, the thinking is thus. You have based your belief on statement of fact. I believe that you will be married on Oct 15th. I can't choose to believe that you are already married or that you will be married on a different day unless I receive more information that leads me to change that belief. Butno matter what, I can't choose it. The belief is the result.

  3. I think your examples are a little skewed because you are using, one could say, is an "absolute fact". Margie is getting married on October 15th - if you choose to believe otherwise then thats just dumb. She can prove it in hard physical form.

    In terms of believers and unbelievers - we are talking about faith more than belief. This is because we could never "absolutely" show somebody that Jesus is the Son of God. We can't walk them to Jesus in the physical form and say "see?" Thomas was an unbeliever until it was proven in the physical that Jesus had risen. But for us, faith is what we rely on when we speak of a "believer".
    To use your other example, you can physically prove Chris lives in California by taking somebody there and showing them. You are thus proving your belief by the physical - there was no faith involved there.

    We don't need to prove anything to an unbeliever, I think what we need to do is help guide them with their faith. The Holy Spirit will work within us if we seek righteous knowledge and wisdom to allow this process, but in the end it will be that person to knock on the door so the Lord can open it. To find what they seek. Not in the physical, but in the faith.

    And hey, nobody said unbelievers (read, nonfaithholders) aren't simply "choosing" to be ignorant either. For some, life is easier that way. You don't necessarily have to answer for anything, you can live in the grey, you can seem to the world of men as accepting by not classifying yourself through your faith.

    Faith is hard - it takes work - and to an extent, you choose to practice it. Not through belief, but faith.

    I think I read your post right...
    Good topic.

  4. To me Jesus' life and resurection are fact. Just like Margie getting married on the 15th and Cris living in CA.

    At times when I have tried to spread the word I've gotten frustrated because it would seem easy. Just believe and everything else will come. However, it's impossible for them to believe because they can't choose to.

    Try the test. Find something you beleive, and then choose to believe the opposite (or something different about it).

  5. I think the definition of faith is choosing to believe. If you can't choose, you don't have free will.

  6. I too believe those things of Jesus as fact. This goes without saying. But your belief, like with mine, is based on faith. There is nothing on this earth you can point to in the physical that will prove Jesus is the Son of God. You can show writings (aka the Bible and other manuscripts) that testify to such things. On a different note, you can show physical things that are related to Jesus (like his tomb, or places he spoke, etc.). But there is no way you can prove in the physical that Jesus is the Son of God. This fact, as we see it, requires faith. Faith is what drives our belief.

    I think we're getting mixed up here - but saying there is no way an unbeliever can choose to believe in Jesus as the Risen Lord if one day they believed differently is limiting the capability of the Lord and His Spirit which lives in all of us who believe through faith.

    Accurately, you said in your previous comment "unless I receive more information that leads me to change that belief". So, isn't that the key? Giving the information that will enable a nonbeliever to believe through faith?

    Many have chosen the faith. Many have chosen to not believe in very much of anything, Jesus included.

    I think they key word here is "fact". I can choose to believe the laptop I'm using now is running with the power of the planet Jupiter. But then I'd just be stupid because the FACT is, it's running on electricity and battery power.

    So - I guess what I'm saying is there is no way to factualize Jesus being the Son of God to an unbeliever. I can show the historical writings and manuscripts that testify to such things, but the choice for that person to believe will have to be made through faith.

    2 quotes (as best as I can remember them):
    "You have seen, therefore you believe (physical fact). Blessed are those who believe, yet do not see (faith)." (parentheticals added)

    To me, Jesus is saying (in a roundabout way) that he knows His Truth cannot be proven in the physical when you cannot see Him. Therefore, to believe, you need faith.

    "With men these things are impossible. But with God all things are possible"

    When talking to an unbeliever, I don't think it does us any good to throw our hands up and say that its impossible for them to believe in Christ as the Risen Savior. We would be limiting the power of the Spirit. With the Power - we can and will show people the proof of Jesus through the writings, and through our own faith.

    Hey, maybe what you are saying goes along with the blog where I started out saying "Some people hear what they want to hear" even in the face of absolutes that are contrary to what they want to hear. So I think what you're saying is, people will choose to believe what they want to choose to believe, even in the case of absolutes that are opposite to what they choose to believe. But in the case of Jesus as the Christ - there is no physical absolute. Therefore, we rely on the Spirit to guide the message - so that through FAITH, all may believe.

    Again, people also choose to be ignorant every day of their lives.

    On a sidenote:
    Dude, we spanked last night in Bball. Let's work it where we're on the same team all the time.

  7. Carl,

    I completely agree that we can't, by making a conscious decision, force ourselves to believe something that we haven't found to be supported by evidence or experience. For example, I could not simply choose to believe that God micromanages the universe. ;-)

    This is one of the reasons that I think we make a mistake to put too much emphasis on the importance of "faith" (as most Christians define it, meaning an absolute acceptance of certain factual claims about who Jesus was in relationship to God and the world) and not nearly enough emphasis on living the life to which Jesus called us. In a very real respect, what we believe to be true of the metaphysical order of the universe is simply beyond our control. Furthermore, and as has been pointed out in some of these comments, there is just no way to test or develop concrete evidence about some of these points of faith that are so frequently argued to be the linchpins of Christian salvation. This being the case, I cannot believe that God will condemn people to Hell for no better reason than that they things that they come to believe are not precisely accurate. Rather, I think that God's true concern is with our earnestness in trying to live the life to which we are called. In other words, I think the Bible teaches that God judges our hearts (character), not our minds (intelligence).

    To be clear, and as I said just yesterday in an email, this by no means detracts from our responsibility to teach the Truth about Jesus as it has been revealed to us. But I think it does very strongly influence the priority that we place on teaching Christianity as a system of belief as opposed to a way of life.

  8. Before I continue, I just would like to reiterate that these views are not necessairly my own. I'm just playing devil's advocate based off someone else's theory. :-)

    Hebrews 8:11 - Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

    So if I know that tomorrow is going to be sunny and 75 degrees I have to believe it. I can still have faith that a freak snow storm will happen and I'll get out of work. (sure of what I hope for) The flip side would be belief in something you can't see. That looks like believe would come first. So does faith cause you to believe, or does your belief cause faith?

    I think (based on the above verse)that belief would cause faith. An unbeliever will believe when they see God working in their lives. That belief then manifests itself into faith.

    Perhaps that's why denying the Holy Spirit/Son after believing/having faith is such a big sin. Once you believe, you can't choose not to. If you choose to, you go against the very nature of humanity and God..

    Just try it. You can say I believe there is a God. Now, choose to believe there isn't one. Doesn't even have to be something where faith comes in. Believe that the pen is blue, now believe it's black. Can't do it.

    Side bar: I think you and Mark owned the competition. I was just along for the ride.

  9. Anonymous12:43 PM

    A tough question because it raises other questions about the nature and definition of concepts such as faith and belief.

    For my part, belief can and does change throughout our lives, in big and small ways. I have had many of my beliefs changed through experience, conversation, or teaching.

  10. Odge,
    Have you had a belief change because of choice?

    I guess I just don't understand. What's the point of being a Christian if it's just a set of beliefs and not a way of life? How does it differ from other religions?

  11. Carl,

    I agree that it ought to be about a way of life. But my experience (as a life-long CofC person) has been that the emphasis in all mission work is to make people believe. People argue (in essence, though I know I'm oversimplifying somewhat) that it is the moment of belief - and belief in a very particular set of facts, I might add - that opens the floodgates of God's grace.

    I disagree with people that have that perspective. God's grace is available to us from the moment that we become determined to follow his calling for how we are to live our lives. While belief often precedes that determination, it doesn't always. And, as I have argued in other settings was the case with Gandhi and other non-Christians, people may fully realize God's existence and calling without ever adopting a traditionally Christian set of beliefs. My understanding is that God will be faithful to those people, despite their mistaken or limited beliefs about who Jesus was in relation to God and the world.

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  13. I've briefly scanned through all the comments, and now I'm going to do what I typically do in various situations: Disagree with everybody! (And I was once considered the diplomatic one in the family).

    You can convince yourself of anything, even the opposite of obvious fact, if you work at it long enough. It may not last long, but usually you can get yourself going for a few minutes.

    Just spend a lot of time thinking to yourself about what you want to believe; for instance, that Chris is in VA rather than CA. You encorperate it into your common thoughts, such as "Hmm, I wonder if Chris can come over" or "Hey, maybe I can swing by Chris's house on the way home." Give yourself false memories by imagining hanging out with him just the other night, as realistically as you can, doing whatever feels natural (watching sports, talking, whatever). Eventually, you'll begin to forget that Chris is several thousand miles away and everything you convinced yourself of was a lie. Of course, it won't take you long to remember, the illusion is usually brief, but it's very possible.