How Important Is Belief In God For Christians?

Growing up in an Evangelical church, I thought that belief was the most important thing to Christian faith. We placed enormous emphasis on the Bible as the end-all-be-all of the Christian faith (unfortunately, we never developed real spiritual practices). And, as I get older, I find myself reading the bible more, loving the bible more, and caring about what the Bible says and what it means for not only my life, but for those around me. I find the authority in scripture. When I turned 16, I began having thoughts like: Do I believe in God? Or, do I believe in my pastors beliefs in God? Do I have my own answers? Or, do I have the answers of those around me?

Does one believe in God, if they just believe the teachings of their pastor? Maybe a better way is to say, by believing in the Christian religion, does religion believe for me? And, does what makes you a good Christian come from a checklist of beliefs?

I want to say that for some Christians, they actually believe in God without believing. They affirm some doctrine or creed, but it doesn’t shape their life. If you believe in Jesus, but aren’t going to do the discipleship of being transformed into his image (ironically the same image in which we are created), then do you really believe in Jesus? We affirm the statement “believe in the Truth and it will set you free”, but does this Truth create an existential and systemic transformation? The notion of Truth, as the bible depicts it, is utterly dependent upon this liberation.

What matters to me is not what I believe, but what I am believing. Because if Truth isn’t transformative, then why believe in it? The question for me is not what Christianity does for me by a belief in a doctrine, but what does a belief in a doctrine help me become? And, if Christianity is not something that liberates not only those who believe in it, but others through those who believe in it, then what good is it? The belief is the endpoint, and we are in the process of becoming our beliefs. Or, as Stanley Hauerwas says about the Sermon On The Mount, “The basis for the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount is not what works, but rather who God is.” And, what we should be interested in is living out God in the world. Not just to get into heaven, but so we can get heaven into us, and then give it away to others.

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8 thoughts on “How Important Is Belief In God For Christians?

  1. Pat Pope says:

    That’s one of my biggest frustrations with the Church. So often people file in and out of church and it seems as if the sermon makes no difference in their lives. It’s as though we come in, do our ritual worship and walk back out nary the different and with no interest in even discussing what we’ve heard and how it impacts our lives.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Or Pat, and this might be even worse, we become indoctrinated.Indoctrination. There is no discernment and we become rigid with others who don’t agree with our doctrines. They know the truth, without receiving it.

  2. Robert Martin says:

    I recently learned something cool. Faith and Believe in most NT translations come from the greek word pistis which implies something more than just cognition. Proof is Hebrews 11 where things are considered “faithful” acts but where there is no indication of subscription to a particular creed. Puts a whole new perspective on Romans 10 and John 3:16….believe isn’t just “to have cognitive assent to” but it is a reorientation of life towards a new way of thinking and acting which is bourne out in what you do. Biblical faith is something that requires action. “Pistis without works is dead” says James…it’s not just a cognitive belief plus good stuff…it’s a new way of thinking about things that means your actions will follow.

    Don’t know if this adds to this conversation, but I found it meaningful

    • Mike Friesen says:

      That’s incredibly relevant to the conversation. I often associate faith with living out the trust in God, how do you think that applies?

      • Robert Martin says:

        I think that is very accurate for the idea of “pistis”. You have that faith that manifests in a different way of living. Trusting in God means that you are going to move out beyond the way that feels “natural” to a way that is a total change to a different orientation.

        From my notes from the class where I learned this:

        Pistis translates – Probably better “realign commitments around Christ”

        It’s the Romans 12 “transformation” where you are reconstructed in a way where you can figure out God’s will and act on it.

  3. […] Mike Friesen recently asked on his blog, “How important is belief in God for Christians?” […]

  4. Mike, I am continually thankful for your writing. You put words to my thoughts in a profound and moving way. Thank you so much for putting your thoughts to paper and sharing.

  5. […] How Important Is Belief In God For Christians? (mikefriesen05.wordpress.com) […]

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