Do you ever stop to think why people believe what they believe? Different religions believe whatever their religion is. Practically all the people in Thailand believe in Buddhism. Why do they all believe in Buddhism? Why is it nearly all Arabs believe in the Moslem religion? Why is it that nearly everybody in France in catholic? And how did you come to believe the things you believe?
Most people never ask themselves, in retrospect, how they came to believe what they do. Do you ever stop to think of how you came to believe what you believe? How did it get into your mind? You’ve got absolute beliefs. You’ve got convictions and you’re sure of it. But someone is just as sure of something entirely different, how did you come to be so sure? Are you sure, after all, or do you just think you are? Let me answer that question.
Most people believe what they’ve been brought up to believe, especially in religion. They believe the religion that those people around them believe and what they were taught to believe and what their neighbors, their peers believe and everybody they know.
There’s another reason why people believe what they do about things other than religion. They believe what they have repeatedly read or what they have repeatedly heard until they just accept it.
~ Herbert W Armstrong, The World Tomorrow, Radio Program Transcript, 1979
HWA realized, as an ex-advertisement man, that if something were repeated often enough, people would begin to believe it. Having lived through WWII, he and others saw the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, which was based upon lies — really big lies — that were repeated often enough that an entire nation began to buy into the lies. Often called the “Big Lie“, people often emphasize the size of the lie, but even smaller ones can be swallowed after a time merely because of it being repeated often enough.
In fact, if you watch politics enough, it becomes obvious that some have made lying into an art form. You begin to wonder why the same lies are told over and over again. The answer is because there will always be those who want to believe it, then they hear it often enough, and after a time it seems real to them.
Learning requires some repetition. As much as many postmodern “educators” want to take the grunt work out of learning, it really does sometimes require memorization, which in turn requires some form of repetition. A baby doesn’t sit down and study the effects of gravity on the human body and then get up and walk. No, he or she gets up, falls down, and keeps doing it over and over until it becomes learned behavior.
However, learning does little good if it is not true. We can learn how the earth is flat and men did not land on the moon, but what good would that be? False learning can even be dangerous. During the Middle Ages, blood letting was a common way to “cure” people from disease. Robin Hood was one of my favorite childhood stories, and in the end he dies because he was bled too much. His story was fiction, but it did rest on a few facts about that time, and blood letting was a common practice of the day. It was a death sentence for more than a few.
It behooves each of us to occasionally, and I’d maintain that means more than once a year, examine why we believe this, that or the other. One day, you could be hauled before others to give an account of what you believe, but if you do not know why you believe it, then what good is it?
There may be several reasons why anyone would believe what they believe, but in the Church, that can probably be boiled down to:
- The Bible says it.
- The Church says it.
- My minister says it.
- My conscience says it.
- My spouse says it.
- It is simply what I want to believe.
I hope it isn’t too obvious that the last one requires repentance, no matter how large or small the item. It can, however, be one of the hardest to see and deal with. It sort of sums up the problem with humanity to a large extent.
The first one should be obvious as well, as it should be the source for our thinking. Clear commands like “Thou shalt not kill” should be the basis for the rest.
It should be noted that everything but the Bible is a subjective source. We interpret things through our own filters, whether it be what we want to hear or what our conscience says about a given item. Some atheists choose to not believe the Bible because of a visceral reaction to pronouncements of, in their words, genocide and the like. If that were all there were to it, it would be difficult indeed.
Everything comes from authority, including the Bible since its authority stands as the word of God. What does the Church have authority to teach? What does the head of the house have the authority to say and do? What authority is even my conscience? Where does the authority come from? Why, it comes from the Bible itself!
5 I will require the life of every animal and every man for your life and your blood. I will require the life of each man’s brother for a man’s life.
6 Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood will be shed by man, for God made man in His image.
~ Ge 9:5-6 (HCSB)
I could have went to Romans 13 instead of the above, but I want to illustrate just how far back God created the institution of government and the purpose for it. He knew that civil governments would not follow His Law for long, but He also knew that civil governments overall will slow the spread of evil among men by punishing them for their crimes. The fact that God uses murder as the example is telling of what the world must have been like prior to the Flood.
However, does the government have the right to tell you to work on the Sabbath? Does the government have the right to tell you to eat pork? No, that is not within the scope of government’s authority.
The Church has no authority over these things, either. The Church cannot say, “We will keep the first day of the week instead of the seventh.” The Church cannot sanction business transactions on the Sabbath, and that includes the purchase of grain, wine, grapes, figs or other produce and meat (Neh 13:15-18). The Bible and the intent of the Sabbath is quite clear in this regard. You can choose to believe the Bible or your minister as having authority over the matter, but your reasoning for your choice had better be clear before your Savior!
Likewise, with the calendar issue, who has the authority? What is the purpose of a calendar? Is it not so that people can gather and do the same thing at the same time? If I tell you to be somewhere at 10:00, but you decide to set your watch to UTC time, then don’t be surprised if you are all alone unless you happen to live in the UK. People argue over when a new moon is, when sunset is, when the year starts, and I’ve even encountered some real idiots who argue that a week isn’t necessarily seven days either but resets at the beginning of every month.
You name it, and people will argue over it. Someone, somewhere, is given the power to break all ties, even as the high priest in the OT was empowered to do so. Otherwise, there would be chaos.
Now, I’ve read the Bible all the way through, but I could have missed that verse that states the new moon is defined by a totally black disk or a crescent that appears the day after it is totally shaded, but I haven’t seen it. It should be obvious that Passover must be in the spring, but how to time it in relation to the vernal equinox doesn’t seem to be in the Bible, either.
Seriously, when in doubt, we had best yield to authority and save our strength for the the battles that will need to be fought, for there will come a time when all but a few will be scattered and have to defend their right to worship God as He intends. We do not know for sure when that day will come, but it will come upon us one day sooner than yesterday.
Truth. The truth is that the Bible contains enough truth to get us saved, but the rest is dependent upon our attitude.
6 But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says:
God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.
The truth is, if we are humble at any rate, we will always be seeking the truth. That is how God intended it. For all of their rituals, including the readings of the Torah, the prophets and the writings, Jesus still told the Pharisees to “search the Scriptures”! We will never know all of the truth, so we might as well be humble and admit it.
So, why do you believe what you believe? Do you believe it because it is true? Do you believe it because it is in the Bible? Or, perhaps do you believe it because you cannot admit you were wrong? That was, after all, one of the sins of the Pharisees. God wants a converted and humble heart before Him!
I’m not sure who said it, but the quote goes something like: “If I haven’t done ten things wrong today, it’s because I haven’t done anything.” Well, I can relate to that on more than a couple of days. Or, one very old story that Allister Begg once a long time ago relayed on the radio but stuck with me went something like this:
So far today, God, I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been nasty, selfish, or over indulgent. I’m very thankful for that. But in a few minutes Lord, I’m going to get out of bed And from then on, I’m going to need all the help I can get.
As amusing (or not, if you prefer) that is, the real question is whether or not we each have the humility to relate to it. Can we really take it to heart?
If you take away nothing else, then listen up: As long as you are papering over your weaknesses, you’ll never find the entire truth. As long as you are a puffed up Pharisee that knows it all, you’ll be far from God and not find the entire truth. As long as you neglect reading the Bible — the entire Bible — you’ll be relying upon fallible people and not find the entire truth. As long as you have a stubborn and rebellious spirit, you will be relying upon yourself, again a fallible human being, and you’ll never find the entire truth.
However, if you seek God, and I mean really seek God, and bring to Him your misunderstandings and seek the truth in front of His face, and show Him you mean it by daily Bible study and prayer, then you will find Him and you will find more truth than you can absorb in a lifetime.
29 But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
~ Dt 4:29
66 Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?
2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.