Being true to your beliefs gives fulfilment to life. Duane Vachon explains why having the right beliefs is an important first step.
A question we hear often is, “Does it really matter what I believe as long as I believe in something?” Or, “As long as your belief helps you, isn’t that all that matters?”
The idea behind statements such as these is that there is no absolute truth to believe in, and thus the act of believing is all there is. We all believe in something, as Edgar Sheffield Brightman states, “A thinker cannot divest himself of real convictions, and it is futile to pose as having none.”1
The idea of finding any truth or meaning to life has escaped modern man. Reichenbach emphasis the inability to conceive of something outside oneself: “There are no rules by means of which we would discover a purpose or a meaning of the universe.”2
Even though we all continue to have definite beliefs, the climate seems to be the act of belief rather than any real object of belief. “Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact,” states pragmatist William James.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Belief will not create fact. Truth is independent of belief. No matter how hard I may try, believing something will not make it true. For example, I may believe with all my heart that I want it to snow tomorrow, but this will not guarantee snow. Or I may believe that my run-down old car is really a new Rolls Royce, but my belief won’t change the fact.
Belief is only as good as he objet in which we put out trust. Someone may come to me and say, “Hey let’s go for a ride in my new plane!” If I come to find out that his plane hardly runs at all and he does not even have a pilot’s license, then my faith, no matter how much I have, is no well-founded.
My faith own’t create a great pilot out of my friend once we’re in the sky! However if another friend of mne comes along and makes the same offer, but he is a certified pilot with a new plane, then my trust has a much more solid base. So it does matter what i believe, for my believing does not make it try
The Bible also emphasises that what one believes is vital. Jesus said, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24, MLB). We are also told, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: nd he that believeth not on the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on” (John 3:36, KJV).
Thus, the stress of the Scriptures is not so much on the act of belief as on the object of belief. What is emphasised is not so much the one trsuting, but rather the One trusted. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, KJV).
People who believe whatever they wish to believe are a little better off than those who believe nothing at all. The famous classroom story of the philosoper, George Hegel, illustrates the type of faith many people display.
As the sotry goes, Hegel was expounding oh his philosophy of istory with reference to a particular series of events when one of his studesnt objected to hegel’s view and replied, “But Herr Professor, the facts are otherwise.”
“So much worse for the facts,” was Hegel’s answer.
One of the darkest periods in the history of Israel recorded in the Bible occurred in the time of the kings During this time, there was a contest between God and Baal, a highly regarded cult deity. The story is told in 1 Kings 18.
Because King Ahab was unfaithful to the God of Israel-the one trye God, Yahweh-the rain had ceased to fall. Elijah, God’s prophet, had foretold the drought, which lasted three years. In desperation, the king sent men to find Elijah. When he finally found he challenged the King’s false prophets to a Battle of the gods.
God’s prophet Elijah set the rules: An altar was to be built with wood and an oxen laid upon it as a sacrifice. The god who answered by fire and consumed the sacrifice would be acknowledged as the true god in Israel. Elijah let he prophets of Baal go first.
If anyone should have been able to start a fire from the sky, it was Baal- the nature god who controlled the weather, rain, thunderstoms and lightning. The priest of Baal paraded around he altar all morning and until late afteroon. But Baal did not respond. The fire remained unlit.
Elijah taunted hem saying that perhaps heir god was asleep or busy with private matters. He suggested that they may need to be more passionae in their requests to Baal. In frenzied worship the false priests jumped all over the altar, cut themselves with swords, danced with their greatest efforts, raved and pleaded all day. Yet nothing happened. No-one can say they were not sincere or did not believe. They gave up.
Finally, it was Elijah’s turn. In supplocation to his God, Elijah didn’t jump or shout or do anything outstanding. He just stepped forward and prayed, “Answer me, O Lord, asnwer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (1 Kings 18:37).
God answered. Fire burst from heaven, the altar explored and the sacrifice was consumed. The false prophets of Baal were then slain. If sincerity and belief saved, these prophets should have been spared. But they were not. These prophets ha heir trust in the wrong object.
They had rejected the truth. God requires people to put their faith in Jesus; nothing less will satisfy either them or Him.
E.S Brightman in H N Wieman and B E Meland (Editors), American Philosopies of Religion, Harper & Brothers, New York 1936
- Hans Reichenbach, The Rise of Scientific Philosophy, page 301