If there’s anything we get from Seth’s chapter, Genesis 5, it’s this: Nothing is more important than having a relationship with God and passing that on to the next generation. And that relationship is founded upon faith.
As soon as I wrote those words down, I remembered something I read that has deeply affected me ever since, from Love Your God With All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland. It’s about the five components of belief.
- Content of a belief – This is the most important part of belief. This is the actual components, the facts, the concepts. What you believe is going to define your world view, your whole life, the way you think, feel, talk, and act. Your paradigm.
The Bible itself gives us the content of our belief, as the apostle John wrote, “These are written so that you may believe.”
- Strength of a belief – When a person says they believe something, that doesn’t mean they are certain it’s true, it just means they are at least more than 50 percent convinced the belief is true.
So, a belief’s strength is the degree to which you are convinced the belief is true. As you gain evidence and support for a belief, its strength grows for you. It may start off as plausible, later become fairly likely, then quite likely, then beyond reasonable doubt, and finally, completely certain. The more certain you are of a belief, the more it becomes a part of your inner being and the more you rely on it to make decisions, and live your life.
For example, most people believe vegetables are good for the body, and processed sugar is bad for the body. But how strongly do you believe that? Probably you are, at some level, still tending your options. You probably still eat sugar from time to time, and eat fewer vegetables than best practices would suggest.
The apostle Paul talked about the strength of a belief when he described Abraham, by writing, “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”
- Centrality of a belief – The more central a belief is, the greater the impact it will have on your worldview, the way you see things. You can tell how central a belief is by trying to take it away. Think about a child discovering Santa isn’t real. That feeling of the world caving in, of instability, of questioning every other belief because this core belief has been proven untrue.
The centrality of a belief in Scripture can be seen in the full commitment of those who followed God throughout the Old and New Testament. In fact, the Shema states centrality of belief as “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”
- Plausibility of a belief – How does a belief stand up in terms of what the culture considers plausible? The ‘culture’ could be the outside world, the family, the community, or even one’s internal world. If the belief is found to be plausible, it has a much better chance of being adopted.
In the Bible an example of plausibility swinging both ways can be seen in Esau and Jacob, who grew up in the same family, with the same parents. Esau was influenced by the culture around him, and Jacob was influenced by the culture of his father and mother.
- Change of a belief – How can you possibly believe something new? Something different? You have to open your mind, and open your hands. You have to start on a course of study with a mind of inquiry. Willingly place yourself in a position to undergo a change in the content, strength and centrality of the beliefs you already have. And you have to be willing to suspend what you currently believe, knowing you might let at least some of it go, in order to receive the new concept or data as more reliable, or worthy.
As I reflect on my own faith, I have to ask myself in what ways does my life reflect my statement that nothing is more important to me than relationship with God, and passing that on to the next generation? How does the way I channel my resources, the way I prioritize my energy, and my focus, the way I live out my dailies, reflect what I say is my conviction?
And how open am I to continuing to listen to God’s words with my mind and hands open, and to listen to the conversation of others who are deeply engaged with God and His words? Just now, my husband reminded me of Paul’s caution to believers, counseling them to not be like those who are tossed about by “every wind of doctrine.” It’s an art, isn’t, being strong and sure in faith, yet also flexible and humble in learning.
[The Shema, michel D’anastasio, Shema Israel, https://www.flickr.com/photos/maltin75/ | Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)