Two Types of Belief

believe

Well, things are off to a great start this Spring semester here at the GCSC! Gulf Coast Getaway was, (as always) a great launching pad for our ministry and, hopefully, a catalyst for growth into Christlikeness! Playing off that, we are currently in the middle of a series on Wednesday nights in 1 Peter (which you can listen to here) focusing on how we as Christians are called to think, live, and see things differently. Christians should think differently about hope, security, and even belief itself. But what does it mean to believe? And what is Peter getting at when he says something like, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action,and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13)?

Maybe the more immediate question is how we use the word “believe.” Like many words, “believe” can have dual meanings (think “cool,” “troll,” “bear,” “saw,” or “fly” to name a few). For example, what do I mean when I say, “I believe in my wife”? What does that statement refer to? That I believe in her existence? That I have weighed the facts and can intellectually submit to the idea that her presence must be real? Or does it go deeper than that? I believe in my wife because I trust her. I believe she will do the right thing. I believe that she is out for my good.

So what am I saying? Simply this, to believe in God is not just acknowledge His existence, but to believe in His character, His essence, His power, His goodness. Trusting God is quite different than agreeing He exists.

To that end, I propose Christians take a cue from Peter and start looking at belief as having two meanings or levels:

Level 1: To believe in God’s existence. To find a higher power plausible.

Level 2: To believe or trust in this God. To bank on Him, to believe that He has your best in mind, that He is good. This is called faith.

In light of this, the question “Do you believe in God?” opens us up to a deeper conversation.

Here’s what I mean.

Some who claim disbelief in the reality of God talk or even function or argue as if they have level 1 belief. They often speak angrily against a God they say doesn’t exist. And to be fair, I understand why. The Christian God has much to answer for it would seem. Murder, disease, war, natural disaster, and seemingly meaningless tragedy all piled on the scales of doubt make a weighty point.

logo

But philosophically speaking, this is akin to blaming unicorns or trolls for injustice in the world. When is the last time you heard someone blame unicorns for suffering in the world? Why not? Because there is an assumption of disbelief. If the person were being consistent they would recognize their outrage (again, justifiable outrage on some level) is actually built on a foundation that assumes the existence of God. What should really be said, if said person were being honest, is, “I believe in God’s existence, but I do not find Him trustworthy or good.” And truth be told, almost everyone is somewhere between these two levels. Statistics show that most of all Americans still believe in a God, even if that number is down to 91%. Believing in God’s existence, it would seem, is still a huge part of the American identity.

However, Level 2 belief assumes a decision of the will that decides to trust in God, not just believe in His existence. Here, God is trusted as a person, not a distant entity. One wonders what the numbers would be if Gallup asked those who said they believed in God if they trusted Him.

The simple fact is this, belief in God has always been more than admitting He exists.

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder” (James 2:19).

Belief in God means trusting Him, knowing His goodness, and banking on it. But how can one move from Level 1 to Level 2 belief? Look at the cross. Look upon the God who is willing to die for His friends, His people, His enemies. Watch as He uses the few breaths He has left to forgive those who torture Him. Listen as even a hardened Roman soldier confesses his belief. Stare into the darkness of the tomb with all its lifelessness and feel the strips of linen that once held a dead man. He’s not here. He has risen! If this God can bring good out of this, He can bring good out of my life, my pain. He can be trusted. As Peter says, I can set my hope on Him.

I believe that. And despite the times my life offers evidence to the contrary, I believe in God. I invite you to believe in Him on all levels. He exists, and…He is good.

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Adam Daniels

Campus Minister

Georgia Christian Student Center

 

Leave A Comment