“Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” – Proverbs 4:23
Growing up, we learned about the tooth fairy, Santa Clause and the Easter bunny. These fables are part of American culture and of course generally harmless. There are, however, other myths we may have absorbed from the culture that can be hazardous to our health and happiness.
Take for example the idea that it doesn’t matter what we believe as long as we’re sincere. Sounds so broadminded and tolerant. You know, different strokes for different folks. You believe this, I believe that, and everything’s cool. Right?
Umm, not so fast. Some beliefs are contradictory – I mean, Elvis is either still alive or he isn’t. So somebody’s got to be believing the wrong stuff. And my thesis here is when our beliefs are faulty, no matter how sincere we may be, the results, unlike with the tooth fairy, can be quite serious, even ruinous.
The thing that makes what we believe so decisive, as Proverbs 4:23 points out, is that our beliefs shape our behavior. Why do we go to a doctor when we’re sick? We’re motivated by the belief that an MD can help us feel better. When at a restaurant, we select something off the menu because we believe it’s going to taste good. The fact is there’s a belief behind pretty much every conscious action we take.
Okay. So what? Here’s the problem: Our beliefs, even when “wrong,” govern our actions. For instance, if I believe that when in a group I never have anything important to say, I’ll keep silent, though I may have the very input needed to reach the best decision. If I believe I’m unlovable, I’ll behave in an unlovable way. If I believe, as a woman who lay “dead” on a surgical table for 45 minutes told Dr. Oz she does, that, based on her experience, what we all can expect at death is a comforting light and a euphoric sense of peace, then it’s doubtful I’ll be concerned about finding a way as one who has broken God’s law to avoid his righteous judgment.
Hence, the million-dollar question: What’s the standard by which we determine what to believe? Or to put it another way, what’s our authority for how we live our life?
It occurs to me that there are really only a couple possible options. One: Believe essentially what the culture tells us, which, by the way, frequently changes. Take for instance Dr. Spock’s book on childcare. All 77 million of us boomers were brought up on “Baby and Childcare,” in which the good doctor mixed a little Freud with the childcare philosophy the “Greatest Generation” was raised on. Several years ago, however, Dr. Spock held a press conference to say, “Oops, I was wrong. I’m sorry. Never mind.” And we’re going, “Yeah, thanks a lot, doc. Now that I’m dysfunctional it’s a little late.”
One option then is to let the culture decide what we believe. Unacceptable. What’s the other possibility? We can go with transcendent revelation, truth communicated to man by a God who is bound by his nature to tell the truth. If only there were such a thing, you say. It’s no secret that the Scriptures throughout claim to tell the truth. Of course, each person owes it to him or her self to carefully examine the evidence supporting this claim, but I would argue that the evidence has already held up against the closest of scrutiny by the greatest of skeptics, many of whom ended up Christ followers – author and educator C.S. Lewis, physician-geneticist Francis Collins, journalist-author Malcolm Muggeridge, to name a few.
So when it comes to the basis for our beliefs and behavior, I would suggest to you that there are these two options, and that we have to decide which is reliable…and that we bet our life on what we choose.
Dr. Jim Furr