Posted by: dswerling | May 13, 2008

The Problem With Belief (and a Prayer)

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.


I was reading this creed and reflecting on its content. Of course, not all Christians agree on the nuances of the Apostles’ Creed (the communion of saints for instance,) but for the most part, we can agree on these things. We may bicker about faith and works, but no one bickers over the Trinity or the crucifiction or resurrection, these are common to Christian theology in some interpretation or another. We all believe these things, but I realized a problem I had with the creed itself, it’s excessive use of the word “believe.”

What does it mean to believe something? It isn’t that I don’t think “believing” all of the things in the above creed is important, it’s only that word “believe” that is the problem to me. We believe in God and Jesus and the Bible and all the main points of our faith, it’s only that the word “believe” is such an insignificant word for such important ideas. We may believe in God. We also may believe that the world is flat, or in fairy tales, or that our country was dragged into a war for any reason besides natural resources. We believe a lot of things that aren’t true, but we feel that our faith is true, shouldn’t we make this distinction known?

Belief just seems like such an incorrect expression too. For example, you could read this creed and go “yeah whatever, I believe it,” and does that really matter? Does passively agreeing to “believe” something because you’re too lazy to think about it really count as faith? This is one time when I agree with the born-agains and the evangelists, I don’t think so. I do think there is a way of “letting Jesus into your life,” and having true faith, true thought. It’s only that I resent the sectarianism that seems to result from this belief. I think there are a lot of Catholics out there with a sincere committment to their faith and belief in Jesus Christ as their only savior, and I think there are a lot of fundamentalists out there who only profess extreme faith because they’re too terrified to figure out all of their moral problems for themselves. I think that Jesus is the focus point of peoples’ lives regardless of denomination if they truly feel His presence. Shouldn’t this be the deciding issue of our salvation?

But then again, sometimes I wonder if people even have to be conscious of Jesus’ presence in their lives. Can the Holy Spirit of the only living God affect people without them knowing it? Faith and belief are important, but again, it doesn’t seem right to imagine some person who says “yeah whatever, I believe in Jesus” and yet is in no way moved to act on their “belief” and sees their belief as just another thought, like all the other things we go through the day thinking. How does this sort of person compare to someone who is truly driven to do good, for some inexplicable reason? Does it count as true faith if you don’t know where the faith is coming from?  I guess that’s one of those things Christians should just keep in mind for the future.

This is an intercessory prayer for the citizens of the world who suffer, especially for the people in Myanmar and China.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit+
Heavenly Father, you have promised to hear our prayers through your Son our Savior, Jesus Christ. We pray now on behalf of all people who suffer in mind, body, and spirit, especially in Myanmar and China. May they receive all the guidance, comfort, and strength they now need. May the leaders of those countries be driven to act for the justice and good of their people, and may aid from other countries soon arrive. For the deceased, we pray that Your will for them may be fulfilled, and that they may share with all Your Saints in Your eternal kingdom. For the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, Heavenly Father, and help all those now in their time of need.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit+



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