Is Christianity a system of articles of belief, let them be however correct? Never. I would rather have a man holding what seem to me the most obnoxious untruths, opinions the most irreverent and gross, if at the same time he lived in the faith of the Son of God, that is, trusted in God as the Son of God trusted in Him, than I would have a man with every one of whose formulas of belief I agreed, but who knew nothing of a daily life and walk with God. The one, holding doctrines of devils, is yet a child of God; the other, holding the doctrines of Christ and his Apostles, is of the world, yea, of the devil. For to hold a thing with the intellect is not to believe it. A man’s real belief is that which he lives by; and that which the man I mean lives by, is the love of God, and obedience to his law, so far as he has recognized it. Those hideous doctrines are outside of him; he thinks they are inside, but no matter; they are not true, and they cannot really be inside any good man. This man would shrink with loathing from actions such as he thinks God justified in doing; like God, he loves and helps and saves. Will the living God let such a man’s opinions damn him? No more than he will let the correct opinions of another, who lives for himself, save him. When some say that, to be saved, a man must hold this or that, then they are leaving the living God and his will, and putting trust in some notion about him or his will. We are told to believe in the living Lord, who, by his presence with and in us, and by our obedience to him, lifts us out of darkness into light, leads us from the kingdom of Satan into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
by Diane Adams
We used to have an old green chair on the front porch. It was an antique Paris cafe chair, and I was fond of it. I didn’t want to throw it away, even when someone bent up a leg on it and it started to tilt to one side. I’d still sit in it, but I noticed that I was cautious about doing so. No matter how I would approach the matter, I could not force my muscles to relax when sitting down on that chair. I did not truly believe that chair was able to hold me, and I could not make myself believe it, regardless of any arguments I could present in its favor.
The chair incident got me thinking about belief, and how it affects what we do. I cannot actually change what I believe. I can choose to do something or not do it, but I cannot make myself believe something I don’t deeply feel is true. Which brought up the deeper question, what is belief itself? When we are told to believe on the Lord, what does that mean? Is belief simply a collection of theological ideas about God, garnered from reading and listening to (the ‘right’) sermons? Is belief a perception of the mind, or is it something more organic, more deeply ingrained in us than thought?
When Jesus spoke to the woman caught in adultery, he did not tell her to go back to the temple and learn the scripture. He didn’t say, ‘Get the right set of beliefs, then come back.’ He asked for no offerings, no apology, not even a statement of faith! There was only one thing he asked for, and it was not a thought. He told her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and sin no more.” I find this very interesting in terms of sin and belief and how a soul is saved by God.
Holding to a set of beliefs that we think will save us is not the same as being saved. Being saved is what happens when we choose to follow Jesus in action. When we choose to become what he would have us be, regardless of what thoughts are in the mind. This is not an understanding but a state of being that comes from the soul rather than the mind. Belief in spiritual terms does not begin in the mind. It is not, after all, the mind that is being saved. It is the soul itself that must be saved.
So we come to the crux of the matter, what must we do to be saved? A soul belief is different from a mind belief. In the soul, the true, naked reality of who we are exists, far apart from our own perceptions of ourselves. The soul is not an idea; it is what we are being created as, and it is formed by our choices. We simply are, and we are becoming, because of what we choose to do while we’re here on the planet. Whatever we think we believe is immaterial if it is not accomplished in action. Action reveals the soul belief.
The good news is we do not have to convince ourselves that we believe that chair will hold us. We can choose to sit in it, regardless of the thoughts bouncing around in our heads. This is soul belief versus mind belief, ideas versus the ultimate reality of who we are. Through doing what Jesus told us to do, knowing we are not condemned, we live truth. We literally become truth, in the crucible of this life experience, in action and choice, not in the shadowland of theological rights and wrongs. We are not saved by ideas but by following the Truth, on the actual road of life.