Over the past months I have been writing about the difference between faith and beliefs, and between lies and truth. I have written that faith is not about believing, and that Jesus’ claim to be the truth in John 14 is not to be confused with him claiming to be our own, personal understanding of “truth” in some Cartesian/Platonic sense. But I have not yet explained why beliefs are unworthy masters and need to be removed from our understanding of faith.
But now is the time for such an explanation.
Here’s how it works: We assume our beliefs to signify 1) the limits of reality, 2) the markers of identity, and 3) the means by which an individual participates in salvation. But our beliefs are not themselves the determiners of truth, as we have already established; we do not get to Jesus by starting with our idea of what “truth” is and trying to squeeze the entirety of the biblical account of Jesus’ life into that definition. Unfortunately, all of us have to some extent. This is unavoidable in our modern context, yet none the less lamentable. My purpose here is to show how disastrous this act has been in the life of the church, and to do so requires some abstract explanation.
Can you bear with me?
When our person encounters a new experience or piece of information, the gatekeepers of our life, our belief system, engages that experience or information to see if it is acceptable within the parameters of reality our belief system has laid out; can this experience fit into what we consider to be real? In order to determine this, our belief system activates a criterion of resonance. This criterion of resonance requires the new information or experience to coincide or “resonate” with some previously established standard of reality accepted as “truth.”
But truth cannot be determined this way.
Why? Because our beliefs are not intrinsically connected to some metaphysical realm where absolute truth resides in self-perpetuity; they are arbitrary and self perpetuating. Furthermore, truth is created, in this sense, through the action of belief. What we believe determines what we do (as we presently function), and when we believe something because it resonates with our previously established markers of reality and truth, we incorporate it into our system and begin acting in accordance with it.
But what if that new supposed “truth” was a lie?
Well, it would only be a lie for short time, because we, in our zeal for authenticity to ourselves (our beliefs), have created a reality out of that false belief; we have made it true. The lie has become a truth because we have enacted it. But a lie is negative relationship to reality. Therefore
Our actions have created a qualitatively negative reality.
In our blind commitment to ourselves we have unwittingly contributed to the destruction of God’s good creation in order to ensure our salvation and righteousness. We call that sin. And we sin because we believe (do-faith) our beliefs. Our conceptualization of “faith” now serves our beliefs because we need to defend our selves and this through our beliefs; our piety. Our very sense of righteousness must be preserved even in abstraction. If we can convince ourselves of our dis-association from original sin by clinging to a notion of that which caused our sin as this which saves us we are blissfully and dangerously content.
Your belief in Jesus does not prevent your participation in sin; it causes it.