3 Aspects of Belief

I recently read something in JP Moreland’s “The Kingdom Triangle” that resonated with me. In regards to strengthening one’s faith he says there are three aspects of belief that are important to ponder.

1. The Content of a Belief. The content of a belief helps determine how important the belief is for our character and behavior. What we believe matters — the actual content of what we believe about God, morality, politics, life after death, and so on will shape the contours of our life and actions. In fact, the contents of our beliefs are so important that according to Scripture, our eternal destiny is determined by what we believe about Jesus Christ.

Today, people are inclined to think that the sincerity and fervency of one’s beliefs are more important than the content of the beliefs themselves. As long as we believe something honestly and strongly, we are told, that is all that matters. Nothing is further from the truth. Reality is basically indifferent to how sincerely we believe something. I can believe with all my might that my car will fly me to Hawaii . . . but that fervency doesn’t change a thing. As far as reality is concerned, what matters in not whether I like a belief or how sincere I am in believing it, but whether or not the belief is true. I am responsible for what I believe and, I might add, for what I refuse to believe because the content of what I do or do not believe makes a tremendous difference to what I become and how I act. [note from Tim: nobody doubts the sincerity of the 9/11 terrorist, but we still think they will be punished despite their efforts to try their best to do God’s will because the contents of their beliefs led them to conclude something evil was in fact righteous.]

2. The Strength of a Belief. In addition to content, a belief also exhibits some degree or other of strength. To see what I mean here, consider the fact that we all believe things without being absolutely certain that they are true. If you believe something, then you are at least more than 50 percent convinced the belief is true. If it were 50-50 for you, you wouldn’t really hold the belief in question. You would still be evaluating the claim to see whether or not you should believe it. A belief’s strength is the degree to which you are convince it is true. As you gain evidence and support for a belief, its strength grows for you. That belief may start off as plausible and later become fairly likely, quite likely, beyond reasonable doubt, or completely certain. The more certain you are of a belief, the more it becomes a part of your very soul, and the more you rely on it as a basis for action.

3. The Centrality of a Belief.
Finally, there is the belief’s centrality. The centrality of a belief is a measure of how crucial the belief is for supporting your other beliefs. The more central a belief is, the greater will be its impact on your worldview if the belief were given up. My belief that tulips are better than roses is a fairly strong one for me but it is not central. I could give it up and I would not have to abandon or adjust many other beliefs I hold. But my belief in the existence of God and Jesus Christ is very central for me . . . as I grow, these beliefs come to play a more central role in the entire way I see life.