Believe (in) – Depth of a Term

 “Belief A: 1.You still do the action of believing” (Starfox)Let me clarify this so no one confuses what I mean by the term ‘believe’ as an action and what you seem to be saying in this sentence.

I am not sure believing something is an action as you explain in this sentence. EX: Jesus dies for your sins – that’s an ‘action’; Us believing Jesus died for our sins – is not an ‘action’. But if you think it is an action then you can explain it  – what is it that you do when you ‘believe’ (verb) Jesus died for your sins?

However, I state the very definition of the word ‘believe in’ means both accepting the precept and then following via some ‘action’. EX: Jesus died for my sins – action on Jesus’ part – nothing I can do to add or take away from that – not even ‘confessing’ it does anything more.  I ‘believe in’ Jesus as a follower – the term ‘believe in’ is used as the ‘verb’ (action word) – but belief (mentally) alone is not an action – belief via enacting the teachings (living them) is.

I state uncategorically – mental assertion of a belief alone is not what the biblical view of belief means. I will use John 3 to explain this more and sentence structure.

“Every complete sentence contains two parts: a subject and a predicate. The subject is what (or whom) the sentence is about, while the predicate tells something about the subject” From this site. See example below now.

“For God (subject) so loved (verb) the world (predicate), that He (subject) gave (verb) His only begotten Son (predicate), that whoever (subject) believes in (verb) Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (predicate)” (John 3:16 – additions mine)

3 verbs in there – all of them are actions (since that is what a verb is): ‘Loved’, ‘Gave’, and ‘Believes (in)’. Is ‘love’ pointing to an action of some sort from the gospel narrative? Is ‘gave’ pointing to some action from the gospel narrative? What makes me think that ‘believes (in)’ will not be pointing to an ‘action’?

“But he (subject) who practices (verb) the truth comes to the Light (predicate), so that his deeds (subject) may be manifested (verb) as having been wrought in God (predicate).” (John 3:21)

Verse 21 sums up my position very well about our responsibility with ‘believe (in)’. The first sentence says ‘practices (the truth)’…that’s the verb and it is a word we have no confusion about. Practice is a very action orientated word – like practicing basketball or skating to get better at it. In this case it is the ‘truth’ we are practicing – which one could easily see is the sayings – or we practice the teachings to ‘come to the light’.

Second part of the verse backs this first point up. Subject is ‘(your/his) deeds’ – which is basically the same word as…works. The verb is ‘manifested’ and the predicate is ‘as having been wrought (worked) in God’. The point of that last sentence is the things you do find their basis in what was taught about God. This is what it both means to ‘believe in’ God and acknowledge our actions emanating from God.

Is it just me or does this make sense?

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14 thoughts on “Believe (in) – Depth of a Term

  1. If it helps, my concordance explains believe as: “to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ):–believe(-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.”

    This is pulling from John 3:16. If belief in this instance falls more under trusting something, that might be more action-oriented.

    However, trust is interesting. it’s an action in the sense that if we don’t know someone that well and tell them something personal, we have acted on a sense of trust. Our trust is demonstrated through what we’ve revealed. Yet does that need to correspond with us feeling a sense of trust to the person? Are the two connected? Or can trust be divorced from that feeling? Or perhas we are attempting to determine the level of trust the person is worthy of.

    But I don’t see how you can “act” to believe something, if the statement is that God exists or that Jesus died for one’s sins. How do you decide to believe something? Usually, it’s based on experiences and evidence.

    You can demonstrate such belief, through actions.

  2. “You can demonstrate such belief, through actions” (OSS)

    I think that is the point altogether. I look at a passage like John 3 and study the term ‘believe in’. The church has in it’s doctrine that ‘believe’ is an action in and of itself…via mental assertion. So one can believe in the sacrifice as applied to them and this is somewhat divorced from following the teachings – or at the least – they are taught as seperate in the idea of salvation. One could have One without the other.

    I don’t see the term ‘believe in’ that way. I think that term always refers to the idea of ‘believing in the teachings of Jesus’ – showing that you do believe what he has stated. Simply put – Your actions are your beliefs.

    Ex: Let’s say I teach the idea ‘if you recycle you are in the will of God’. Now if someone says they believe my words and follow me (or my example) – then it would make all the sense in the world to see them recycling. Now if someone is a ‘versusite’ and they are not recycling – what does that person have to do with me? It would make sense if you truly followed me – your example would show that (recycle) – and if you truly believed me (what I had said) – your example would continue to show that. Your example is the belief made true/real.

    This is how I view the writers of the gospel when they ask ‘believe in’ Jesus – they inherently have added in the teachings they have written as part of that sentence.

  3. **The church has in it’s doctrine that ‘believe’ is an action in and of itself…via mental assertion. **

    Yes. And I think if we ever face God, and He asks how we lived our lives, and we just said, “Well, I believed in You!”, the response would be, “That’s great. What did you do with it?”

    **This is how I view the writers of the gospel when they ask ‘believe in’ Jesus**

    It might even go farther than that. I agree with what you’re saying that if you believe a certain thing, actions necessarily follow. Such as if I believe that God loves everyone, then my actions should follow from that belief. I should treat everyone with kindness/compassion and so forth.

    Yet when saying to believe in Jesus — do they mean Jesus as a person, or what Jesus represented? Or what Jesus said? Jesus mentions in John somwhere to “Believe in God; believe also in me.”

    Normally, when I say that I believe ‘in’ someone, I mean that I believe they can do something, or they’re trustworthy, or they won’t fail me. Or I believe that what they say/do holds merit. So with Jesus, that belief can be what Jesus says/does has merit. In that way, I would believe ‘in’ Jesus, based on the teachings. Same with your recycle example.

    But if we go with a more divine aspect, and the whole Logos becoming flesh, then it would be more abstract. You’d be believing in God’s creative power, God’s logic, God’s wisdom. You’d be believing in what Jesus embodied.

  4. OSS has a lot of great points here. The only thing I could add is that “believing in God or Jesus” equals “believing God or Jesus”. You don’t believe in planes if you don’t believe a plane can take you safely from Miami to Atlanta. Believing in what Jesus has promised us means everything.

  5. “do they mean Jesus as a person, or what Jesus represented? Or what Jesus said? Jesus mentions in John somwhere to “Believe in God; believe also in me.”” (OSS)

    That’s the really interesting thing I think – there are quite a few levels in this regards.

    (a) I think to follow someone you have to trust them – but what we have of Jesus is his sayings – maybe our trust can be boiled down to living those sayings

    (b) Trusting in God – generically – well this requires there to be a God we interact with. I think we also do this on the basis of what the teachings ask ‘of us’ – we pray or we trust God to watch over our lives (something we also ‘do’).

    (c) Trusting in Jesus as the propitiation of sins for humanity – I look at this as part of Jesus’ mission and there is nothing we do in that scenario. We can follow Jesus – which does entail the same path be followed – but we cannot ‘be baptized with that baptism’, nor can we add or take away from it…the best we can do is honor the sacrifice.

    (d) We can trust/believe in Jesus – ie: what he represented – the ideas and thoughts. But I also think believe is being used here as saying ‘I belive and that’s why I do what Jesus did’.

    “Normally, when I say that I believe ‘in’ someone, I mean that I believe they can do something, or they’re trustworthy, or they won’t fail me. Or I believe that what they say/do holds merit” (OSS))

    I was talking with my wife about this last night and this was the first thing that came to her mind when she thought of ‘belief’ also. I think trust is an aspect of belief – but I think we also need to know ‘what we are trusting in’.

    For me and my wife – to say we trust one another is not much of a problem – we’ve known one another for almost 8 years and lived together for a lot of those years. I am aware of who she is and what she is like – she is trustworthy (ex: with money or promises). Now we go to the biblical narrative with this idea – should we trust God without any real knowledge of Him? If we are going to try trust Him how do we gain knowledge about Him? Every avenue I look down always leads me back to those teachings/sayings and following them as part of saying ‘I believe/trust’ in God.

  6. “Believing in what Jesus has promised us means everything.” (Jim)

    How will we know what Jesus has promised us? Like I said, I can’t find a single avenue to the very aspect of ‘believe in Jesus’ that does not lead me directly back to the words/sayings as written by the disciples (or even the Tanakh).

    However, in order to be saved (in mainstream church theology) – the idea one can be saved apart from the teachings is taught across the board (ie: confessions and prayer idea) – namely due to how they interpret the very words ‘believe in Jesus’. I have to say – I am not sure that is being taught in the scriptures themselves (ie: formula for salvation).

    I think that is problematic and can very much ruin the weight one gives the teachings of Jesus vs. church doctrine. We see now that people are comfortable with understanding scripture through the lense of church doctrine (as it also being inerrant) and that effects anything Jesus says or does (in the passages).

    If I want to argue about salvation I am up against 1000+ years of interpretation of these scriptures and at least 100+ years of solidified doctrinal positions for most churches in the West. Judging by the mere weight and scope of all that – the easy thing for anyone to say is ‘I am wrong’ – since I am one person and we all have this mass peer pressure thing in our mind that jumps to that conclusioin first (more = right). However, I am not sure I am wrong as much as current theology is flawed.

    I have looked at this ‘following Jesus’ aspect from Matthew for over 2 years – and I also live by the idea – and I have to say – it has both given me a new found respect for Judaism and secondly put the idea of what discipleship truly is (and many other ideas – including ‘belief’). But I have notioced a whole slew of things from the gospel of Matthew that are mis-interpreted via church doctrinal teachings and things that are just plain out missed (for lack of not seeking enough). I then looked at the term ‘belief’ and I see it so tied to the teachings that seperate them in the slightest is to do injustice to the very teachings of Jesus.

    If I am sure of one thing in my blog – it is church doctrinal stands are mis-guided and only meant to uphold the structure – not neccesarily to verify the teachings for what they always mean – because to do so would destroy their own temples.

  7. “should we trust God without any real knowledge of Him? If we are going to try trust Him how do we gain knowledge about Him? Every avenue I look down always leads me back to those teachings/sayings and following them as part of saying ‘I believe/trust’ in God.”

    I whole heartedly agree with going to the teachings/sayings and following them as part of saying I believe/trust in God. But I don’t know if I would want to soley rely on the scriptures as the only way to know God/Jesus and then come to trust Him. That type of thinking , which is sometimes based on the premise of ‘sola-scriptura’ (scripture alone) somehow, at least in my mind, takes away from the growing relationship that I have the Father/Jesus/Spirit.

    It may imply that the Father no longer speaks anymore to anyone as everything that needs to said has already been said and it has been recorded in 66 books.

  8. “’sola-scriptura’ (scripture alone) somehow, at least in my mind, takes away from the growing relationship that I have the Father/Jesus/Spirit.” (Just1)

    That’s the real interesting thing isn’t it? I’ll bet you make these conclusions based on a reading of scripture(s)? Which to me shows that scripture will lead us into a living relationship with God and that if we fall back on anything – we need to fall back on scripture/the teachings to re-focus our lenses.

    However, I also get the other aspect you are saying here ‘It may imply that the Father no longer speaks’ – but to arrive at that conclusion I am wiliing to bet you garnered this also from scripture?

    However, I do get what you are saying – the teachings without experience mean nothing – or these teachings push us towards friendship with God (in our present reality) – ie: prayer is mentioned in scripture and so is interaction with God – ie: God is watching over us). I think the teachings will no doubt lead us to that spot – and encourage us to ‘live the sayings’ – and interactions with God is part of the teaching.

    Also I would add ‘new things’ are being said – each generation must contend with the problems in the world they live in and what message/action needs to be heard these days. I just look to some of the musicians that have arisen since the 1960’s and one can see a host of new ideas being presented to counter-act the culture of the times. I think in them I see the very pattern of speaking out against a generation and it’s problems – ie: make love – not war. They come off as prophetic to me for some reason.

  9. “I’ll bet you make these conclusions based on a reading of scripture(s)?”
    “However, I also get the other aspect you are saying here ‘It may imply that the Father no longer speaks’ – but to arrive at that conclusion I am wiliing to bet you garnered this also from scripture?”

    Sort of yeah, sort of no. Sola scriptura is a premise that is used in most, probably all, evangelical Bible Schools and Seminaries as the basis for all the supposedly right and Godly thinking doctrine.

    How it gets delivered in churches is through the statements “we have to stand on the word” or “we have to get back to the word” or someone will say “it has to line up with the word”

    But when I think about a living and active relationship with anybody, that is only possible through active communication. I think for God to know me and for me to know God then I need to have active and daily communication with Him. The scripture is a great source for that communication but the more years I put into this relationship the more I realize scritpure is not the only source of communication and so I question the bible school premise of “sola scriptura”

    I think if I had not been presented with the Bible or scripture I could have still had a great relationship with the Father/Jesus/Spirit. Of course this is all hypothetical, because since I have had the Bible presented to me I don’t have that choice.Now I have to wrestle with it and the infinite amount of interpretations that I and others are going to create.

  10. Society,

    **(c) Trusting in Jesus as the propitiation of sins for humanity – I look at this as part of Jesus’ mission and there is nothing we do in that scenario. We can follow Jesus – which does entail the same path be followed – but we cannot ‘be baptized with that baptism’, nor can we add or take away from it…the best we can do is honor the sacrifice. **

    This can probably go further. “Trusting in Jesus as the portitiation of sins” is one type of atonement theory, and usually goes with the idea of Jesus’ blood covering our sins. But that’s not all that’s in the Bible. Romans 6: 5-15. Paul speaks of being crucified with Christ, in that since we died with Christ, we also come to life with Christ. IN a way, Jesus almost becomes a representation of all of humanity. If he died on the cross, all of us also died on the cross as well. And when we are resurrected with Christ, we have a new body.

    There’s also Colossians 2: 11-16, and how God nailed the bond to the cross, and on there discarded the cosmic powers and authorities like a garment …
    Here, it’s like Jesus absorbed everything bad thing in the world, in order to demonstrate how God destroys anything unlike Himself.

  11. “How it gets delivered in churches is through the statements “we have to stand on the word” or “we have to get back to the word” or someone will say “it has to line up with the word”” (Just1)

    I agree with the premise – but why should the teachings be something so callous and rules-based? I don’t think it has to be. I look at those teachings and I see a teacher that loved his students – taught them everything he knew – and left them to build from that point onwards. However, being so far removed from this teacher (in 2008) I have to look to what he taught to understand what is asked of someone claiming to follow him – where do I go – his sayings.

    That being said, the word is not ‘dead’ for me either – I have to elaborate upon them and what they mean in this day in age – or what my faith should mean today. It’s a strange thing really:

    Jesus’ life – Disciple’s life – writings – church history – present

    The best thing in that line that explains them all is the ‘writings’ (except present day). Now I have to look at that in the present day and live the teachings – and in that sense – I both worship God and love my neighbor…even build communion with God.

    “I think for God to know me and for me to know God then I need to have active and daily communication with Him” (Just1)

    Concerning communication what does God say back to you and how often does He respond? And when he does respond how often does he break away from the teachings you have read of Him? This is truly at the heart of the matter – because if God communicates a lot to you (audibly or whatever) – I would find that quite fascinating. However, if it is always a call back to the word – why even stray from what is right in front of us?

    However, I have heard clear message from God a few times in my short life (32 yrs old) and only slightly audible one time ever. In the one time I heard something – I needed to hear it – and it bolstered my faith – funny how a string of 5 words can make all the difference (but that only happened one time). Most of the time I always feel my self pulled back to studying the teahcings for insight/wisdom.

  12. “IN a way, Jesus almost becomes a representation of all of humanity.” (OSS)

    I like the 2 views you shared on the atonement theory – I am not up to snuff on all things surrounding that theory. I think I follow a very basic Christian model more or less – the whole paradigm from Matthew of ‘follow me’ – as in he’s the teacher and I am the student. I find that works for me on some level. I don’t get into the atonement as much as I could – I find it rather puzzling to be honest on some levels – yet I am willing to here some discussions on it for sure…right now – he paid for our sins is not very deep to me – it might be – but I have yet to hear it explained better.

  13. Society,

    I think my second verse relates more to a Christus Victor theory than a penal substitution theory. I’m not sure how my first verse would relate to any of them, I just find it interesting to contrast to the idea of Jesus’ blood covering any sins, then those sins are supposed to have been nullified on the cross. When we also were ‘killed’ on the cross. (Though that would lead to an interesting speculation in terms of us both being killed on the cross, and then resurrecting like Jesus. There’s two different ‘us’ going on. If we were only sin and nothing else, then there’d be nothing to resurrect, since we’d just be dead. You can’t ‘resurrect’ sin. Yet since there is a resurrection, there was something more than sin. However, Paul also goes with an old creation, and a new creation. Yet it’s the same creation. We die, and we also come back to life. But the first ‘we’ is sin, and the second ‘we’ is not sin.)

    Anyway, that’s rambling. If you want a surface look, you can check Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atonement.

    It highlights some of the different theories, and which Christian branch follows which. I can recommend some books as well.

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