Why Do People Believe What They Say They Believe? Part 1
(Ver 1.3) This is going to be Part 1 in a series on the basic Bible foundational subject of where do human beliefs come from? I am going to revert back to the fundamental basics of Christianity today in this lesson. Recently I started out writing about another Bible subject and this topic came up and suddenly expanded so large that it became a separate new Bible study that just kept growing and growing. This subject of “belief” is an integral part of Christianity found in the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Technically beliefs are an integral part of any religion, a basic characteristic found in every human and in human life in general. We all have beliefs, but they certainly vary in such wide degrees that it is easily understandable that every human belief is not the truth. Let’s first start by defining the word “belief”. A belief is a noun and one online dictionary defined it as “something one accepts to be true or real; a firmly held conviction or opinion”. Notice that word “opinion” in that definition because that is one of the key ingredients to my main subject today. A belief is a concept of recognition for something that you have no concrete evidence or proof that exists. If you can see the chair in front of you, you don’t have to believe in its existence, for example. Since you cannot see God you are now required to believe in God wihtout proof. There is a major difference in those two examples.
The entire perception of human belief is subjective, abstract, mental, intellectual and even theoretical. In other words people cannot see human beliefs since they are a spiritual internal reality. Beliefs are neither measurable nor quantifiable in human terms. The strength or numbers of your beliefs cannot even be counted. However, we can see the resulting actions or hear the words from that person that are based upon their unseen beliefs, but yet we still do not fully know why they believe what they say they believe from those alone. I also like my diagram that I found to include at the top of this discussion. There are two set realms in this diagram. One realm is God’s knowledge and the other ser realm is man’s beliefs in what they think is truth. This diagram teaches us three basic things. The first thing to note is that only what God says is the set of truth. The second thing to note is you don’t know or understand everything that God has said so your knowledge is severely limited compared to God’s. Finally we need to note that many of our current beliefs today are not founded within God’s set of truths. To me the ulitimate goal is for me to reduce my beliefs that are outside of the realm of God’s truth and this can only be accomplished by me increasing my knowledge of God’s set of truths. Is that you also? Let me introduce a Bible verse on the subject of belief to begin:
2Th 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
Here is Paul giving God thanks for those that were saved. Paul attributes one of the major factors for their salvation to be their individual belief of the truth. Paul by the law of antithesis gives us an unstated truth that those who do not believe are those that are not saved and that actually agrees with what Jesus told us in Mark 16:16. This statement introduces to us many new questions on the subject of belief. How did these saved people hear the truth? What was this truth that helped to save them? Why did they accept the truth and others did not? Was it only the truth that saved them, only their human belief or the combination of the two working together? What I see from this discussion so far is that it matters greatly what we believe. I see it being stated that every belief is not a valid entrance into the Kingdom of God and His salvation. It appears that it is only our beliefs in the truth that will actually do us any good. But what is truth and what is it based upon. So many relevant questions need to be answered if we want to begin to explain this subject to anyone else.
I have seen a major problem on the internet occurring so frequently that it has bothered me tremendously. In many internet Christian forums and groups, I have tried to engage in several intelligent conversations on subjects found in the Bible with other people who also claim to be Christians. I believe this is a Godly principle based upon Isaiah 1:18 where God says to us to come and reason with Him. Consistently in every recent conversation I have observed a pattern that would repeat with great reliability. In my every statement I would always endeavor to include the specific Bible verses to go along with what I was saying to help establish the fact that what I said was not my independent opinion but was rather based upon actual scripture. Repeatedly I would get other people to respond but they would almost always ignore my Bible verses and my statement and tell me what they believed on the subject being independent from the scripture. To ignore scriptures and to give no scriptural basis for your reasons is a very dangerous approach for human beliefs.
For example, I had one conversation recently with some people about a supposedly prophesied temple scripture found in 2 Thessalonians 2:4. This verse informs us that there is a direct connection between the coming man of sin and a temple. However, this verse does not declare what the temple is, what it is made out of, where the temple is or how it is connected to being God’s temple. Theefore, to assume anything this verse does not declare would make our belief a human opinion outside the scope of God’s Word. Do you see any problem with that? This verse only says that the man of sin will sit in the temple of God informing us that he is God. The majority of my internet conversation on this temple subject was me trying to show people that nowhere after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the “temple of God” ever called or described to be a manmade building of stone like the one built by Solomon in the O.T. In the New Testament the exact phrase “temple of God” is consistently used in conjunction to describe the human body of those that have accepted and received Christ’s Spirit inside of them. So I listed at least 4 scriptures that taught us this fact and I even showed them verses in Acts 7:48 where God tells us that He does not live anymore in a temple made by the hands of men. Along with that fact I showed when Jesus died on the cross, the old man-made temple veil was torn from top to bottom by God (Mat 27:51) indicating to us all that God had moved out of the manmade temple and was gone forever. I felt that I had given overwhelming evidence to what God says to us in the New Testament, but I was shut down and ignored and they continued to just tell me about Israel’s planned rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem and how that will be the actual fulfillment of 2 Thessalonians 2:4. Wow, do you understand how frustrating it is when people ignore God’s word for their own beliefs? I’m not going to fully discuss this subject in this lesson I just wanted to point out how easily Christians can differ when discussing specific things in the Bible. Clearly I believed one thing and they believed something opposite. We were both supposed to be looking at all of the same scriptures but I saw something they did not see or the reverse had occurred and they saw something that I had not seen. Who was right? We both cannot be right? I hope that you can see that my beliefs were based upon what my New Testament stated to me.
So what were these other Christian’s beliefs based upon? I asked them for any specific scriptures that said what they believed and they gave me none at first. So I eventually went to one friend and asked them privately for any scriptures and finally got some to review. I honestly thought that I was missing something for a short time being outnumbered in the conversation. Everyone else in the conversation said it was so obvious and self-evident that you can’t miss it, yet no one tried to explain how this was possible using their few scriptures from Daniel, Matthew and Mark all (Old Testament). Like I said, I’m not going to discuss this subject in this lesson in any detail, so I won’t get into why I do believe that it will not matter if the natural nation of Israel rebuilds a natural stone temple. I have another series of lessons on the subject of “Understanding the Coming Anti-Christ” and I touch on this briefly in those lessons giving more detail if you are interested.
I certainly believe these other Christians were Christians. I also believe that they believed strongly in what they believed was correct because that is what they were taught to believe. Also because there was more than one person with this belief in agreement, that strengthened them to hold fast to their beliefs as being steadfast. When I presented scriptures that contradicted with that line of interpretation, my scriptures were ignored and that is clearly a major problem in the eyes of God. You see your beliefs never override the truth of God. You cannot ignore any part of the Bible that disagrees with what you believe just so that you can believe another part of the Bible that you think you understand. So rather than attempting to resolve the conflict scripturally, many Christians ignore the conflicting verses thinking they are not relevant. However I am a firm believer that if God says anything that I don’t believe in then I need to change to conform to His beliefs. It will never be the other way around. God never changes and He knows everything so that only leaves you and me as the responsible change agents to adapt to His understanding of the subject. Let’s talk briefly about why people believe what they believe.
WHERE DID MY BELIEFS COME FROM?
There are only a limited number of reasons for why people actually believe what they do on any given subject. Probably you have never given significant thought to that or even asked yourself why do I believe what I believe today? Was it because of where I was born, how I was raised, where I went to school, what I have learned or observed or some other factor that caused my beliefs to form as they have? I mean why do people in Southeast Asia lean towards the belief in Buddha? Why do many others in the Middle East lean towards the belief in Islam and Mohammed? There is a basic law of physics that states there is the existence of a cause for every resulting observable effect. That is exactly what I am asking you today, what caused your beliefs? Are they regionalized? I know you have beliefs just as I have beliefs. There is literally no one on the planet that is not living their life based upon what they believe to be true. If you can figure out where your beliefs came from then you will learn if you are on the right path to knowing the truth or not. I’ll give you a quick list of some of the potential reasons for beliefs and then talk about them briefly.
- All beliefs are based upon human ignorance (limited knowledge) of the subject under discussion.
- Many beliefs originate from the teachings from parents, schools, churches, religions, governments, friends, books or other influences.
- Many beliefs are based upon rumors or speculation overheard, yet un-provable.
- Many beliefs are from personal life experiences without knowing all of the facts.
- Other beliefs come from the observed life experiences of others in our culture and our world also without understanding all of the facts.
- Beliefs can be influenced by a thought of our mind, originating from either our own spirit or from an influential spirit either demonic or angelic.
- Finally our beliefs can come from hearing from the Spirit of God in our spirit.
I just gave you seven possible reasons for why you believe something today. I might go and give you a few Bible examples of each of these as I continue this series. Also notice that I gave you 5 natural reasons and 2 spiritual or supernatural reasons for human beliefs. Most unsaved people do not comprehend the existence of the spiritual dimension influences and only a select group of Christians have a firm grasp on this area. There is a major difference between natural and spiritual and they both occur in the Bible. Can you think of any other dominant reasons for why people believe either right or wrong what they say they believe? We know by the sheer numbers of the different kinds of beliefs in the world that it is literally impossible for them all to be the truth. The dramatic contradictions between the beliefs cause us to know many are wrong. Go back and review my list of the belief sources and see if you can assign which ones are possible sources for truth and which ones are potential causes for deception. I guess I should briefly describe the subject of deception. I actually have a Bible series on this subject called “Deception the Greatest Weapon of Satan”. Do you understand that no one that is deceived knows they have been deceived? If I knew I was deceived then I’m no longer deceived. Take the story of Tamar and Judah in the Genesis 38. Tamar uses a form of righteous deception to achieve a greater good. Judah has sex with Tamar thinking she was a prostitute. Therefore, Judah was clearly deceived and what he believed was true was not entirely the truth. You just Judah’s perspective was different than Tamar’s perspective because she knew what was going on more completely. Later Judah finds out that his daughter-in-law Tamar is pregnant and suddenly the deception unravels and Judah is suddenly no longer deceived. What changed in this story of Judah to convert him from his set of deception beliefs to kowing the truth? Only Judah’s knowledge changed and only this caused his beliefs to change. Judah’s original beliefs were first based upon observation and experience. Because Tamar looked like a prostitute Judah believed her to be one. Uh oh? How many people are still doing that type of reasoning today? I just described to you a classic Bible example of human beliefs formed by natural experience from my list of belief sournces numbers 4 and 5.
Deception is literally a great trick of Satan and is very dominant in the world today. Tell a little lie to someone and if they believe it they are now deceived. By the earlier definition of “belief” we learned that whenever a person believes something, they have an affirmation that the information given or presented is the truth. This of course does not make their belief the truth simply because it is present; rather presence only confirms the existence of a stated belief right or wrong. From my example of Judah and Tamar we should be able to see that potential truth or deception can come from any of the first 6 stated sources of our beliefs. Because Judah’s experience and knowledge changed, his beliefs changed and eventually conformed to God’s truth.
Let me stop here and say that I believe these 7 sources are the main reasons for individual beliefs today based upon my own personal observations. Did you see what I just did? I am basing what I believe to be true upon what I have seen or learned around me. That is actually a very normal method for forming our beliefs, but it can also be a very dangerous approach to take if we do not recognize the truthfulness of our sources correctly or understand all of the facts that occurred with what we observed. I think my example of Judah and Tamar exhibited this principle very well. If you go and reread the story closely you might also agree.
Let me try to teach you briefly why our beliefs can be founded in error so easily. Since I believe in God, I believe that He created us and is the source for all knowledge and truth. If you do not believe in God then you have no formation for the basis of any truth and thus your beliefs are relative to your ignorance and your inconsistent human reasoning. For me, since I believe in God, I believe also in the Bible being the inspired Word of God given to man to teach us (2 Tim 3:16). Both of these beliefs provide me with an unfailing foundation that is not based upon me, my opinion, my ability to reason or the opinions of others. However my belief is still subjective in the eyes of many other people who do not believe in a God as they have been deceived in choosing to believe in no God, or Allah as God, Jupiter as God or whoever. This is why you need to know your God. If you speak to your God and He does not answer you back, that God is probably the wrong God to follow and believe in. I learned a long time ago that my God speaks to me and I know His voice and I will only follow Him.
I believe that every Christian better have a strong relationship with the one that they believe in. So my God speaks to me and I listen but, unless we definitely know that what we believe was something that we heard from the God that knows everything we have no actual basis for knowing anything that we believe. You see we all learn and believe things from what men teach us and if they have not heard from God either then you are now basing your ignorant beliefs on the further ignorant beliefs of that man. Not everything that professors teach you in universities is the truth. Just because someone believes it is the truth that does not make it the actual truth. All human information and knowledge is relative and based upon the current limited known facts built further upon their very limited understanding of the entire subject. Take the human knowledge of the recently discovered DNA of man. This very intelligent design characteristic could have only been created by our God that knows everything. Man is still trying to unravel the mystery of the complex DNA properties and what they all mean. This DNA example demonstrates man’s lack of specific knowledge is exactly why universities teach a lot of unsubstantiated theories. Fifty years ago there was no subjects taught about genetic engineering or research and they have only now emerged because of our discovery of them. What changed? Of course it was our knowledge of the subject that change; the subject DNA always existed as truth as long as man existed. The fact that they do not know everything in colleges and universities proves they are ignorant. A manmade theory is any teaching that is based upon the ignorance of the subject under discussion. However this is not the way of God or His Word. God does not present to us any theories in His Word. However, what we understand of the Word is still widely theoretical, based upon our lack of complete understanding of it just like our knowledge of DNA.
Even hearing directly from God is much more complicated than us just listening to a few of His words and thinking we have it all figured out. His intelligence level is so far superior to ours, that He can say certain simple things to Him and they could infinitely surpass our current ability to comprehend them fully. We must base our every belief from God on the basic supposition that we even understood what we heard correctly and that we fully understand what God said, why He said it and that there are no other dependent subjects required to understand it more fully. My basic beliefs in God’s word have never changed dramatically in the last ten to fifteen years. In other words if I heard from God correctly what I believe from that information is usually only enhanced to a greater level of understanding as I learn and hear more from God. No one is ever going to learn something new tomorrow from God that will disqualify what they learned yesterday from God or what they learned yesterday was not the truth at all from God. Truth never changes and God’s word will never contradict itself and thus in the true interpretation and understanding any new information from God just helps us to grow with increased wisdom to know how to apply the information that we have already acquired. The only time that I have had to ever abandon a belief was when my belief did not come from God or His Word but rather it came from my own human reasoning or another of the stated sources of information other than God, His written word, His angel, His prophet or His representative.
Therefore the accuracy of what you believe today is relatively based upon the unintended ignorance of yourself along with the source of the selected limited information that you are listening to and believing in. Also notice no human source of information is perfect. Even men of God teach out of their ignorance of the subject being taught. When we are all born into this world we enter the natural realm with a zero level of intelligence, knowledge, and understanding. Therefore we are all void of any beliefs at initial birth. How then do we acquire any actual real knowledge of the truth as we grow up and mature? That is where we are all challenged by God to go and find the truth as children being trained up into the correct ways of learning. This is also why Satan wants every school in the world to be void of the Bible. Remove the basic source for all truth and people will more easily accept the lies to be deceived. God informed us of a basic law that he who seeks will find (Mat 7:7). Therefore finding truth begins with first seeking truth in the right places. The Bible is the only valid source of truth and what you believe needs to be firmly grounded upon only the facts within the Bible. So from my list of seven potential truth or belief sources where are you seeking to find your truth? If you are looking to God and to His Word, then I believe you are on the right narrow path, but if you are on another wider path then you are probably doomed for failure.
IS WHAT THE MAJORITY BELIEVES, ALWAYS RIGHT AND THE TRUTH?
I alluded to this question earlier. People many times feel like there is increased safety in numbers. In some situations this is true, but in others it just gives a false sense of security. People think that if I can get enough people to agree with me, then I know we are all right and we know the truth. This is a very popular method to achieve acceptance, self-assurance and confidence in the accuracy of our beliefs. If we can get the majority of the people to believe in a subject, many think that this fact alone will change our belief to a truth. However this is also a great way to be deceived, die and go to hell. Let me give you an example in the Bible of a majority that failed to receive what God had given to them. The children of Israel sent out 12 spies into their land that God had said I have given to you in Numbers 13. The spies came back with a majority negative report based upon what they saw with their own physival eyes. Again we see numbers 4 and 5 in my list as being the dominant factor setting for their beliefs. Only two of the spies ignored what they saw and based their beliefs upon a higher degree of faith in the words of their God. For the other 10, their personal observations of the land and its inhabitants kept them from living in this land that God had said was theirs already. The 10 spies influenced the rest of the nation with their negative report (numbers 2 and 3 in my list) and thus that generation died not possessing the truth. Whose truth and beliefs were actually right? Were the majority 10 spies of the children of Israel right or was the minority Joshua, Caleb and God right? Obviously God was right and Joshua and Caleb were right with Him because they did get to live in their land eventually. Therefore this story would appear to reaffirm that what we base our beliefs upon will matter tremendously. Learn right now that what God says is what you need to believe going forward regardless of what the circumstances of life or anyone else around you is actually telling you. Believing the words of the ten spies caused over a million people to die in the wilderness. Their listening to wrong sources and their agreement with the wrong beliefs of others was the only factor that kept them from God’s Promised Land. Also, learn the fact that the majority beliefs were clearly overruled by what God says if we choose to believe it. Never base your beliefs upon what the majority says alone, they may just be helping you die in your wilderness with them.
WHAT DO WE DO WHEN A CHRISTIAN TELLS US SOMETHING IS TRUE?
Let’s talk about another potential source for truth today in more detail. Number two in my list is a very common and prevalent human source of belief influence. We all encounter new people every day that can influence our beliefs. Do you automatically trust or believe what I say to you just because I said it? Do you automatically accept what your pastor says to you just because he is a really nice person? Do you accept what a TV preacher says just because millions of other people love him? I tell you if you do that you are in major trouble and probably already deceived. Never believe anything that I say or anyone else says no matter who they are, or what kind of degree they have, or any other criteria or factor of man’s satisfaction that helps you to accept what they say as truth. This is the greatest problem with our current President. People accept his words as truth and clearly I can see through them for what they are by his actions. Actions always speak louder than your words. If you say you are a Christian just to get Christians to vote for you and then do not live like Christ that is a major problem and a great deception. A person with no spiritual fruit cannot pretend to create it for those that know how to look for it. I hope someone is listening.
No man has ever seen God (Jo 1:18) yet God is the only source for us knowing any actual truth (Jo 14:6). Since man is flesh dominated from birth, hearing and listening spiritually to God is only possible by acquired spiritual knowledge and growth. Therefore since man has such great difficulty in hearing from Him directly God places pastors, teachers and others in the church to help people learn about spiritual things to cause them to grow up spiritually.
Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Eph 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Did you see what these verses said? Many people like to think that when they get saved that the Holy Spirit in them will now teach them everything that they need to know and they therefore, have no need to go to a church to learn. However, that is not exactly what God just said, is it? The perfecting of the saints is God’s ultimate goal, and He causes this to happen by giving the church teachers and all the other five fold ministry gifts. Did you notice that not everyone in the Body of Christ is an apostle? I think that is a factor that you need to fully embrace. Start by asking yourself, “am I an apostle”? If you are not an apostle, then you need the gifts of the apostle to grow and to be edified. No Christian is an island unto God that is independent from other Christians. Every Christian needs the others in the body to survive. We are called the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27) and like it says the hand cannot say I do not need the feet or another part of the body (1 Cor 12:21).
Why do people often believe wrong? I need to go through a list of reasons for wrong beliefs but I’ll touch on just one today. One reason for wrong beliefs is clearly because people refuse to believe that God has sent certain people to teach them through one of the fivefold ministry gifts. Rejecting God’s apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers will keep you in your bondage of wrong beliefs. Notice the fact in the N.T. that God gave only Paul certain revelation that He gave no other man. Notice that God gave John certain revelation that He gave to no other man. Peter is the same, Luke was the same, therefore none of these teachings from God could have been omitted or ignored byr the people in the early church or they will remain in their state of great ignorance. So when Peter came to town to preach to the people, they were expected to listen and hear him. When Paul came to town later to preach to the same people, they were again expected to listen and to learn from Paul. What was true in the early church is still true today. Jesus still appears to certain people in the church to give them revelation that is to be taught to the others in the body. God will not attempt to go to every church member and teach them what was already given to a teacher like Paul.
HOW DO WE KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A REAL MINISTER AND A FAKE?
Now we are getting into the most critical part of today’s subject of how to determine if your beliefs are based upon any truth from God. Because God directly warns us of the existence of many false teachers, false prophets and other types of deceivers in the Bible we can understand that not everyone that is preaching in our churches are actually called by God and gifted by God to give us any truth. Therefore we must require God to either give to us strong spiritual discernment or another basis of verification for what is being spoken. Since my subject is not about spiritual discernment I will not attempt to address that part of the subject today. Just notice that because someone says they can discern the truth does not prove or mean that they actually can. Spiritual discernment is a spiritual gift from a spiritual God and not everyone has every gift as I have previously stated. Gifts are handed out by God alone and not because a person wants them. You do not call yourself into the ministry nor do you tell God what He needs to give you. Understand your order in the spiritual food chain and be a good listener and a good student first. God will continue to teach you everything that you need to know eventually as you continue to grow being led by His Spirit. How then do we as Christians need to discern the truth? What is the basis for all of our knowledge? Here is the key:
Act 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
This is actually one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It holds awesome information and instruction for everyone in the church. There is a given comparison of two types of Christians being presented. One group of Bereans were stated to more noble than the group at Thessalonica. What made the Bereans more noble? Two main factors were found present in the Bereans, first they were open to change and second they proved everything that they heard preached to them by searching the Bible daily. I am a Berean type of Christian; what kind of Christian are you? I search the scriptures daily to see whatever is taught to me is the truth. I never accept anything from a teacher without confimration from God. Therefore if you are not open to change you are not a noble wise type of a Berean. If you are an open minded type of Berean, then after you have heard what I said, then you need to go and prove it. This means you do not jump into automatic agreement. Go to your Bible and search it diligently. Searching the scriptures for the truth is NOT just reading the words on the page. Sure that is where it starts, but it does not end there. Searching involves much more extensive effort called study. This is where we look up all of the original language words of text and find out what they all mean and how they are used. We also go and find all the other verses that use those same words to see what else God says on the subjects and then we combine all of this information to confirm what was said was the truth. If you think this is easy then you are clearly confused or deceived. The only way this type of study is technically possible is with a modern computer and Bible search software. Because Christians do not know how to study the Bible they are very vulnerable to deception. Perhaps I will get into a deeper lesson series on correct Bible study someday. If you have read all of my Bible studies you should have learned many study techniques by my application. I have also tried to post specific guidelines and rules for correct Bible interpretation on my site but not too many people understand the importance and ignore them.
This was my first lesson on the sources of Christian and human beliefs and how they work. We covered a lot of interesting topics and I gave you several Bible examples of how human beliefs were formed using the examples of Tamar and Judah, the 12 spies of Israel and the Bereans and the Thessalonians. If you have constructive questions or comments on this subject I would be interested in hearing them. Thank you for your time and effort in studying the Bible and I pray that you will become a Berean type of Christian also today. God Bless!