A minister in Oregon has caused a stir by advocating what he describes as ‘belief-less Christianity.’ Just last month, as a guest-writer for the blog, ‘The Friendly Atheist,’ he listed a wide-range of beliefs he no longer accepts. He denies, for instance, the existence of God and the after-life. He says that Jesus may have been a real, historical figure, but even if he were, what is taught about him is nothing more than legend. Still insisting that he is a “true Christian,” He wonders why, “Christianity has placed all its eggs in the belief basket.”
Easter seems like a good time to recall the necessity of faith.
From the very first book of the Bible, the importance of belief is highlighted. Genesis 15:6 reveals, “Abram believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” In the middle of the Old Testament, the book of Psalms repeatedly emphasizes the wisdom of putting one’s trust in God. For instance, Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Likewise, Psalm 84:12 affirms, “O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.” Similarly, the prophetic books at the end of the Old Testament call for trusting-belief. Isaiah 26:3 expresses the confidence of the faithful: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.”
If belief is mentioned often in the Old Testament, it is even more central in the New. Forms of the word ‘belief’ are found about 125 times in the first four books alone. In John, not only do we read, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,” but also, “…whoever does not believe stands condemned already…” (3:16, 18). Jesus said, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will indeed die in your sins” (8:24). Following His crucifixion, His disciple Thomas famously expressed his doubts about Jesus. Later the resurrected Jesus urged him, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” To which Thomas, convinced, replied, “My Lord and my God!” (20:27-28).
The letters of the New Testament also emphasize the fundamental necessity of faith. Christians in Rome were assured, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). The writer of Hebrews was unequivocal, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (11:6).
The Oregon minister mentioned earlier insists that “Belief-less Christianity is thriving.” He means, of course, that it is popular. It is. Even among many who claim to believe in the risen Savior, the abiding witnesses of His resurrection – baptism (Romans 6:3-5; I Peter 3:21), the church (Matthew 16:18, 21) and the Lord’s Supper (I Corinthians 11:26) – are often neglected, or even denounced as unnecessary. But if Christ’s resurrection is essential, shouldn’t these witnesses be regarded as essential, too?
Belief-less Christianity is popular, but also powerless. The victory that overcomes the world is obedient faith (I John 5:3-5). Does your faith compel you to seek the Lord, to worship Him regularly, and to obey Him every day? The crucified, risen Savior will meet your every need, but only if you confess your faith in Him with your lips and life. Hear Him, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).