On the first post about Paul Little’s book Know Why You Believe [written on January 6, 2016] I asked
“Why does Paul Little have to write a book about our belief? Aren’t we all on the same page? Don’t we all know what we believe and why we believe it? Aren’t all our questions resolved already?”
In this last post, I want to wrap up my thoughts about his book in an effective way.
Without coming out and saying it, as a faith, Little is really implying that we don’t have the basics in place when someone questions us about our belief system. Sadly, many everyday Christians are not known for their intellectual prowess. Pastor Francis Chan states that Christians often adopt a posture that they want to be fed rather than wanting to feed themselves. Let the Pastor preach to me. Let the Sunday School teacher teach me about the Bible. Let the Bible study teacher do all the work. I don’t have to read anything in advance. I am not responsible for my own growth. I don’t have to have any mental discipline.
John Stott [my go to spiritual source] says “God expects us to use our minds.”
In worship, we are supposed to go to hear our preacher with our intellect in place. Worship should not be mindless. Stott emphasized this in his preaching and he shares an irritated response from one of his parishioners. The man told him, “Whenever I go to church, I feel like unscrewing my head and placing it under the seat, because in a religious meeting, I never have any use for anything above my collar button.” True worship of the Lord is when you are “fully and fruitfully engaged”. Certainly the pastor does not want you in some semi-somnambulistic state.
Faith is another area that is misunderstood. People equate the idea of faith with blind [i.e. blind faith]. However faith is not mindless belief nor is it naïve optimism. Faith according to our Bible is thoughtful. The man who has mindless faith or naïve optimism is a man who finds himself buffeted by the world in times of trouble. This person can lose control when things “go south.” The man of faith holds onto his thoughts in difficult times and controls his thoughts despite the temptation to panic. That’s what I call mental strength.
Holiness is an additional area where the mind is necessary. The man of Christ should be in a perpetual effort to lead a life that is worthy of God. How do we start? We must know God’s moral law and commandments. This means personal knowledge of scripture. Once we know what is expected, it is important to set our minds to it. This means we need to practice mental discipline and self-control. Self-control is primarily mind control. Listen to Paul in the book of Romans and First Corinthians: “Don’t you know that by being baptized into Christ, you were baptized into his death? Don’t you know that you are the slaves of the one to whom you have yielded yourselves to obedience? Don’t you know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Don’t you know that your bodies are members of Christ.” I really don’t think Paul is trying to make us feel stupid by these questions. He just wants us to be sure we KNOW who we are, what we have committed to and where we should go in our holiness quest.
Doing the will of God is the last area of our lives where the mind of the Christian is so important. I want to do His will. I recognize that if I do His will, life will be so much easier and so much more fruitful. But how will I discern the will of God? I know that God’s general will for all of us is to be conformed to the image of his Son Jesus. When it comes to particular questions we have about God’s will, we had better not base our response to His will on a hunch or an impulse. It is best for our actions to be based on mental discipline, the mental discipline of Bible study and most especially regular prayer.
Too often the follower of God has been labelled as the person who “checks his mind at the door of the church.”
Maybe Paul Little’s book has made you think about the foundation of your faith. Maybe some of my posts have stimulated some thought on your part.
As we leave Little’s book, it is my prayer that we have moved far beyond the position of the young boy in Sunday School class [cited in Chapter 1 of Know Why You Believe]. When his teacher asked him what Christian faith is, he replied “Believing something you know isn’t true.”