Believing for No Reason
by Clint Roberts
One of the earliest signs of the healthy development of the mind of a child is that he or she starts responding to everything with a simple question: Why? Every parent knows this and knows that it can drive you nuts, but it is a reassuring trademark of the kid’s normal intellectual growth. To ask “why” is to solicit a reason for the truth of something. What begins in childhood is supposed to continue throughout the course of life. We believe things on account of other things, or in words, for reasons.
That’s not to say that every preference in every area needs to have an argument that supports it. In matters of artistic predilection or taste, no reasons are required other than, “I just like it.” Whatever kind of music sounds good to you, enjoy. Feel free to load up your device and belt it out at your leisure. You don’t really owe anybody a sophisticated explanation. You also don’t have to make a case for how and why certain foods taste better to you than others. They just do.
But what if I treat everything else this way? What if I take political stances, proclaim spiritual realities, assert opinions about history and offer declarations about moral principles – all “just because”? After all, maybe those views are simply the ones I like. Does that suffice? Do I need reasons or can I just say that I believe those particular things, period?
I’ve been surprised time and again to run right up against this way of thinking in recent years. At first I was caught so off guard by it that I wasn’t sure what to say in response. It was so foreign to me that a blank stare was my only reaction. But I’ve been trying to learn just how I can begin to demonstrate how utterly wrong-headed it is for people to hold beliefs for no substantive reasons at all. So permit me here to say some things about it, starting with those who profess to be Christians who think along these lines, and then moving on to the larger context of society in general.
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Faith is Not Blind
No less a giant of influence than Charles Haddon Spurgeon said nearly those exact words (faith is not blind) as he sought to convince his many hearers that faith is not random, fanciful speculation, not just a vague attitude. It is trust or belief in someone or something specific. “You will never get comfort to your soul out of what you do not understand,” he said, “nor find guidance for your life out of what you do not comprehend.” Some level of clear perception and understanding is required.
Nevertheless in our time it is too common for Christians to carry in their minds a hazy collage of beliefs they haven’t thought all that much about. If someone asks them why they believe this or that, they may just subjectivize the issue and say it’s how they were raised or that it is private and personal. Most likely, having been asked about a belief, they’ll answer with a feeling. Sometimes their passions may run high in certain conversations when they feel their views are being challenged, threatened, or even attacked, but rather than showing a capability to better explain or defend those beliefs, they again tend only to get emotional and feel offended…
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