Why should I believe something?

by Steve Wilkinson

People believe all sorts of things. Some believe in aliens, while others don’t. Some believe in global warming, while others don’t. Some believe in evolution, while other’s don’t. Some believe in a God or gods, while others do not. Why the disagreement, given there are certainly people of good intention and intellect on either side of many important issues? Why should we believe something?

A fundamental challenge (and a proper one!) you will encounter the moment you begin your evangelistic efforts, is the question of why you believe a particular thing to be the case.1 For example, just the other day I was challenged concerning why I believe the Bible rather than the myriad other religious texts. And while the question is often posed in a mocking way, it is actually a great question. Christian apologists such as Greg Koukl in his book, Tactics, recommend we (Christians) start doing more such asking of our own.

But, before we look at the reasons people do believe things, it might be helpful to consider reasons they might not. It is often said that there are three fundamental reasons people reject Christianity. I think this typically applies in general.

Intellectual

This reason for rejecting a position rests on the data, or at least the person’s perception or interpretation of the data. It doesn’t mean they understand the facts correctly, but that are grounding their decision in this manner. This would be the claim of most atheists as to why they reject Christianity.

A person might reject the idea of aliens, for example, if they understand fine-tuning principals and astrophysics. Or, they might reject global warming because they just experienced a really cold winter. (Note: in this last example, the interpretation of the data and reasoning is in error, but the rejection falls into the intellectual category.)

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Emotional

An emotional rejection occurs when the reason for the decision is based in a person’s experience and reaction, rather than a proper intellectual analysis. As above, their position could be correct or in error. In our Christian context, this might be the person who rejects Christianity because they were abused by a Christian leader.

A person might reject global warming because they don’t trust environmentalists. Or, maybe they reject Islam because they know someone who was killed in the 9/11 attacks.

Volitional (will) or Moral

A volitional rejection occurs when what a person wills overrides the intellectual analysis. Again, this doesn’t necessarily make the decision to be in error. Someone who loves dark-chocolate covered coffee beans, and selects them over jelly beans, might reap health benefits in the process with no knowledge of nutrition or scientific studies. Someone might reject Christianity because they don’t like the impact on their lifestyle. Or, a person might reject global warming because they don’t want to give up their SUV.

I hope it is easy to see why emotional and volitional reasons for believing something can be problematic. However, it is important to keep these in mind. If they are the reasons, the intellectual will almost always be overridden…

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Why should I believe something? – TilledSoil.org