The Unexamined Faith is Not Worth Believing – An Excerpt from Core Christianity
Too often, Christians go through life unprepared for their beliefs to be challenged because they don’t even know for themselves what they believe. In his signature style, author Michael Horton challenges us to examine our doctrine. Many think doctrine is dry and boring, but Horton challenges that just as we tend to learn as much as we can about the people and situations most important to us, we should do so with the Gospel.
Today’s excerpt clearly lays out the premise of the book. Hear God call you into his story as you read. Core Christianity is available to order from Zondervan Academic.
A lot of Christians take their story—the narratives that give rise to their beliefs—for granted. They pray, go to church, perhaps even read their Bible. But they might be stymied if a stranger asked them to explain what they believe and why they believe it. The purpose of this book is to help you understand the reason for your hope as a Christian so that you can invite others into the conversation. This book is for those who are tired of being starring characters in their own life movie. You want to be written into God’s unfolding drama. But where do you start? Before we embark on this journey, I want to make a case briefly for why it is so important in the first place. Let me challenge you to consider the following questions that go right to the heart of where we live.
1. Why should I be interested in Christian doctrine? We study things we care about. We pursue an education to work in a particular field. People invest enormous amounts of time and energy in sports, culture, business, child-rearing, learning a new technology, and various hobbies. It’s all about desire. What do we really love? What are the most important things in life?
In some cases, doctrine seems irrelevant because there is a firewall between faith and reason, believing and thinking. “I just believe,” people say, but what do they believe? And why? The average person on the street relegates religion to the realm of irrational feelings, not facts, and dismisses it accordingly. To such people, belief is completely subjective. The question is not whether it’s true but whether it works for you. That might be a legitimate assumption for other religions and self-help philosophies, but Christianity rests on historical, public claims. These claims are either true or false; they cannot be true for some people and not for others.
2. Shouldn’t we just concentrate on loving Jesus and get on with life? Imagine that you’ve just been told you have cancer. You’re going to need surgery immediately. As you tell the story to your spouse or friend, you are asked details about the diagnosis, the symptoms, and the cure. You shrug and say, “I’m not sure. I’m not a doctor, so I’ll just go with the flow.”
Well, what about the doctor? What are his or her credentials? Has the surgeon performed this operation before? What’s the success rate? Again you shrug. “Hmmm. I haven’t really checked.”
Obviously, anyone who loves you is going to press you to take it all a little more seriously and do some homework.
“Look,” you reply, “I just have to trust the process and hope that it all turns out all right. Right now it’s working for me.”
This is an absurd scenario for most of us. We would take our physical health more seriously than this person. But what about our spiritual health? Despite medical advances, one day you and I will die. In comparison with eternity, whatever life span we’re given seems pretty brief. The time we have now is for asking the big questions—and finding answers. We all have to grapple with the severity of our spiritual illness and its symptoms. We also need to know the credentials of the God who promises a very specific, if drastic, cure. As we hear the success stories, our faith in him grows. It’s not just an act of the will—a subjective leap. It is a reasonable trust backed up by his mighty acts throughout biblical history from Genesis to Revelation. All this requires investigation. That is what theology or doctrine is all about: exploring the most important convictions that shape our outlook, desires, hopes, and lives.
The firewall between faith and reason has to come down. Your heart can only embrace someone you know something about. To avoid dealing with doctrine, some say about Christianity, “It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship.” But if you think about it, our closest relationships are not with people about whom we know little. It is only as we get to know people and they prove their character, love, and care that we grow in our desire for their company. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” But it’s also true that the unexamined faith is not worth believing.
God is either there or he isn’t. But it is absurd to imagine that you conjure up his existence and characteristics by an act of personal choice. If God exists, then he is the author of the story that includes you. The gospel—“good news”—that the Christian faith proclaims is either true or false, but it cannot be walled off into a safe room of cuddly bears and the favorite blanket of childhood. Its validity does not depend on how well it works for you, how it makes your life more meaningful, or how it gives you moral direction and inspirational motivation. Instead the gospel is a very particular claim based upon events that happened in datable history with significance for the entire cosmos. (Pgs 14-16)
Let that challenge sit with you. Have you examined for yourself this “good news” we talk about? Are you able to articulate what you believe about God? Do you understand what is core to Christianity?
Core Christianity is available to order from Zondervan Academic.