Thursday, May 19, 2005

Changing My Mind About Something

I used to think that action followed belief. The more years I spent in the church, the less I bought into that idea. For the last couple of years, I've even made a big point of saying (and writing) publicly that "action does not necessarily follow belief." Recently I've been reading Dallas Willard's book "The Divine Conspiracy", and he has really challenged me on this. Get ready...I'm about to recant an idea that I have promoted with gusto.
Action DOES follow belief. The sad fact is that most Christians don't believe what they know. I was equating "believing" with "knowing", hence my confusion. There is a huge difference. "Knowing" involves holding the right information in your head, and maybe even cognitively agreeing with it. Believing involves ordering your life around the idea as if it were so. Most Christians take the first option, erroneously thinking it to be the second. Therefore life change does not occur. We struggle with the same struggles. We attempt to force ourselves to be "good". We do mental gymnastics to try to justify how Jesus could describe a life for his followers that none would ever actually live (and not be lying). The fact is that we know what Jesus said and we know that He believed it. We know these things, but we don't believe them. We live as if there is going to be a standardized test at the end of our lives to determine our eternity (as if that were even the point). We hold the right "answers" in our heads (or so we think) and live our actual lives by the conflicting ideas that we actually believe. What do our churches and ministries need to do to move people from being Christians who "know" to Christians who actually "believe"? The world is waiting...


Phil said...

Reminds me of this quote by Brennan Manning:

"The greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who proclaim Jesus with their lips, and reject him with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."

Fajita said...

Knowledge is what we are supposed to believe. Belief is what we act on.

However, we come to believe what we do as well.

An experience will shift our beliefs, if only we would allow ourselves to experience more.

Adam said...

I agree with you. I had almost given up on belief leading to action though. It turns out it CAN work both ways.

Kenny Payne said...


I am working on some lessons from 1 Peter currently and I was hit like a ton of bricks by a statement Peter makes - "Since you have been purified by obeying the truth..." I have probably read that passage a hundred times and every time I carelessly substituted "believed" for "obeyed". I think Peter would sum it up by saying that until you act on it you do not really believe it anyway! Obviously the connection between action and belief is a two way street (with many sideroads crossing here and there)and it would be a mistake to insist that the traffic only flows in one direction. However, if you do it long enough you will believe it. And if you really believe it you should put your money where your mouth is! Just a thought...

Jovan said...


Teach, show, practice, repeat.

Rick said...

good stuff. someone's book pointed out that "believe" in most cases is a word that's better translated "believe into" - like the knowing that leads to action. thanks for posting - made me think.

Ryan said...

It seems like half of God's revelation is what to do, and the second half is getting people to really do it. How often is Jesus saying, "Do you not know the prophets? Do you not know what is written?" Paul in the same way rarely seems to give new insight, but just keeps saying over and over, "Remember, remember, remember...what we told you, who you are, what you will become."

You don't know me, but we conversed a while back on your blog and I've enjoyed following your posts. I just started a new blog myself:

(sorry, I guess that was a plug.)

Keith Brenton said...

I've had a mantra on the subject that I haven't always lived by:

"Faith becomes fact when you act."

Donna G said...

DW is changing the way I think as well. It is truly liberating to realize that my thinking has been the biggest hinderance.

I am truly drinking in the book.

Milton Stanley said...

Manual trackback: I linked to your post on my blog today. Peace.

Anonymous said...

In truth we do, over time, as opposed to brief exceptions, what we actually believe.

Belief is essentially that which we have become convinced or fully persuaded of. That which I am truly convinced of will shape my Core values.

Core Values then shape my behaviors, that which I then choose to do, because those choices are a reflection in some way of my Core Values which are a reflection of my Core Beliefs.

You want to know what someone truly believes, watch their life and choices over time and you will see and learn what they genuinely believe.

To say I believe in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior but your choices over time reflect other than that reality, then in all likelyhood you genuinely do not believe, or are not fully convinced or persuaded of His Saving transforming grace and Lordship in your life.

Honestly seeing our lives as they are genuinely, is the first step towards authentic and lasting change.

Deluding ourselves into thinking that we are what we aren't in spirit and in truth is a pathway filled with disaster not to speak of simply a poor witness of the Lord Jesus.

Blessings in Christ Jesus!

John Schroeder said...

Great post - Linked to this here

Mike said...


Larry Richards, in 1975, wrote an excellent book entitled A Theology of Christian Education wherein he identifies the problem of isolated beliefs. It's since been packaged under a different title, but I haven't found it on Amazon or CBD. It's very good.

Both things are true: actions follow beliefs and beliefs follow actions. Sometimes you have to act yourself into the right way of thinking. It is not necessary to follow one or the other: choose both. Obedience is the main thing, although motivation is certainly critical, too (the Pharisees are proof of the latter: their theology was actually pretty good, and their behavior pretty outstanding, but their attitudes and motivations were horrific).

Glad to have found your blog. I look forward to additional good reads.

JohnnyBrewer said...

Great thought, Adam. I think you nailed it right down. Actions do truly follow beliefs...and we do confuse what we believe with what we know. It simply goes to prove, finally, that faith is THE underlying girder that uphold all we are and do.