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Why do you believe what you believe?

by Ron and Marianne Rhoads

Why do you believe what you believe? Are you a Christian simply because your parents are?

If so, that’s not all bad. Many of us know the Christian faith works because of the joy and stability it gives our parents. But basing your Christianity on tradition may leave you with too many unanswered questions.

For example, a little girl grows up watching her mom prepare a roast for dinner. Every time, Mom cuts three inches off each end before putting the roast in the roasting pan. Finally, the little girl asks her mom why she does this.

Her mom replies, “I don’t know. I guess it’s because my mother always did it when I was a little girl.”

So, the next time the little girl sees her grandma, she asks her why she always cut three inches off each end of the roast before cooking it.

Her grandma replies, “Because I never had a roasting pan big enough.”

So, still, we need to ask the question, “What is our faith built upon?”

Maybe your faith is built upon reason or intellect, or even logic. After all, we can look at creation and easily reason to the conclusion that there must be a Creator. “Yes,” we cry, “there must be a God!”

But, as with tradition, there is a limit to how far reason will take us.

Maybe your faith is built upon emotional experience. And most of us need an emotional element to our faith. We’ve been there. In a time of desperate need, we reach out and an unseen hand is there. And while on a mountaintop, we feel a deep moving within. Perhaps, like Paul did, we experience a blinding light.

Feelings are as essential to faith as reason and tradition. We know that Paul had a dramatic, emotional experience. Paul also had superior intellect, and no one worked harder at keeping the traditions of his fathers than did Paul. But none of these were enough for Paul. What was enough? On what was his faith built?

We’re told the answer in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, where Paul says, “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

Paul’s faith was not built on emotion or intellect or tradition. It was built on his experience of Christ’s power in his daily life. To Paul, tradition was essential in his religious training, reason was crucial in shaping his religious expression and his emotional experience on the Damascus road was life-changing. But, the overwhelming foundation of Paul’s faith was his daily sense of Christ’s presence.

And so it is for us. We know God is real, not because of what we have been told, or what we have deduced, or what we felt once upon a time. We know God is real because Christ is as much a part of our lives as eating or breathing.

As a bumper sticker of the ’70s put it, “I know that God is alive. I talked with Him this morning.”

Pastor Ron and Marianne Rhoads serve the Alpine Christian Community Church in Woodfords.