Series: Living Up To Our Beliefs

Bradley Monton has answered my response to his earlier blog entry, including this:

For these people, their behavior is deeply at odds with their professed beliefs, and it makes me wonder if they really believe what they say they believe.

He is especially on the mark when he points to the pattern of Christians’ lives:

But it’s the systematic behavior that concerns me — the systematic lack of evangelism in many Christians’ lives, the systematic acting as if God is not watching and judging their every behavior, the systematic living as if life is not spiritually sacred.

He’s right. I think that’s all I have to say.

For now, that is. I’ve already written some brief thoughts on how this disconnect between belief and action comes about, and what we can do about it. I think, though, that if I wrote that into this post it would weaken the main point, which is this: when a thoughtful, friendly (shall I say?) critic speaks to us like this, we need to pay attention. We need to let it bother us.

Because far more than we would want this to be the case…. he’s right.

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5 thoughts on “Monton Responds

  1. As right as he is (and hey! I preach his point frequently!) there is an aspect of the humanity that God loves that appears to be incapable of living in the fullness of heaven. We are, after all, just made of dust…

    That God, in his mercy, redeems the dust that we are and even uses our weaknesses for his purposes is enough to make the angels smile and shake their heads in awe.

  2. On the flipside, I can say that I often come across atheists who tend to display a systematic disconnect with what their beliefs naturally demand, or at least lead to. (And here I am talking about the naturalist, materialist atheist in particular, though it crosses into other boundaries.) Watch how often you’ll come across atheists who talk about good and evil, or even right and wrong with regards to morals as if there were really an objective, ultimate standard in play. Or how one or another will talk about progress and making the world a better place, as if these were real, objective and universal measures for people and societies, rather than a subjective “what I like”. Even Dawkins himself will admit to some serious inconsistency (I don’t have the quote, and I know this recently led to some arguing here, but it was along the lines of talking about how he doesn’t believe in free will, but he can’t see a way to live with that belief, so oh well – he’ll just put it out of his mind.) If someone’s beliefs entail that there be no truly objective morals, or measure of progress, etc, yet they find themselves acting and speaking and thinking as if there were such things, does that mean they may not really have the beliefs they say they do? I’d say it makes just as much sense to claim this as what’s been stated thus far.

    So I don’t think Monton’s message is as pertinent as it would seem at first – there doesn’t seem to be any special inconsistency for theists, but a general inconsistency with people’s beliefs and actions. And a possible reason for this is: acting in accordance with your beliefs, particularly when we’re talking about deeper metaphysical beliefs, requires quite a lot of conscious effort. I am convinced that most people, religious or irreligious, don’t really try to live up to their own beliefs and standards – it doesn’t mean they don’t really believe or think what they claim to, but that there’s a disconnect of habit or active pursuit.

    Another way to think about it: It’s rare to find an overweight person who doesn’t claim to want to be thinner. So at once, they’ll both talk about how they want to be thin, yet at the same time continue the habits that keep the pounds on. Does it mean that they actually want to be overweight? I don’t think so. I don’t think they typically eat with the defiance of being thin in mind. The thought simply isn’t present most of the time when it matters. Habits are like that.

  3. I was thinking about the Israelites after they were rescued by God through Moses from Egypt. They certainly believed God was real and He had incredible power, they witnessed first hand the devastation of Egypt. However this belief did not translate into obedience, just the opposite.

    I think belief in God in itself is not sufficient. In order to obey God takes supernatural spiritual power, power that only the Holy Spirit can provide.

    My take on the disconnect between belief and practice is that it is less about intellectual inconsistency (ie hypocrisy) rather it is more to do with how much (or little) the Holy Spirit is involved.

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