Believing vs. Doing

There is this guy in my sociology class. Just by looking at him I could tell what kind of person he is. Conservative Christian. Republican. Probably a good chance he was home schooled. Kind of geeky. And every time he opens his mouth, he confirms my opinions of him.

He opens his mouth a lot.

It’s not like he doesn’t have good things to say. His contributions are always intelligent, if not a tiny bit biased. It’s just that he talks so much.

My teacher is also slightly biased, though I don’t think he realizes it. As much as he promotes the scientific method and decreasing bias in scientific research, he has a slight overconfidence in his own ability to reason and think. This has made me less likely to contribute to class discussion, because it is annoying how he puts his own spin on everything I say.

For instance, in one class we were talking about how social media has changed the world. I brought up the area of fashion, saying that globalization of information has fostered creativity in dress, because people can pick up fashion inspiration for a multitude of different blogs and pinterest pictures.

“Oh yes,” said the teacher. “Now days fashions change so quickly because of the media. Do you have a teenage daughter?”

“No,” I said. Do I really look old enough to have a teenage daughter??

“My daughter is thirteen. She says, ‘Dad, I need to buy new clothes.’ I say, ‘but we just bought you some!’ She says, ‘but they are no longer in style!”

As much as I wanted to say that I was speaking of real fashion, not 13-year-olds fashion trends, I held my tongue. That teacher has a habit of doing this sort of misrepresentation of what people contribute, twisting it to fit his own opinions. Now I just take notes and let the others do the frustrating talking. Like the Republican/Christian/possibly home schooled kid.

So, now that you have a clear picture of the two key players in the story of believing vs. doing, I will get on with it.

The teacher was lecturing on the roles that families and schools play in raising a child. Sometimes these roles come into conflict. For instance, a parent might not want her child learning about evolution in schools. What is she to do? Send the kid to a private school? Home school the kid?

“They could talk to the teacher,” said the boy who talks. “Ask him to teach evolution as a theory.”

The teacher kind of brushed this idea off as a bad one, and tried to change the subject, but the boy persisted. “I did that to my teacher,” he said. “I went up to him and was like, ‘listen. I am a Christian. I believe that God created the world, and that the earth is only a few thousand years old.”

The teacher’s eyebrows were up and there was a little smile on his face. “You still believe that?”

“Yes,” said the boy. Giggles went up from various parts of the classroom.

The teacher argued with the boy a bit, but the argument was somewhat inane and the teacher steered the topic elsewhere. I never stood up and said I agreed with the boy or anything, partially because I like to avoid controversial discussions in class.

Now the class talked about media, and the effect it had on children. People in the class had had varying amounts of TV exposure. I, for instance, never watched TV growing up. But when the teacher asked if anyone had watched seven or more hours of TV a day as a kid, who should raise his hand but THE TALKATIVE BOY.

Yep. I was a wee bit shocked.

The boy watched discovery channel and cartoons growing up. But I was more disturbed to hear what his family’s attitude toward video games was. He and his two brothers were playing M rated video games constantly by the age of ten, games where they would violently kill other human figures.

“My parents would approve of every game before we played it,” he said. “They would explain that killing people is okay in a video game, just not in real life.” And then he described one such game, so gruesome it made my stomach turn.

Just like I didn’t stand up and argue for Creationism, I did not stand up and argue against violent video games. Likewise, I am not going to argue either of those things in this blog post. Instead I am going to ask a question which digs a little deeper.

Which is more important: BELIEVING the right things or DOING the right things?

On the surface, of course, believing trumps doing. After all we are saved by grace through FAITH, not by WORKS least any man should boast.

However, I’m not talking about believing in Jesus. I am talking about believing the right theology. Is it more important for people to believe the right theology as a Christian, or to do the right actions as a Christian?

It seems to me that the two should be inseparably linked, but they are not.

Discussion and opinions would be appreciated. 🙂

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9 responses to “Believing vs. Doing

  1. I think you make a good point. I know a family in my church whose two (homeschooled) sons I used to babysit. Their older son will talk politics (the World Magazine, Fox News ultra-conservative brand of politics, of course) until he’s blue in the face! He argued with me about how public schools were evil and ruining children. (I kind of ruined his argument, since I was in public school at the time and went to it K-12). However, I was surprised that his parents were okay with him watching Spongebob Squarepants; I was never allowed to watch that when I was a kid, first because my mom branded it as stupid, and later because she saw clips in which there was a lot of un-Christian sexual innuendo (including a male wearing fishnet stockings; my mom was very upset by that.) Even though your classmate’s parents talked to him about it, I’d argue that is contrary to Paul’s quote in Corinthians: “‘Everything is permissible for me’ but not everything is beneficial.” Also, “Whatever is pure, lovely, right, good, noble, honorable, admirable…think on these things”. (Of course, I know great parents with whom I disagree about what they let their kids watch, say, take part in.)
    I agree with you that right theology and right actions should be linked; I don’t really think you can separate them. The Bible says “You will know them by their fruits” (which I would argue includes their parenting). I would add to your comment that the right heart and right relationship with God have a big role. Someone can speak all the right theology and do all the right things, but if someone’s heart isn’t right, their whole worldview is going to be off-center. And if their heart isn’t right, it’s probably less likely that their theology is truly right; they may say they believe it, but do they really? Of course, that’s a question only God can truly judge.
    There’s my 2 cents worth. Goodnight from Bridgewater! 🙂

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  2. I don’t think the belief matters as much as the action.
    If you don’t ‘practice what you preach ‘ non believers generally will be turned away.
    I’m sure we don’t follow the same exact doctrines but if we discussed ethics and core values, we’d have a lot more in common.

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  3. the right theology? I dont think any human being on this planet can say, Excuse me. all my theology is CORRECT. As humans, we are susceptible to failure, and God only is perfect.

    So saying, believing is more important. I believe pride is the motivating factor for Christians to claim the ‘right’ theology, not a true heart. Not to mention, it’s the easy way out.

    But what’s the point of believing without action?

    What is a vegetarian who doesnt eat veges?
    A hunter who doesnt hunt?
    A dancer that doesn’t dance?

    Maybe you’ll get somewhere, maybe you won’t, but God will be the ultimate judge. All I know is that if you love Him, you’ll want to do what He wants, which is love others as He commanded. All the rest of His commandments stem from that one, and loving God. It’s from the heart, not just because you’ve been told to.

    PS I hope your classmates dont read this. I see no love in this. Christians who judge so harshly forget they are human.

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  4. The 2 should be linked but they are linked imperfectly because we’re in a broken, tilted world, and are broken and fractured ourselves. None of us is going to be consistent with our believing and doing, but God can help us become and do what we should be and do, just as He can help us give grace to others who are just as fallible as we. (Says she who always knows how/what others should do better than she does herself.)

    In regard to the above PS–I defend Emily’s post;she wasn’t being harsh or unloving, only trying to make sense of something puzzling.

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  5. I agree with the commenter who says no one can claim to have perfectly “right theology.” I also agree wholeheartedly with you, Emily, that our belief and works need to be linked pretty closely, in all areas of our lives. But like the commenter above says, they are linked imperfectly because of our broken world, our sinful nature (redeemed though it may be, it’s still not the way God created us to be), our darkened eyes. May we all receive God’s grace and mercy and follow Him to the best of our knowledge, ability, heart. I know what you mean about wanting to stay out of conflict. However, personal conversations about issues like this go a long way. Not academic discussions in class, but face to face sharing of what our frame of reference is and how we see it and how you see it differently…Keep wrestling, and talk with your family about these things that come up. Debate in a safe environment. Struggle to communicate and understand…not to convince someone else of something, but to share your testimony and to be willing to see the other side.
    -still learning too,
    Sarah

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  6. Good post, Emily. With matching tone (as I perceived it). Thanks.

    Regarding your question…

    Faith works; otherwise, it’s dead.

    Commit your works unto the Lord and your thoughts will be established.

    In the life of the Christian, believing (aka faith) and doing (aka works) must be as one; for independently individual, they both die. (Adjust punctuation as needed; thanks.)

    After each of those three statements (parentheses excluded), I would say, “The Bible tells me so.”

    If I don’t do right, how can I effectively demonstrate that I believe right?

    And if I don’t believe right, how can I effectively do right?

    Thanks again,
    Mark

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  7. Believing vs. doing can you really have one without the other? If you truly believe than you will do. Your actions always show your true beliefs. Talking vs. doing now there’s more of a challenge. Really, we need both and our actions better back up our speech. As they say talk is cheap.

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  8. Ms. Schmuck: Whaattt??? Very confused on a couple of points here: 1) the fact that all the examples you cited are primarily behaviors rather than belief systems, and therefore have questionable relevance to the topic; and 2) the quantum leap you made in turning a genuine question into something even approximating “harsh judging.” And it’s taking considerable self-restrain not to make a smart-aleck comment about that last one…

    Moving on – for whatever it’s worth, my typically black-and-white viewpoint: consistency is the name of the game. Nobody’s beliefs line up perfectly with their actions, but embracing/defending/running your mouth about this dichotomy rather than working to remedy it is the quickest way to invalidate both your actions and your beliefs. And I do mean “working to remedy it.” Ultimate truth perfectly lines up belief and action, and that is so not happening for the human race anytime soon.

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  9. “On the surface, of course, believing trumps doing. After all we are saved by grace through FAITH, not by WORKS least any man should boast.”

    That only has to do with initial justification (justification for entrance) not final justification (ultimate salvation). After all, 2nd Cor 5:10 says We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive what we’ve done in our bodies whether good or evil. This interpretation for the past 20 years of so has been called “the New Perspective on Paul” and N.T. Wright is the most popular proponent right now, but its not really that new, seeing its more or less the view of all the “church fathers” prior to Augustine (it was arguably held even by Augustine himself!), of Pelagius, Julian of Eclanum, John Cassian, Erasmus, and I would argue is more or less the historical Anabaptist position. The position that final justification is by faith alone is Lutheran/Calvinist/Baptist and quite frankly requires an absolutist predestination to make even a shred of sense, but then it makes God into the author of evil.

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