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At scientific conferences, most speakers begin with both definitions of key terms and a disclaimer or affiliation statement. Many find it is also helpful to provide motivation for the work, goals for the research or presentation, what benefits the study will bring, and where can we go from here.
Because we are accustomed to beginning presentations this way, we will carry on the practice here. Currently, the main definitions we need a clear understanding about are “faith,” “belief,” “truth,” “worldview beliefs,” and “tolerance.” Below are the definitions we use, and the reasoning for using these definitions is provided in Frequently Asked Questions Frequently Asked Questions.
- Faith – Belief, trust, or confidence in someone or something based on specific reasons
- Beliefs – The way we understand things to be, or how we think things are
- Reality – The way things actually are
- Truth – Telling it like it is; the reality of the situation; if, and only if, the beliefs fit reality, then the beliefs are true
- Worldview Beliefs – An organized system of beliefs about the big questions in life; examples include Atheism, Agnosticism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Mormonism, etc.
- Tolerance – The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of, or subjection to, opinions or beliefs that one does not agree with without showing inhospitable reactions (negative treatment) toward the person because of contrary beliefs.
Clarity of terms is essential. For example, many people mistakenly confuse “faith” with believing in something without any reasons or evidence. Now, if someone does have such a fault-ridden faith, then that would be a version of belief known as “blind faith.” Even worse, some people believe things despite better evidence against their belief, which would be a “delusional faith.”
But all of us live our lives and make most of our decisions using “faith” based upon specific reasons. For example, I remember driving over a bridge in Minneapolis in 2007, in the middle of the day, as I was preparing to leave a physics conference. I remember that particular bridge because shortly after driving over it I heard that the bridge collapsed.
Neither then, nor any time after, have I had to think twice about crossing a bridge. The evidence supporting the safety of bridges in the U.S. is strong, but I can’t know for certain until I cross the bridge, so I choose to drive over by “faith.” Yet, in spite of a close miss, my faith is still reasonable because the evidence is on my side, and I would pay consequences if I held to the unreasonable belief that all bridges aren’t to be trusted and must always be avoided.
We all make choices like this, by faith, every day in both insignificant and very significant choices: Should I become more serious in my relationship with this person? Is this health problem serious and how should I get it treated? What do I believe is my purpose in life? All of these questions require “faith” to answer, and the faith supported by the best reasons is a reasonable faith or belief.
Disclaimer, Affiliation Statement
Thoughtful Beliefs is a nonprofit, Christian ministry that provides engaging and interactive seminars at college campuses, churches, public and private schools, and skeptics’ nights in diverse locations. Currently, the members of Thoughtful Beliefs staff are all employed full-time elsewhere and do not request payment for services. When churches or conferences provide honorariums, the money goes into costs for running the ministry, and the costs always far exceed the honorariums.
As far as affiliation, we at Thoughtful Beliefs stand on the Christian worldview. We believe in basic Christianity (or Mere Christianity, as C.S. Lewis explains well in his book by that title), which provides answers to the five big questions we all must answer and base our overall choices, goals, and direction in life upon. To see what these answers are for Christianity, and for other belief systems for comparison, see the Evidence Unlike Any Other section.
Like you, and everyone else, we come to the questions surrounding the accuracy of worldview beliefs with a bias. Obviously, having a bias doesn’t make our beliefs true or false; correspondence to reality makes a belief true or false.
We encourage everyone not simply to accept anything we—or a teacher, or an expert, or a preacher, or our culture, or your personal wants, or anyone—tell you, but instead take in information and think on it personally. You don’t want to cross the bridge with an unreasonable faith.
We do not require that others hold to the exact same positions we do on many of the doctrinal or theological discussions that occur within the church. While we believe these issues are significant, we are most concerned about the effects that false ideologies or inaccurate beliefs are having on so many lives.1
There are foundational or essential beliefs that, if not accepted, place one outside of whatever comes with that worldview belief. Below is provided both a simple and then a more detailed version of foundational Christian beliefs.
If you are new to or not familiar with Christianity, then the simple foundational belief is given by a verse you may have heard from the book of John in the Bible, chapter 3, verse 16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
This foundational belief is expressed throughout the Bible in different ways and situations. For example, in the book of Acts, chapter 16, verses 30 to 31, “[One of the jailors] then brought [Paul and Silas] out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’” (Acts 16:30-31).
The foundational beliefs of Christianity are easy enough for a child to understand, but there are certainly questions to ask: What does being “saved” mean? Why would trusting in Jesus be what bridges our relationship with God? Why can’t I just be “good”? What about other belief systems? These are reasonable questions to ask, and they are covered in our website.
For those who spend a lot of time researching and thinking about beliefs, or who are Christians and want to see a more technical or detailed description of our beliefs, see the text provided below, which is cited from other works that word the concepts better than we could.
If any of these words or ideas seem too foreign or incomprehensible to you, either we will address it with information on our website or we invite you to contact us to submit a “Frequently Asked Question” to add to the website.
Finally, a word of warning. We will not answer everything with complete answers. Think about it: If there is a God who has existed beyond our three dimensions of space and time and has attributes beyond us, then God has aspects that are outside of what we have experienced, and therefore, will not be entirely understandable.
Obviously, if I could completely understand a supposed god, then I already have good reason to believe that god must be something simply invented by people. This is explained well by Edwin Abbott in Flatland, which discusses how miraculous and difficult to grasp a three-dimensional being would appear to those living in two-dimensions. There is even a movie visualizing these mathematical concepts: www.flatlandthemovie.com. Nevertheless, if such a being did create us with a purpose and makes a connection with us, revealing and explaining how things are, then there is much we can know.
We believe in one infinitely perfect, eternal, and personal God, the transcendent Creator and sovereign Sustainer of the universe. This one God is Triune2, existing eternally and simultaneously as thee distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three persons in the Godhead share equally and completely the one divine nature and are therefore the same God, coequal in power, nature, and glory.3
Person of Christ
We believe Jesus Christ is truly God and truly human, the unique, sure, and sufficient revelation of the very being, character, and purposes of God, beside whom there is no other god, and beside whom there is no other name by which we must be saved.4
We believe the only ground for our acceptance into eternity with God, heaven, is by what Jesus Christ did on the cross and what he is now doing through his risen life advocating for us. We do not earn our salvation but receive Christ’s redemption solely by grace through our trust in him. Jesus exposed human sin through living a righteous life; demonstrated both God’s judicial wrath against sin and love for us by paying the cost and crediting those who accept that grace with acquittal; rose physically from the grave and is seated at the right hand of the Father; and will come again to judge all who chose to accept, or reject, relationship with him. The resurrection, along with other attesting miracles, is God’s historical affirmation and vindication of Jesus Christ’s unique identity, mission, and message.5
Person of the Holy Spirit
We believe the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, is indeed a Divine Person, coequal with the Father and the Son. We also believe in the ministry of the Holy Spirit in salvation,6 and this new life, given supernaturally through spiritual regeneration, is a necessity as well as a gift.7
We believe salvation (what people often call “being saved”) doesn’t simply mean being saved from separation from God (hell), but also entails aspects throughout all of life from the moment of choosing to accept a relationship with God, including deliverance with spiritual significance as well as health, well-being, and healing from God’s authoritative perspective.
This belief does not mean you will be free from bad physical health, or escape the serious pain this world can bring, or be more prosperous than others in things of this world, or have a “fair” life. But it does mean God is with you. Just as a loving parent allows a child to go out into the world and face the challenges to develop into his or her best possible self, God is for you, weeps with you when pain comes home, embraces you both spiritually and historically to use all life brings to allow your personal development in health, well-being, and healing in the attributes, spiritual and otherwise, that will be the best for you. We believe Christianity is unique in not just giving this answer to the problem of pain in life, or in simply claiming we must trust God’s authority when making choices in life, but Christ backed up the claim by personally demonstrating how horrific pain, unfairly brought upon himself at the cross, led to the greatest good—our salvation.
We believe that Jesus’ own teaching and unequaled characteristics establish the supreme authority of the Bible, making it our final rule for belief and practice.8 God the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, revealing the nature and character of God, the nature of creation and humanity, and God’s will for the salvation of human beings through Jesus Christ.9
References and Citations
1 From the Cross Examined Statement of Faith: http://crossexamined.org/about
2 Example of difficult to understand concepts: God being “Triune” seemed weird and interesting to me, as it should, because three-dimensional humanity has not experienced such a state of being. Yet, when a challenge by a Muslim had me look into this further, the information found not only exposed a fatal flaw in Islam, but also provided such interesting and unexpected answers to other questions, as truth typically does.
3, 6, 9 Reasons to Believe: www.reasons.org/about/our-mission
4, 5, 7, 8 Dr. William L. Craig, Reasonable Faith, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/statement-of-faith
10 Dr. Frank Turek: http://crossexamined.org/christian-apologetics
11,12 Dr. William Lane Craig: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/about-reasonable-faith