You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood
becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong as
long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope
over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it?
Lewis, A Grief Observed.
In college I was asked to prepare a lesson to teach my speech class. We were to be
graded on our creativity and ability to drive home a point in a memorable way. The title
of my talk was, "The Law of the Pendulum." I spent 20 minutes carefully teaching
the physical principle that governs a swinging pendulum. The law of the pendulum is: A
pendulum can never return to a point higher than the point from which it was released.
Because of friction and gravity, when the pendulum returns, it will fall short of its
original release point. Each time it swings it makes less and less of an arc, until
finally it is at rest. This point of rest is called the state of equilibrium, where all
forces acting on the pendulum are equal.
I attached a 3-foot string to a child's toy top and secured it to the top of the
blackboard with a thumbtack. I pulled the top to one side and made a mark on the
blackboard where I let it go. Each time it swung back I made a new mark. It took less than
a minute for the top to complete its swinging and come to rest. When I finished the
demonstration, the markings on the blackboard proved my thesis.
I then asked how many people in the room BELIEVED the law of the pendulum was true. All
of my classmates raised their hands, so did the teacher. He started to walk to the front
of the room thinking the class was over. In reality it had just begun. Hanging from the
steel ceiling beams in the middle of the room was a large, crude but functional pendulum
(250 pounds of metal weights tied to four strands of 500-pound test parachute cord.). I
invited the instructor to climb up on a table and sit in a chair with the back of his head
against a cement wall. Then I brought the 250 pounds of metal up to his nose. Holding the
huge pendulum just a fraction of an inch from his face, I once again explained the law of
the pendulum he had applauded only moments before, "If the law of the pendulum is
true, then when I release this mass of metal, it will swing across the room and return
short of the release point. Your nose will be in no danger."
After that final restatement of this law, I looked him in the eye and asked, "Sir,
do you believe this law is true?" There was a long pause. Huge beads of sweat formed
on his upper lip and then weakly he nodded and whispered, "Yes." I released the
pendulum. It made a swishing sound as it arced across the room. At the far end of its
swing, it paused momentarily and started back. I never saw a man move so fast in my life.
He literally dived from the table. Deftly stepping around the still-swinging pendulum, I
asked the class, "Does he believe in the law of the pendulum?" The students
unanimously answered, "NO!"
Ken Davis, How To Speak To Youth, pp 104-106.
An American scientist once visited the offices of the great Nobel-prize-winning
physicist, Niels Bohr, in Copenhagen. He was amazed to find that over Bohr's desk was a
horseshoe, securely mailed to the wall, with the open end up in the approved manner (so it
would catch the good luck and not let it spill out). The American said with a nervous
laugh, "Surely you don't believe the horseshoe will bring you good luck, do you,
Professor Bohr? After all, as a scientist -- " Bohr chuckled, "I believe
no such thing, my good friend. Not at all. I am scarcely likely to believe in such foolish
nonsense. However, I am told that a horseshoe will bring you good luck whether you believe
in it or not."
Bits & Pieces, September 17, 1992, p. 6.
It hurts more to have a belief pulled than to have a tooth pulled, and no intellectual
Novocain is available.
People refuse to believe that which they don't want to believe, in spite of evidence.
When explorers first went to Australia they found a mammal which laid eggs; spent some
time in water, some on land; had a broad, flat tail, webbed feet, and a bill similar to a
duck. Upon their return to England, they told the populace of this, and all felt it was a
hoax. They returned to Australia and found a pelt from this animal and took it back to
England, but the people still felt it was a hoax. In spite of the evidence, they
disbelieved because they didn't want to believe. cf. J. McDowell, Answers to tough
questions, under "miracles"
"Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that thou
mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand."
"We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know because they have never
Believing things 'on authority' only means believing them because you have been told
them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are
believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I could not prove by
abstract reasoning that there is such a place. I believe it because reliable people have
told me so. The ordinary person believes in the solar system, atoms, and the circulation
of the blood on authority--because the scientists say so. Every historical statement is
believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the
Spanish Armada. But we believe them simply because people who did see them have left
writings that tell us about them; in fact, on authority. A person who balked at authority
in other things, as some people do in religion, would have to be content to know nothing
all his life.
STATISTICS AND STUFF
Saving faith may thus be defined as a voluntary turning from all hope and grounds based
on self merit, and assuming an attitude of expectancy toward God, trusting Him to do a
perfect saving work based only on the merit of Christ.
L.S. Chafer, True Evangelism, p.
Of unchurched Americans, two-thirds believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and that he
was resurrected from the dead. The belief that Jesus Christ will return to earth someday
is held by 62 percent of all Americans. Of the total American adult population, nearly
half believe in creationism, and 37 percent believe the Bible to be the actual word of
God, to be taken literally, word for word. One-third of church members believe that a
homosexual cannot be a good Christian or Jew. Two-thirds of all Americans think their
chances of going to heaven are "good."
George Gallup, "Religion in
America", Leadership, Fall, 1987.
"In 1963...65 percent of Americans said they believed in the absolute truth of all
words in the Bible. Within 15 years, by 1978, the proportion of the population holding
this belief had declined to 38 percent. The current figure of 32 percent represents a new
low in literal belief in the Bible" (PRRC Emerging Trends (January 1992):1). The same
thing has happened in England. The proportion of people who believe in a personal God has
declined from 36 percent in 1981 to 31 percent today. Those who believe that Jesus Christ
was the Son of God has fallen from 52 percent in 1981 to 48 percent today (International
Christian Digest (July/August 1992)).
Charles W. Colson, The Body, 1992, Word Publishing,
Late faith is unavailing. There's little use accepting arks once the rain begins to
fall. Death is such an instant storm that by the time you reach for an umbrella, you
already need your water wings.
Calvin Miller, The Valiant Papers, p. 20.
I would recommend you either believe God up to the hilt, or else not to believe at all.
Believe this book of God, every letter of it, or else reject it. There is no logical
standing place between the two. Be satisfied with nothing less than a faith that swims in
the deeps of divine revelation; a faith that paddles about the edge of the water is poor
faith at best. It is little better than a dry-land faith, and is not good for much.
C. H. Spurgeon claimed that 98 percent of the people he met-- including the criminals
he visited in England's prisons--told him that they believed the Bible to be true. But the
vast majority had never made a personal, life-changing commitment to Jesus Christ. For
them, "believe" was not an active verb.
The content of belief is important: Jonathan Whitfield was preaching to coal miners in
England. He asked one man, "What do you believe?" "Well, I believe the same
as the church." "And what does the church believe?" "Well, they
believe the same as me." Seeing he was getting nowhere, Whitfield said, "And
what is it that you both believe?" "Well, I suppose the same thing."