September 16, 2019 - Do We Believe or Just Believe that We Believe?

Updated: Oct 12, 2019

Philosopher Slavoj Zizek told a story about the great physicist Albert Einstein entering the home of another great physicist, Neils Bohr. Much to Einstein’s surprise, he saw a horseshoe hanging over Bohr’s door, and Einstein quickly said that he didn’t believe in superstition or that a horseshoe could bring good luck, and Einstein wondered if Bohr did. Supposedly Bohr snapped back: “Of course not, but I’ve been told that it works even if one doesn’t believe in it!”

Funky story, somewhat paradoxical about beliefs, and about what we believe and how we believe it. But Zizek used it as an entering wedge to make a powerful point. Talking about the writer Soren Kierkegaard, a potent critic of the Danish church in the 19th century, who had commented that many Christians in his time didn’t really believe in Jesus—they just believed that they believed in Him.


Sure, we all believe that we believe in Jesus: His promises; His admonitions; His commands. But do we really? The answer is how we live. Do we really love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39); do we let our lights shine before others (Matthew 5:16) in a way that glorifies God; do we “turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39); do we deny self and take up the cross daily (Luke 9:23), and on and on?

Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8), faith as in those who really believe in Him, or will He find hordes, masses of pews filled with people who believe that they believe in Him?

Scary question, is it not? And, indeed, certainly one that any of us who claim the name “Christian” need to ask themselves, however painful the asking, and answering, might really be.

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