For your review, I have attached a copy of the study conducted by Lifeway Research entitled, What Do Americans Believe About God. The attached study released October 26, 2018 polled over 3,000 Americans, Christians and Non-Christians alike.
In addition, you might like to review The 2018 State of Theology Study, conducted every 2 years to assess trends and beliefs among Christian/Evangelicals. Although I find, that both studies contain disturbing results that I intend to explore later, I think that it is important to address one simple point for now.
There is a great deal of information obtained in these surveys that I disagree with, agree with, strongly disagree with, find shocking, outrageous and curious. Nevertheless, these are the findings and as a result, they are an indication of our current state of affairs.
The links to these studies are provided below.
Several of the questions were framed in context to what we believe. It is in this regard that I would like to take exception. Our beliefs are not only in question, but questionable. So, the question I wrestle with is, “When we define belief, what definition are we working with, as Christians?”
The World Can Not Define ‘BELIEF’ for Us. Christian’s definition of belief should be taken from the scriptures, and not from the dictionary, and definitely not from the world.
When the conversation shifts to a question of ‘Spiritual Belief’, Why are we allowing the world’s definition of belief, to dictate and define what we as Christians say, we “believe” in?
Who is best qualified to define our faith and the meaning of belief? The unbelieving world, or we as Christians?
Naturally, our response would be, “We define belief.” But in all actuality, we are working with a Webster’s dictionary definition of belief. (To be fair, even an Oxford’s Dictionary definition of faith).
When we speak of ‘belief’ what are we really talking about here?
A solid portion of the questions presented in these research studies is framed around the question of belief, What do we believe?…
When it comes to belief, It seems that we are operating from two different points of view. How we define belief has a strong bearing on our belief system as a whole, and how we (anyone) relate(s) to the Word of GOD.
There is a secular/worldly definition of ‘belief’ and a sacred/holy definition of ‘belief.’
Americans (Christians and Non-Christians) who responded to either study agree in several points. One that stands out is that both groups agree that scripture is not relevant to todays’ society and when answering questions about belief, it is assumed we are processing the questions on the same level.
If I ask you about belief in a spiritual context, does the concept of trust come to the forefront of your mind?
As Christians, we can not claim to believe in GOD’s Word, in this case, 2 Timothy 3:16 and then turn around and say that the bulk of scripture is not applicable to “modern-day life as a Christian” in today’s society. What do we really believe?
Christians have been asked if the bible is applicable to present day beliefs and a good many are answering, “no or not all of it.” In essence they too, are calling the bible irrelevant and outdated. Is there a new breed of Christianity? Are we Christian-Agnostics? Atheistic-Christians? or just double minded, opposing our own-selves? (James 1:8, 2 Timothy 2:24-25)
That’s what it sounds like in reviewing the attached studies.
A great man said, that belief is concretizing an idea, and as a consequence a person restricts their own growth, their movement, their development as a human being. Strangely enough, I agree with that assessment as long as we are working with the world’s definition of belief.
- This dialog can teach us 2 important things:
- It is extremely important to know if you are working with the same definition of terms.
- The definition of words change over time, they are like a living organism – because they come from a living organism. Words, like people, refuse to remain static. A few KJV Examples:
- Matt 6:6, “entering one’s closet to pray” does not mean a literal 2018, 21st century ‘closet’. It is referring to a 1st century concept of an “inner chamber, or secret room”. A private place of any kind that shuts out the world, would be a good way to think about it. A private place of Prayer.
- Gen 1:28, the command to “replenish” the world. In 1611, when the Bible was written, replenish meant “to supply fully.” The ‘re’ in replenish is from the intensive form meaning to move forward with a sense of urgency. Today, our understanding of ‘re’, would be to do it again, or to do something over. If we walk away with that understanding, we would take the verse to mean, that GOD is somehow asking us to start over with the world.
- Num 6:26, “…the LORD lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace. Peace in English means freedom from disturbance, tranquility. The word for peace is, ‘shalom’, which means to be made whole or complete. Shalom, means more than being free from disturbance, restful or calm. Shalom means to be made whole, in every way. Which would you prefer?
- Psalm 37:14, “…to slay such as be of upright conversation.” The word being translated as ‘conversation’ is the Hebrew word derek, which means road or way. derek has to do with your conduct or behavior, how you carry yourself / walk through life, your character. In it’s original use in English, it meant the place where one dwells, or the manner that you conduct yourself in the world. The reason KJV translators chose the English word, ‘conversation’ to represent the Hebrew word, ‘derek’, is because at that time ‘conversation’ used to mean, conduct or behavior.
A large part of our controversies and misunderstandings come from reading a 17th century text (written in thee early 1600’s) as if it was a 21st century document. Which is compounded further by the fact, that we are translating ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek into the Old English of the 1600’s.
For an authentic definition of ‘belief’, I want to walk us back a bit, beyond the 1600’s. To accomplish that, I must show you this from the Hebrew.
REMEMBER: Hebrew is read from Right to Left
In the Hebrew, the word ‘aman’ [Strong’s 539, 540] is translated 111 times as belief, believe, trust, established, faithfulness. [Strong’s 539 = 108x, Strong’s 540 = 3x]
In ‘The Undiscovered Adam and the Unexplained man, Part 2″ I provided information on the 1st letter in the word ‘adam’, which is also the 1st letter in ‘aman’, the aleph, (A).
Please see that article for details on the aleph.
Also, in ‘The Undiscovered Adam and the Unexplained Man, Part 2’, we covered the 3rd letter in ‘adam’, which is the 2nd letter in aman, the mem, (M).
The Hebrew letter nun has 2 forms, the bent form (called a bent vav in Hebrew) which looks a little like a backwards small letter ‘c’ in the English alphabet, with angles instead of curves, and the final form, is called the nun sofit (the elongated form).
The final (3rd) letter in the word aman, is the Hebrew letter nun sofit, (N). Whenever the nun, appears at the end of a word, it takes it’s elongated form and is called ‘sofit’, meaning end.
The nun is bent, at the beginning, middle or any other position in a Hebrew word, in a humbled position depicting faithfulness. In the Ancient Paleo form, the nun originates as movement, offspring, fish, or meaning to multiply.
When the nun appears at the end of a word, the nun reaches below the line (stretching out its height) and becomes straightened or upright, representing “The Righteous One.”
The numerical value of nun is 50. The first appearance of the word ‘nun’ is in Exodus 33:11 in reference to Joshua, the son of nun.
Aman means to be firm, sure, securely fixed in place, to stand firm in the sense of a support. Not subject to change or revision. To Trust and have total confidence in someone or something.
WHOSE REPORT DO WE BELIEVE?
We define ‘belief’ in the English language, as doctrine, ideology, ideal, principle, ethic… When our understanding of belief is formed only from this secular perspective, I completely agree it is restrictive, limiting, and creates a block to our spiritual understanding.
However, If we take our understanding of ‘belief’ from the biblical perspective, from ‘aman’ we free ourselves from the concrete that weighs us down, and discover that belief is having confidence and trust in GOD’s Word. Their is a Trust that creates the Acts 17:38 kind of movement, where we can live and breath, and have our being in Him.
Man has made ‘belief’ common, a base notion of faith. As Christians, we have not countered their criticism correctly. In the world’s hands, belief has become a lower level of faith. The kind that crumbles in a crisis and entertains every doubt when in distress.
A Webster’s Dictionary kind of ‘belief system’ will not sustain us in hard times.
It is this kind of belief, that I feel is responsible for saying, “I believe in GOD, I just don’t think that the bible is relevant to everyday life. I call that, a Webster’s Dictionary kind of faith.
How Man Defines Belief and How GOD Defines Belief…
When the scripture say’s, “and Abraham believed GOD.” This is not the mediocre belief that we engage with in “plain English”. Abraham trusted GOD, all his confidence was in Him. Abraham was operating at a higher level of faith. Belief in our Dictionary sense of the Word, is a watered down version of Abraham’s faith.
When GOD speaks of belief in Scripture, He uses the word ‘aman’.
Genesis 15:6, “and he [Abraham] believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”
Exodus 14:31, says that the people“believed the Lord, and his servant Moses”.
Exodus 19:9, “that the people may hear when I speak with thee and believe thee forever”. NOTE: Forever, is a “No Matter What“ kind of faith.
Numbers 14:11, “How long will this people provoke me? How long will it be before they believe me?”
Numbers 20:12, “Because you believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel…”
Jonah 3:5, “So the people of Nineveh believed God…” Notice: When it came down to it, even the one time enemies of GOD and Israel, declared their Trust in GOD.
“aman” or faith/belief means: to be certain about God and His character, unlimited power, wisdom and promises, to trust GOD, to have confidence in Him.
Trust is our testimony toward the Character of GOD.
OVERTIME, WORDS HAVE BEEN STRIPPED OF THEIR HOLINESS
Language is like a living organism. It contracts, expands, changes over time, some for the good, some for the bad. 2000 years after Christ, our understanding of ‘belief/faith’ has become compromised, flawed, weakened. Words don’t only evolve, they devolve.
Until we replace our understanding of ‘belief’, back into it’s original context; emphasizing the stronger and more fortified concepts of trust, confidence and establishing ourselves in GOD, Christian’s will continue to be under the influence of a faulty understanding of what belief is.
When we say we believe GOD, we are bearing witness to the Character and Nature of GOD. Lukewarm equivocation on this, is not faith.
Our definition of belief, must line up with the WORD’s definition of belief. Until then, we are not qualified to answer questions on surveys that represent the Body of Christ.
LANGUAGES CHANGE OVER TIME... which we have to be cognizant of as we study.
It is our responsibility in study, to ensure we know the meanings of GOD’s Words, from the past to the present. Especially, we should focus our attention on gaining an awareness of words, that convey Holiness.
Life and Death Resides in the Power of the Tongue. Even Words have died…
silly ~ in the 1200’s used to mean, innocent, blessed, happy, fortunate. It’s clear this word has suffered severe damage.
Awful ~ used to mean awesome, full of awe, commanding profound respect or fear.
Doubt ~ used to express the idea, “I’m afraid that might be so”, or that, “I am uncertain whether it is so”. Overtime, it’s use in the latter sense became dominant.
Moody ~ used to mean, brave, high-spirited, willful, proud (in the 16th century) now it means, unpredictable, volatile, unsteady.
Resentment – originally meant gratitude.
Success ~ originally in the 1530’s, success referred to results or outcome, whether good or bad. the root, ‘cedere’ means to go or move. Success had more to do with moving forward, whether your results were good or bad. Even bad results are educational, right?
The more materialistic we became, the more materialistic our words become. The world has stripped faith, beauty, passion, even spirit from our words.
Point being, the definitions we are working with today may not have been the definitions originally applied in the past. The definitions we had in the past, while they have transitioned through time, they connect us to the original conversation, and shed greater light.
Look at what we can discover about our words in the English language. Imagine what we have yet to discover from the Hebrew.
Tracing words back to their Hebrew origins, gives us the LORDS definition, which is what we wanted the entire time.
God Bless You,
This teaching is dedicated to the Grandchildren… who will surpass belief and arise into the excellency of trust and confidence in GOD.
Questions from conversations that I had after writing this blog, seemed worthy to incorporate into the message for the benefit of all. These updates I have highlighted for you in blue font.
- What Do Americans Believe About God – Lifeway Research Study 10-26-19 https://lifewayresearch.com/2018/10/26/what-do-americans-believe-about-god/
- The State of Theology, A Lifeway Research Study in Association with Ligonier Ministries. https://thestateoftheology.com/
COMING SOON IN THIS SERIES:
- Scripture Is NOT Dead History…
Cover photo by Rev. S. Madison
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