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Chicken or Egg? Belief or Behavior?

Keith makes a point in a comment that is worth talking about in more depth.  He questions my interpretation of John 16.9, and I think it’s a core issue we need to deal with.

The Bible (NRSV) says:

“When [the Advocate] comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me…”

I interpret it this way:

“When I inject Sarayu into the world, she will contradict the core beliefs that make the System run.  The System functions on the assumption that problems are caused by rule-breaking.  Sarayu will prove that problems come from beliefs that do not fit with Reality.

Here are Keith’s thoughts on this:

1) It reduces sin to being an effect rather than THE cause. You hold it is merely “problems caused by…”.

Sin is a thing that God hates to the point that, in order to save us from its penalty of eternal separation from God, it cost the Lord Jesus infinitely.

2) Sin doesn’t COME FROM “beliefs that do not fit with Reality”. It RESULTS in them. We are not victims of misunderstanding, but perpetrators of iniquity.

I am saying that it is my false beliefs that lead to my boundary-violating behaviors.  Or in more traditional terms, my refusal to believe in Jesus causes me to sin.

Keith sees it working the other way–sin is the cause, and false belief is what results.

Chicken or egg?  What do you think?



9 Responses

  1. I’m with you. Another way I’ve phrased this is that we commit individuals sins because we’re sinful. The actual acts are a result of the broader condition of disbelief.

    For Luther, this would link back to his argument that all sins flow out of having false gods, and that if we had right belief in God, then we’d get everything else right.

    Oddly, I think this makes a Keith’s argument that we’re “perpetrators of iniquity” even more profound in that all of our sin flows out of a basic rejection of our heavenly Father rather than merely being our failure on a check list of behavioral do’s and don’ts.

    Again, our sinful condition of unbelief is the cause of our sinful actions against both God and neighbor, and that’s what Jesus died to redeem, restore, renew, and resurrect!

  2. As I think about this more, this also seems to fit better with a Greek understanding of repentance, which, if I recall, has much more to do with changing your way of thinking that changing your behavior.

  3. I think the “iniquity we’re perpetrating” STARTS with our refusal to believe God’s self-revelation. So we start believing awful things about God, and the resulting spiritual pain moves us to do all kinds of awful things to each other, to numb the pain or to act it out.

    Love the Luther reference, Joe! It makes me think of Dallas Willard likes to say that we always act 100% in accordance with what we actually believe.

  4. It depends on what you believe about our inherited nature. Some people believe that we are born sinful; that because Adam sinned we are all born with a nature that desires to sin. Other people believe that while we are born with a tendency to sin because sin is in the world, we all have a choice and do not HAVE to sin.

    If we are born sinful, then it is our sin that causes us to believe wrong things. If we are born morally neutral then it is our wrong beliefs that cause us to choose to sin.

    So it just depends on what you believe about our sin nature in general.

    • Yeah, it’s definitely cyclical. Bad beliefs and bad behavior reinforce and intensify each other. Jesus seems to indicate that belief is the part of the cycle where intervention can end the cycle. He tells people the gospel news about the new state of affairs: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand!” and tells them that the thing to do is to repent. Just like Joe says, repentance in Greek means literally “Thinking about your thinking.” And of course, a change in mind results naturally in a change in behavior. But it seems to me that the mind is where it begins.

  5. Chi Alpha is the name of a Christian organization I was a part of in college. It is based off of the idea that we are called to be ambassadors for Christ. In Greek Christ’s ambassadors is christou apostoloi, which was shorten to the first letters “Chi” and “Alpha” or XA.

  6. […] of touchMarketing and the sense of touchA Word About ChandeliersSense of hearing and audiogramsChicken or Egg? Belief or Behavior? .recentcomments a{display:inline !important;padding:0 !important;margin:0 […]

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