Archive | Anatomy of Belief

An Anatomy of Faith

Why do we believe certain things and not others? I know, I know . . . we are Christians. Therefore, we have a slam dunk answer to that softball question. It’s the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and activates it in our lives. While this is certainly true, there are often details that He works through. After all, the Holy Spirit uses many mundane things to bring about our faith. He uses our minds, godly influences, our circumstances in life, and deep conviction.

When I became a Christian, I was very young. I don’t remember a time when I did not believe in Jesus. So, I don’t have any grand conversion story. I just believed what my mother taught me from birth. And as I grew up, I wanted everything she had taught me to be true. She was my guide, serving for a long time (even until today) as a sort of referred conviction. I believed because she believed. And I wanted her to be right. Statistics tell us that this is almost always the case. For many of us, it is the case that we believe what we grew up believing. If you were reared as a Buddhist, you will likely be a Buddhist.  If your parents were Muslim, chances are you will be a Muslim. Atheists produce atheists, Hindus produce Hindus, agnostics produce agnostics, and . . . Christians produce Christians.

I remember what John Hannah, my Historic Theology prof at seminary, said one time in class, “We are going to teach you all kinds of great and wonderful things. But, in the end, you are just going to believe what mommy and daddy told you.” There is a lot of truth to this. None of it makes anything right or wrong. The objection that we just believe what our parents taught us, or that our culture defines our beliefs, while important in understanding how we believe things, only says so much. It does not address the rightness or wrongness of said beliefs. Perhaps we only believe what our parents taught us. . .and perhaps they are wrong (as is implied in the objection). Then again, perhaps they are right. The objection only speaks to our epistemology (a big word which simply refers to how we know or believe what we know or believe).

With this in mind, I want to introduce a graphic I constructed to help work through what can be a very complicated issue.


The three circles at the bottom represent three primary sources of influence. The first is REASON (or the INTELLECT). The second is EXPERIENCE. And the last is TRADITION. Each of these has a different level of influence on each of us.  They, in turn, feeding into the circle that represents our EMOTIONS. Our emotions then feed our WILL. And from here we make our choices or take actions.  Your emotional disposition at any given moment will determine your choice.

For example, I talked about the influence our parents have on us. Tradition, as we will later see, is much more complex than just what mommy and daddy taught us, but for me, as a child, this was pretty much it. I did not use too much reason or experience in making my choice for Christ. Mom told me it was true, therefore it was true. After all, I had no reason not to trust my mother. At that time, my chart would have looked like this:


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The question that never gets answered: What is wrong with people?

The most recent surprise attack of civilian violence has prompted the same group of questions that the last one did (and the one before that, and the one before that, and so on). What is wrong with people? How could someone do this? What kind of a person would do such a thing? What is going through people’s minds?  We asked these questions when a grade school was riddled with bullets not too long ago, and then we re-asked them when improvised bombs blew body parts off of marathoners on Patriot’s Day.

It may be that these questions are not fully answerable, at least not to a level that would satisfy us completely. People certainly offer possible answers, ranging from mental conditions to upbringing to past abuse to psychological disorders to violent video games. But those always leave the issue wanting. One or more may account partially for this or that specific element in a person’s frame of mind, but the deeper existential weight of the questions is still felt upon the collective psyche of the rest of us.

I see a missing link in the already suspect chains of reasoning that generally attend these kinds of discussions today. It’s like a puzzle in which one enormous piece is absent, without which there isn’t enough of a remaining visual clue as to how the picture is supposed to be filled out. What is missing in this case is the element of belief. When considering an act of head-scratching and heart-rending depravity, we can’t neglect the question, “What were/are the beliefs of this person?” regardless of how uncomfortable people today may be with moving the conversation in that direction.

The attempt to psychologize everything tends to result in an emphasis on the causes of a person’s action. But people act not just as a result of causes (mental illness, depression, drugs, etc.); they act for reasons. And those reasons do not fail to reveal important things about the person’s view of the world, including his or her beliefs, no matter how splintered or convoluted, about God, about human beings, about life’s mission, about the nature of happiness, about his or her own place in the universe.

The contemporary world is marred by the terrible habit of neglecting the importance of beliefs. Because we exist on the rushed and distracted surface of life’s waters, we have neglected and forgotten about the depths below. We are more pragmatic and short-term in our approach to life’s problems than those who came before us. And it hasn’t served us well in times of crisis.

Beliefs matter immensely. Nearly every morally controversial act on the part of a given individual or group is rooted in the peculiar beliefs of that person or group.   When we read or hear about terrorist slaughters in one part of the world, human trafficking in another, and genocide in yet another, our inner moral gage registers the immediate disdain for such evil proceedings. But how much slower are we to also recognize the woefully faulty beliefs of those at the forefront of the events? No doubt the two are causally linked.
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The Anatomy of Belief (9): Forensic Conviction

A Guide to Examining the Way We Believe So That What We Believe Will be Secure

My sister Angie died in January of 2004. I believe this to be the case. In fact, I am so convicted of the truthfulness of her death I could say without hesitation that I am certain that she died. No, not in a mathematical sense. No, not in an infallible sense. For cases such as this are not like mathematics. And I am not infallible. Therefore, by definition, I could be wrong. But I am not. Angie is dead.

(Please forgive the rather morbid illustration that I use throughout this chapter. I only include it because of its relevance to the issue of conviction and belief).

I got a phone call from the medical examiner while on HWY 635. “Is this Michael Patton” he said. “Yes, it is,” I responded with curiosity to this heavily accented country voice. “Are you in your car?” he asked. “Yes, I am,” I said with some amount of curiosity and a growing degree of fear. “Is your family with you?” he asked. “Yes, they are,” I said this time with more fear than curiosity. “Could you pull over please,” he requested. By this point, I knew what was next.

I have to tell you, I have never in my life had some random unidentified person ask me these questions while driving down the road. Neither have I since received such a request. I hope I never have to again. Just think about it. The phone rings in my car and an unfamiliar voice that sounds like he was either Brooks, Dunn, or Haggard asks me to pull over. There was one fleeting thought that popped in my mind. I remember because I looked into the rear-view mirror to see if it was a cop. Why would a cop call me to pull me over? However, I knew better. I hoped for different (even a cop!), but I knew better.

“Why?” I responded to his request to pull over. “It’s my sister isn’t it?” My overwhelming fear did not give him time to answer. I asked the preemptive question. “She is dead, isn’t she?” After a long pause, the medical examiner responded “Yes, sir.”

Although I did not have any “hard” evidence, I knew what had happened. Angie, my sister, had committed suicide.  I did not even stop by the medical examiner’s office to view the body. Though he told me where they found her (at a hotel in Denton, TX), I did not stop there to examine the scene. I immediately called my mother and told her what happened. I then began the three hour drive from Texas to Oklahoma to mourn with my family. All of this I did because I had implicit trust in some random voice on the other end of the line.

Two days later, I went back to Texas with my wife to pick up Angie’s car and her cremated remains. As we pulled up to the medical examiner’s office, my wife was gracious enough to go inside and do what needed to be done. When she came back, she told me they had pictures. She said that there were many, but she could not look at any of them but one. It was a picture of Angie’s hand on a gun. I said, “Are you sure it was her’s?” This was a question out of desperation. I knew it was. “Yes, it was hers,” my wife said with a look on her face as if she felt she was taking away my last bit of hope. I immediately called the medical examiner from the parking lot. “Can I come in and see the pictures?,” I asked. I am sure he was thinking very carefully about how to respond and that is why he paused for a bit before answering. “Yes, you can come see them. But I don’t think you want to.” My heart sank with those words, knowing what they implied. “Remember her as she was,” he continued. “Don’t do this to yourself.” I almost got out of the car, but then sank back into my seat and conceded. Kristie had brought out a white cardboard box which is supposed to have the ashes of Angie in them. Even today, they sit at my mom’s house on a shelf, twelve feet high in her living room. I have never looked at them.

I believe Angie is dead. I never saw her body. I never saw any pictures. I never saw the gun she used. I never saw any fingerprint evidence. I have never looked into that box. I never even saw the medical examiner. But based on one conversation with a guy I don’t know and the testimony of my wife who only saw her hand, my conviction level that Angie is dead is very strong. Every once in a while, I have this fleeting irrational hope that normally shows up in a dream that Angie is alive. She normally appears in some random place and we find out that it was all a big mistake. But those are dreams. I truly believe Angie died.

Forensic Conviction

We are talking about the anatomy of belief. We are asking about the why? and how? of our beliefs. Most specifically, we are talking about the process of belief in relation to Christianity. Building upon the intellectual conviction aspect of belief, we now turn to what I call forensic conviction. 

But as a bit of review, allow me put this in context once again: Forensic conviction makes up the second aspect of our “Real Life” conviction meter.

The real life conviction meter is one of three aspects that make up the relative strength of our overall intellectual conviction in belief. The overall conviction meter looks like this.

Finally, the conviction meter is one of three aspects that make up our overall belief.

Forensic conviction is that aspect of our conviction that provides evidence for what we believe. Normally, this word “forensic” limits the evidence to issues of forensic science (i.e. DNA evidence, fingerprints, tire tracks, and the like). But we are not limiting it to such things here. The word “forensic” is taken from the Latin forensis, meaning “before the forum.” It speaks to the evidence that one can bring to solidify a truth claim. Broadly, this can include any line of legitimate evidence that substantiates one’s claims. It goes beyond first-hand evidence in that it looks to material, historical, as well as traditional forensic evidence.

For Christians, we believe many truth claims. As has been said before, many people believe things without any evidence at all, believing that the introduction of evidence is the polar opposite of faith. However, our conviction, while based on many things, must take into account the evidences for the veracity of our truth claims. Faith is very weak if it is blind. If God exists and has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, while we may not have been there to have first-hand conviction about such things, we can and should look to the fingerprints left behind.

This is often referred to as “Evidential Apologetics.” “Apologetics” is taken from the Greek apologia of 1 Peter 3:15 where Peter tells his readers to “always be ready to give a reason (apologia) for hope that is within them to everyone who asks.” An apologist is one who spends his time constructing arguments based on the evidence to defend and strengthen what they believe. While this book is not an apologetics book per se, it is an attempt to legitimize and encourage the type of thinking and conviction that apologetics provides. Continue Reading →

The Anatomy of Belief (8): First-Hand Conviction or “God Things”

A Guide to Examining the Way We Believe So That What We Believe Will be Secure

I have never heard God’s voice. I don’t know what he smells like. I have not seen him with my eyes and my hands have never held his. I have never seen anyone brought back from the dead. I have never seen anyone healed of any disease. I have never seen a blind man see or a deaf man hear. If my convictions about God were limited to things such as these, I doubt I would have much faith.

I remember when I was twelve-years-old, God peeked out of the shroud of experiential darkness. This is going to sound silly to a lot of you, but it was special to me nevertheless. I was at the Quail Creek Elementary School Carnival. All the kids went back to it after “graduating” elementary school for years (to show how cool the “post-grads” were). Each year they had a cake-walk. You know . . . where you walked around a circle of 36 numbers while music played. When the music stopped, you stopped. If you were on the number that they called, you won a cake. At that point in my life, I had never won anything that I can remember, but I really wanted to win this cake. So I did what any twelve-year-old Christian would do: I prayed. “Dear God, if you are listening, please show me by allowing me to win this cake. Amen.” The music played. I walked. The music stopped. I stopped. They called out “32.” I looked down. I was on 32. Wow! It was something special. God made me win the cake-walk. He really did care! He was really there. The next year, same time, same place, same prayer. And you know what? I won again. It was unbelievable to this now 13 year-old-kid. It was a miracle! God was indeed on my side.

The next year, I went again. I felt like I was going to meet God at our special place. It was like a date with God. I was so excited. It was a great conformation to my faith for him to take the time to peer out from behind the clouds. Two years before, you could have asked me, “Why do you believe in God Michael?” I might have said, “Because my mom says he is real.” But now you could ask the same question and I would say, “Because he gets me a cake each year. How else do you explain my victories?” There I was, nervous and giddy. The music started playing and I started praying. The music stopped. I stopped. “Number 12,” the lady called out. There must be some mistake, I thought to myself. I am on 20. I decided to try again, this time tagging the ol’ faithful “In Jesus’ name” to the end of my prayer. “Number 5,” she announced. I was on 8. Something had gone seriously wrong. Maybe God was not going to show up. Maybe the other two times were just coincidences. I went home with my head hanging low, not sure how to believe. 

“God Things”

Have you ever heard the phrase “Its a ‘God thing’.” “God things” are those experiences that we cannot explain outside of God’s direct intervention. When we meet someone by “chance” and this encounter turns out to be something that changes our lives, it’s a “God thing.” When we forget our cell phone at home and have to go back only to find out that we left the stove on, it’s a “God thing.” One of my favorite movies of all time is Signs with Mel Gibson. It is all about “God things.” There was one part where Mel Gibson, a priest who has lost his faith, asks his brother if he believes that God works miracles or if the things we cannot explain are just coincidences. His brother tells a story about when he was at a party sitting next to a girl leaning in to kiss her. He then realized that he had gum in his mouth. He turns to take it out and by the time he turned back around, she was throwing up all over the place. He said, “I could have been kissing her when she thew up. I’m a miracle man.” To him, that was a “God thing.”

Personal experience is an important part of our conviction. We want to have “God things” in our lives that confirm our beliefs. To have God speak to us from heaven, to have been around when Christ walked the earth, to have seen the Red Sea part, there would have been no denying “God things.” And if there are “God things,” then there is a God. It’s a simple two step deduction.

To be truthful, I don’t know of many things in my life that I can conclusively say were “God things.” Don’t get me wrong. I believe that I have experienced many “God things.” But, when push comes to shove, someone could argue that these things, were just coincidences. Because of this, I don’t rest too heavily on my particular interpretation of life’s events, basing my faith in God exclusively on such things.

My real life conviction meter often looks like this:

Notice that while I believe I have a lot of “forensic” conviction for Christianity, my first-hand experience meter is wanting a great deal. This is why my overall real life meter is not as high as I would like it. Continue Reading →

The Anatomy of Belief (7): Real Life Conviction

A Guide to Examining the Way We Believe So That What We Believe Will be Secure

(Warning: Santa Clause spoiler forthcoming)

I have to admit it. While growing up, Santa Clause was my favorite Saint. Although at four years old, I did not know he was a Saint, nor did I care. He was the guy who partnered up with mom and dad and brought me presents for Christmas. I believed in him because mom and dad said he was real. In fact, I saw him once. It had to be 12am or after. I sat in my bed, anxiously trying to force sleep to bridge the time as it stood at that moment with the time when we would burst into the dimly lit living room with shouts of joy and excitement when we heard some bells. I low crawled down the hall with my little sister. We took a short cut through the dining room peered toward the Christmas tree. There he was. He had lost some weight and had something seriously wrong with his beard, but it was him nonetheless. Santa Clause was at our house. He told us to get to bed. His voice was strangely similar to my father’s. And he was not too jolly. No matter. I wanted to believe, therefore, I was willing to suspend any sense of a critical spirit that wanted to arise.

As the years passed, my desire to believe in him continued, but there were some things that were not adding up. Sure, the cookies and milk I sat out for him each year were gone each Christmas morning. As well, I could not deny the fact that there were gifts present Christmas morning that were not there the night before. And these were presents that were different. A key sign at our house that a particular present was from Santa was that the gift was unwrapped. Not to mention that my most trusted sources for referred conviction, mom and dad, still insisted that he was real. I had plenty of reasons to continue to believe, but there were some things that, again, were not adding up.

Kristie and Angie, my older sisters, provided a very disturbing testimony. They said to me more times than one in confidence that Santa was not real. While I thought they were crazy, they did throw a wrench in the stability of my referred conviction.  According to their account of things, mom and dad were Santa Clause. I wondered if others shared their crazy worldview. This took me back to my encounter with Santa that night. My sisters’ testimony would make sense of why Santa sounded like my dad. Of course, the more I thought about it, it was possible that mom and dad ate the cookies and drank the milk. After all, they did eat and drink too. And my dad really liked cookies. It was well within their capabilities to place unwrapped Christmas presents under the tree. Not only this, but it made little sense that Santa could make it to every house in the world in one night, especially if he was going as slowly as he was the night I saw him. Finally, the kicker came the following year. I was on the pre-Christmas hunt for mom’s hidden place where she stored the Christmas presents. Rumor had it that it was in the south hallway closet. Though it was normally always locked, this particular day it was not. When I looked inside, to the horror of this now seven year old kid, there lay Santa’s suit, boots, and white beard. It was almost final. I just had to get mom and dad to admit their deception and I could put a nail in this investigation, count my losses, and confirm my broken heart. Although my mother attempted to stand her ground for a time, the overwhelming amount of evidence eventually caused her concession. I, since that day, I have not believed in Santa.

We will get back to ol’ Saint Nick in a moment!

Real Life Conviction (evidentia)

“Real life conviction.” That might not be the best way to put it, but it does begin with an “R”! Reviewing from an earlier chapter, this most broadly refers to human experience. It is often called “empirical,” meaning that which we can observe or experience through our senses. It has to do with the evidence. Appropriately, the Reformers called this, along with rational conviction, evidentia. It is stuff that we can see, feel, taste, touch, or test. This can come by way of direct personal encounters or by historical and empirical verification. Whereas rational conviction comes intuitively and works primarily off of logical deduction, real life conviction comes by way of subjective encounter, evidence, and testing. It makes up the third sub-meter in our “conviction meter.” It is a very important part of human epistemology (how we know what we know).


During the enlightenment, there were two schools of thought about where our ultimate source of information came from. The “Rationalists” believed that the most important source for knowledge was intuitive, meaning that we are born preprogrammed with paradigms of understanding. The “Empiricists” believed that the ultimate source for knowledge came from real world evidences. These would be the things we learn through real life experiences and investigation. You know, this is the age old nature vs. nurture debate; the philosopher vs. the scientist. Do we know what we know due to our inherent nature (rationalism), or do we know what we know due to life’s nurturing (empiricism). Continue Reading →

Anatomy of Belief (6): Rational Conviction

A Guide to Examining the Way We Believe So That What We Believe Will be Secure

I have done some irrational things in my life. There are way too many things to count. However, two stand out.

One time when I was 12-years-old I was riding my Yamaha YZ-80 dirt bike motorcycle in an undeveloped part of our neighborhood. It was getting dark and the rain was starting to fall. There was an 18-foot hill I had been climbing for the last few hours. It had a lip at the top which was great for jumping. When I saw the rain start to fall, having realized that it was time to go home, I wanted to get in one last bit of fun. So, I backed away from the hill about forty yards and prepared for the final jump of the day. Normally I would hit the hill with about one-third throttle in second gear. When I got to the top, where the lip was, I would do as any good motocross rider would do and give it a slight bit more gas to steady my bike through the jump. However, this time I let go of all good senses. To this day I don’t know why but I gunned in from the beginning and hit third gear full-throttle. By the time I hit the lip, I was flying and had no throttle left to steady the jump. Sure enough, the bike went flying through the air as my body parted from the seat and hands from the grips. Flying alone about fifteen to twenty feet in the air was the last thing I remember. About twenty minutes later I woke up on the ground, flat on my face with my bike twenty feet away from me. I stood up and came to, walked to my bike, and tried to pick it up. It was only then that I discovered the excruciating pain radiating from my shoulder. My clavicle had been broken. I stood there and cried until a nice lady stopped and came to my aid.

The other time is when I was four-years-old. Most people remember very little about things that happened when they are this young, but this act of stupidity made a lasting impression on my mind. We had a dog named Scamper. He was a little Schnauzer who could not have weighed more than eight pounds. I was on the second floor looking over the second-story balcony of our house when I had a bright idea. I thought I would check and see if Scamper could fly. So, I picked him up and dropped him on the wood floor twelve feet below. As I stood there looking over the rail at Scamper’s motionless body, I knew that I had done something wrong. Thankfully, Scamper lived.

In both cases I remember my dad asking me what I used for a brain. In both cases, I failed to use common sense. Neither I nor Scamper could fly.

Rational thinking can be defined as the innate human capacity for rational, reasonable, and analytical thought. My dad would just call it “common sense.” It is “common” because it comes standard with every human brain, no upgrades necessary.

However, many of us choose not to use rational thinking. We often take “leaps of faith,” believing that the irrational will somehow be true. It is said that the lottery is a taxation upon stupid people. This is probably the case. I know people who spend their money every day on a lottery ticket that has less than a one in a million chance of winning. However, like myself with Scamper, they trust in the most unlikely of outcomes, believing that their blind and irrational faith will defy the rules of logic just for them.

It is very hard to justify conviction without rational.

Rational Conviction

Remember, faith is made up of three essential components: content, conviction, and consent. We are focusing in on conviction which has three components as well: rational conviction, real life (evidential) conviction, and referred conviction.

Our desire is to have all of these meters up as high as we can in order for the intellectual conviction of our faith to be secure. Continue Reading →

The Anatomy of Belief (5): Referred Conviction

A Guide to Examining the Way We Believe So That What We Believe Will be Secure

There are so many things that I don’t know about. Yes, I have a master’s degree in theology from a four year program. A masters degree! Yes, it was very in depth. And yes, since I graduated almost a decade ago, I have keep up my studies very intently. But I feel like I know less today than I did when I first began. It is often said that a pastor has to be an expert in more areas than in any other profession. He has to know history, psychology, grammar, leadership, biology, geography, archeology, hermeneutics, Greek, Hebrew, English, literature, logic, cosmology, rhetoric, paleology, sociology, ethics, marraige, substance abuse, and, yes, even politics. I modify this a bit. A pastor is perceived by many to be an expert in more areas than any other field. Sometimes this perception goes to our head and we begin to think of ourselves as masters of all areas. This is far from the true.

In every area I listed, I am but a novice. In many of these, I am just knowledgable enough to be dangerous. Most others, if they were honest, no matter how many degrees they hold, are masters of very few (if any) things.  In just about every area of life, we rely heavily on the expertise of others.

Think about this. When you read your Bible, my bet is that you don’t personally translate every passage from the original Greek or Hebrew. You rely on the translation of others. Your confidence for this translation comes from what I have called “referred conviction.” You simply trust the people who translated it. For the few that do translate the Bible yourself, my bet is that you don’t use a self-constructed Greek or Hebrew text. You probably use a critical text that came by way of another’s expertise. My point is that no matter how you slice it, you are standing on the shoulders of others and your position is only as stable as those who are holding you up.

We need to be careful about getting too high on ourselves. In our individualistic maverick society, we value individualism. But knowledge, understanding, and wisdom are not individualistic. No one is really that smart. Most of us are filled with referred intelligence and conviction.

Referred Conviction

Thus far, we have argued that faith is made up of three primary things: content, conviction, and consent. Right now we are zeroing in on conviction. Conviction, as we are talking about it, is the intellectual aspect of our faith. This conviction is made up of three things: rational, real life experience, and that which has been referred. Our conviction meter looks like this:

Let’s spend some time on “referred conviction.” The Reformers called it firmitas. Continue Reading →

The Anatomy of Belief (4): Complexities of Conviction

A Guide to Examining the Way We Believe So That What We Believe Will be Secure

I often tell people that when they are speaking there are a few ways to become more authoritative in the eyes of your listeners. First, speak louder. If that does not work, speak deeper. And if both of those don’t work, speak with a British accent! However, that is not all. I am going to give you some insider information by telling you two more ways to get people to submit to your authority. Mind you though, this only works with Protestants. First, include this phrase, “the Reformers taught this same thing.” If you want to get really fancy, designate them as the magisterial scholastic Reformers. Although most Protestants have no clue who the magisterial scholastic Reformers are, it does not matter. It will work. Second (warning: only use this with extreme caution and don’t try this alone), when you really want people to bow to your authority, throw in a Latin word here and there. If you combine all of these, people will have no choice but to fall under your spell. The audience is yours.

Thus far I have utilized my own advice (well, at least the last two). The scholastic Reformers talked about three aspects of true Christian faith: 1) notitia (content or knowledge), 2) assensus (conviction or intellectual assent), 3) fiducia (consent, rest, or trust). Now let me expand upon the assensus or conviction element just a bit.

We are talking about the anatomy of faith and all its complexities. Because of this, we must be diligent to distinguish and discuss all of its intricacies. When it comes to conviction, there are different types and sources. To ask for reasons for one’s beliefs requires that we be prepared for a variety of answers, sometimes they will be valid and sometimes they will be invalid. Nevertheless, the Bible tells us to always be ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within us (1Pet. 3:15).

Why are you a Christian John? “Because it makes the most sense out of the world.”

Why do you believe in God Emily? “Because I have experienced his love.”

Why do you believe the Bible is inspired Nate? “Because of fulfilled prophecy.”

Why do you believe Christ is coming again Carrie? “Because he said he would and I trust him to do what he says.”

How do you know the Bible has been accurately handed down Tim? “Because Dan Wallace has studied the manuscript evidence and come to the conclusion that it is trustworthy.”

The conviction expressed by each answer here is based on different criteria. The scholastic magisterial Reformers (!) said that there are three types of conviction that make up one’s overall assent to their faith. I am going to use my own terms here in hopes to simplify things a bit (and because I like to start them all with the same letter!).

Take a look at our Belief-O-Meter. We are going to be adding some sub-meters to the top right meter of conviction. Again, one’s conviction is made up of all three. The more each are present, the greater one’s conviction.

1. Rational Conviction (What the Reformers called evidentia):

Rational conviction comes by means of intuitive logic. It can be described most elementary as sound judgment, common sense, perception, and that which is agreeable to sound reasoning. In some ways, its the stuff you just figure out. In a more technical sense, it describes the foundational principles of logic which produce, when used correctly, reliable inference. This would involve the principle of the law of non-contradiction (A ≠ -A at the same time and the same relationship). For example, I cannot be wearing shoes and not be wearing shoes when both propositions assume the same time frame and the same definition for “shoes.” “Duh?” you say. “Exactly!” I say. It is intuitive. It is common sense. Continue Reading →