(Local Newspaper Column - I'm writing my holiday articles at the moment so I thought I'd post a few of them this week.)
Socrates, the Greek thinker, reputedly said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."
You could also say that the unexamined faith is not worth having.
I suppose if you were to ask most people in Ireland they would say, "Oh, I've got my faith." And if you pressed them about how they came to this faith, they'd say, "Well I was born a ______________ (fill in your own religion), and I'll die a _______________."? Why? Have they thought about it? How do they know that that is the best one?
We all have a tendency to grow up believing what our parents believed. But how many have actually looked at what they believe? Perhaps many are banking on what they've been told being right. What if it's not?
If your father fervently believed that running naked through a field of nettles was a great cure for a cold, would you blindly continue his tradition or would look for some manner of proof before you committed yourself wholeheartedly to following his course?
Nevertheless, many Irish people, Protestant and Catholic, do this in matters of religion. They hold blindly to what their fathers and mothers believed. But they have never examined it themselves. They have never asked any questions. For example:
Does it make sense? How does it measure up with what the Bible says, about man, about God, about salvation? Don't take it for granted just because your minister or priest or pastor says it, get your Bible out and check for yourself. The Bible nowhere commands us to accept everything we hear, instead it urges us to:
"Test everything." - 1 Thessalonians 5:21
"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" - 1 John 4:1
"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." - Acts 17:11
The next obvious question is, "How do I know the Bible is true?" Have you looked at that one? Or perhaps like many you just assume that it is a load of fairy tales with no basis in history, and that it has been largely disproved by scientists? How wrong you would be!
The unexamined belief is not worth having. It isn't worth the paper your baptism certificate, membership certificate, confirmation certificate, communion certificate is written on. Because unless we examine what we believe and make sure that it is right, and that it personally applies to us, then it will not save us.
Those two qualifications are important. We must make sure that what we believe is true. It isn't enough to be sincere in what we belief. We could be sincerely wrong. God has made it clear enough in his word what the way of salvation is - he wants us to examine his word and make sure we have heard what he says.
And it isn't enough that we know we have the right beliefs, because a head knowledge doesn't save either. It takes a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ to save. You can grow up in a church where the true gospel is taught and be just as lost as the next man, because you haven't taken time to think it over for yourself.
The unexamined faith is not worth having.