Does it matter what we believe?

Does it matter what we believe?

The diversity of religion

How many different world religions can you name? Considering the total number was 6,000 in 1970, around 10,000 in 2000 and is predicted to be 15,000 by 20251, don’t worry if you can’t name them all! And that’s before we get to the numerous denominations and sub-denominations which many of these faiths are broken down into.  Christianity alone contains around 40,000 different groups professing their own distinct set of beliefs!

Add to this the millions of atheists and agnostics who adhere to no religion and it is clear that when it comes to choosing what we believe about life and its burning questions, we have a huge range of options available to us.

Choice – good or bad?

Just why there are so many different faiths is considered in the article entitled: “One Bible, many churches – why?”  For now however, we wish to consider the implications of having such a wide choice.  Does it matter that there are so many beliefs out there, many of which conflict with each other?  They can’t all be right, so how do we discern truth from error?  Or do we need to?

Many argue that such a choice is no bad thing; that it’s a healthy mixture of differing viewpoints that caters for everybody; that whatever hope we hold to, we’ll each get there in our own way, each unto their own!

Well as admirable and appealing such an approach may seem, it carries a huge risk.  Whatever our beliefs, and whatever faith we adhere to, one thing we all agree on is the inevitability of death.  No faith can stop a person dying, yet there is a wide range of beliefs concerning life after death.  Do we really want to go to the grave without the absolute certainty of what will happen to us at that point?  Are we happy to take the risk that we have a completely false hope because we didn’t think it was worth double checking?

Content without religion?

Maybe we intend to look more closely at our beliefs one day, but we’re in no rush to do so.  Perhaps life is good at the moment; we have a wonderful family, a good job, a nice house, many friends, an active social life, and so on.  Great!  But death doesn’t respect age or circumstances and can occur at any time.  If we were to die today, we would lose everything we have, and then what?  It’s amazing how many people only reflect on their beliefs following a near-death experience!

So how do we make sure that what we believe is reliable?  The answer is simple – don’t rely on what man says!  The rate at which the number of world religions is growing demonstrates that he is forever coming up with new and conflicting ideas.  What he professes today may be rejected tomorrow in favour of something else.  A prime example of this is those churches which see the need to “modernise” and adapt their beliefs to suit their members’ changing tastes and expectations.

A reliable faith

It’s clear then that we need a reliable, unchanging authority on which we can base our beliefs; one we can trust implicitly and which leaves us knowing exactly where we stand and what to expect for the future.  We need a faith that can carry us through all the varying circumstances of life without giving us cause to question it.

Does such an authority exist?  Yes!  In the form of the Bible, the word of God.   Consider what it says about the importance of believing what God has declared to be true, rather than what man thinks is right:

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12
“The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.” Proverbs 21:16
“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.  Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.“ Proverbs 30:5-6
“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20

The Bible makes it clear that our understanding of it has to be right if we are to benefit from the hope it reveals.  There is no scope for man to reinterpret it as he sees fit, whatever society demands.  As God himself declares:

“For I am the LORD, I change not…” Malachi 3:6

The best approach

So how do we determine which of the 40,000 Christian denominations is holding true to God’s word and not preaching something false?  After all, it’s not like they are all deliberately preaching lies; most genuinely believe they are right.  Again, the Bible has the answer:

“These [the people of Berea] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11

Here we are told of the people of Berea who, having been preached to by the apostles (men chosen to  preach God’s word to the world) didn’t just take their word for it but regularly read the scriptures themselves to make sure that what they were hearing was consistent with what was actually written. They relied not on the words of man but the word of God!

This is exactly what we should do. Other articles you will find under the heading of "Essential Bible topics" provide information, always based exclusively on the Bible, so that you can discover the truth of God’s word for yourself, and benefit from the rock-solid hope that it offers the true believer.