Monday, October 23, 2017

Building Blocks of Belief

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TODAY’S SPECIAL: Matthew 22:34-46

‘The LORD said to my Lord,
Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’
” - Matthew 22:44

After the Jewish leaders had come to the end of their questions, Jesus had one for them: ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?’

Of course they gave Him the right answer: “‘The Son of David.’”

Jesus volleyed back with, What about the words of King David Himself, spoken by the Spirit: “‘The LORD said to my Lord / Sit at My right hand, ‘ Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’” - a quote from Psalm 110 written by David and believed by the Jews to be full of Messianic references.

Jesus’ questioners were silenced. They left Him realizing that the logical implication of His observation was that Messiah, the Christ, was not only the physical descendant of David. My Bible’s study notes explain:

“A father does not call his son Lord but rather the reverse, a son calls his father, 'Lord.' Therefore, if the LORD (God) said to my Lord (Messiah) how can the Messiah be the Son of David? Thus the title ‘Son of David’ is inadequate. To be sure Jesus Christ is the “Son of David” (Matthew 1:1) but no less is He the ’Son of God.’” - J. Lyle Story, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1332.

Despite all the arguments in which Jesus bested these clever men, did He convince them? Not many. Which brings us to the question, what would it have taken to win them over to belief in Him if apologetics (what many of us consider evangelization's trump card) didn’t?

Similarly in our time we tend to think that having convincing apologetic points at our fingertips and winning arguments with them should convince unbelievers to believe in Jesus. But they rarely do.

John Dickson, author of Jesus: Who He is and Why He Matters, explores the foundations of belief in the book’s opening chapters (posted online as the article “Jesus: God’s Tangible Sign"). He quotes the findings of the ancient philosopher Aristotle, who identifies three building blocks of belief:
“… people form their beliefs on the combination of three factors: What is called logos, pathos and ethos.”

Logos is the intellectual dimension that would be influenced by convincing arguments.

Pathos is the personal or emotional aspect. “… an argument with pathos is one with a beauty and poignancy that resonates with our deepest selves.”

is the social aspect of persuasion: “What we believe is hugely influenced by our upbringing, our education and the circle of friends we find ourselves in.”

If even Jesus could not sway these religious teachers by his astute apologetics, perhaps we should not be as fixated on coming up with the airtight right answer, the undeniable proof. For belief is multifaceted.  When some religious leaders believed in Jesus, they changed sides not after hearing Him win an argument but after seeing Him raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:45). And Pharisees like Nicodemus and Joseph kept their belief in Jesus secret because of “ethos”—their fear of their peers - John 19:38.

A segment from Mr. Dickson sums up well how Aristotle’s building blocks of belief function today:

“When Christians talk about how they 'became Christians,' they will often mention an intellectual component, a personal component and a social component. They will talk about some book they read or sermon they heard that laid out the facts about God and Christ. Their intellect was nourished and impressed. 
But they will also happily tell you, for example, how one day while pondering the significance of Jesus they felt a deep resonance with the Christian gospel. The message somehow became attractive and personally satisfying. It answered deep longings and clarified certain confusions. 
And very often such people will admit to having been drawn into a community of Christians, at school, church or wherever, whose lives had an authenticity and goodness that was hard to argue with” - John Dickson. This segment of Mr. Dickson’s book is published online at Read  entire article “JESUS: God’s Tangible Sign”.

Let’s keep these things in mind as we interact with an unbelieving world.

Dear Jesus, help me to be  always conscious of how You draw people to Yourself using many means. Help me to live and speak in a way that will draw people to, not repel them from You. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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