Yesterday, I asked if the existence of Jesus mattered when it came to his message. Several of you responded, saying yes, he was a real, live person. That wasn’t the point the of the article and it got under my skin a little. One of the hazards of expressing your thoughts is that, from time to time, you will be misunderstood no matter how well you present yourself. Even though it irritated me, I soon realized I had been given a gift: a new idea for a blog post.
That idea is how important is belief in God…, or Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or anything for that matter? Is it necessary to believe in God/Jesus to get the Gospel? As one commenter said “I think the gospel is not reducible to an ethical/mythical system. No God, no Jesus, no Gospel.” Is that the case? No God, no Jesus, no Gospel?
There is definitely some truth here and not just of the spiritual variety. If no one believed in God we wouldn’t have the Hebrew scriptures that inspired Jesus’ message. Nor would the first century Palestinian society that Jesus grew up in and that had such a huge influence on him have existed. And, if Jesus himself never lived, we wouldn’t have the Gospel as it is presented to us today.
But, does that mean there wouldn’t have been any Gospel? Even if things happened the way I just described, people are still miserable enough, selfish enough, that the conditions of Jesus’ time would have still existed and a Gospel still would have been needed. And, wherever there is a need, eventually someone will step forward and fill it.
Of course, all of this is speculation and it really doesn’t address the importance of belief. That is something everyone must decide for themselves. In my case, it is extremely important. Belief, faith or whatever you choose to call it is important for a variety of reasons. For instance, belief in the physical existence (i.e the humanity) of Jesus shows that it is possible to live the way he did. Belief in his divinity brings a spiritual dimension to the message that adds a depth and richness that is absent from a purely secular one. And, as John Stuart Mill said “One person with a belief is equal to a force of 99 who have only interest“. In other words belief adds a drive not present otherwise.
It’s been said that everyone believes in something and I think that’s true even if does raise the hackles of some of our non-theist brothers and sisters. Whether you think that science will eventually answer all our questions or that answering every question isn’t possible and faith in the mystery of God is the way forward, or if you fall somewhere between those two extremes, you believe in something. Belief is how you survive this fucked-up mess we call life. You’d be absolutely miserable without something to believe in.
For me, belief is important. No, more than that, belief is essential. But, like I said just a minute ago, everyone has to find their own answer about belief’s importance in their life. I’d love to hear what you have to say.