Do you know why you believe what you believe?

Instead of, “Know what you believe,” a more appropriate statement might be, “Know why you believe.” 1 Peter 3:15b says, “Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

We’re supposed to be ready to explain why we believe what we believe. The words “make a defense” are one word in the Greek: apologia. It means, “verbal defense; a reasoned statement or argument.” Apologetics is the branch of theology concerned with defending Christianity, and we get this English word from apologia.

Not just knowing why you believe, but defending those beliefs humbly

People loosely quote 1 Peter 3:15 saying something like, “As a Christian you’ve got to ‘be able to give a defense of your faith.’” But they often leave off the last few words: “with gentleness and respect.” Peter first commands us to be ready to explain our beliefs, but he also tells us how we should do that—with gentleness and respect.

These words are important, because they prevent Christians from looking arrogant, condescending, or hostile. When that happens, even though Christians are trying to defend their faith they actually make Christ look bad. Continue reading “Do you know why you believe what you believe?”

Essentials Versus Nonessentials

In a previous post I discussed the importance knowing why you believe what you believe. When we don’t know why we believe what we believe, we shouldn’t be dogmatic or act like we’re right and others are wrong. It makes us look foolish when we have a strong conviction, but don’t know why. When studying your beliefs, they’ll probably fall into two categories: essentials and nonessentials.

In the course of studying why you believe, if you can’t find clear Scripture supporting your beliefs, simply say, “This is what I believe, but I could be wrong.” It’s okay to have different beliefs, or preferences, and be unable to defend them…as long as they’re held looser. Without sounding overly simplistic our beliefs generally fall into two categories:

  • Essentials or “deal breakers” or “hills to die on”. Most of our, Woodland Christian Church’s, Statement of Faith falls into this category: the Scriptures, the Godhead, the Person and work of Jesus Christ, salvation, etc.
  • Nonessentials, or in the language of Romans 14:1 “doubtful things” (ESV, NAS and ISV “opinions”). We might think of these as spiritual liberties, or areas not specifically forbidden or commanded in Scripture: some music, movies, clothing (I say “some” because there’s definitely some of each no Christian should listen to, watch or wear) frequency of the Lord’s Supper, makeup, jewelry, courting or dating, homeschool or public school, Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 also include food, drink and days of the week, and the list goes on.

One of the real difficulties is people don’t always agree on essentials versus nonessentials. For example, my favorite translations of the Bible are the NAS and ESV, but I’m comfortable with people using others. You could say this is a nonessential for me; however, there are some translations I would discourage people from using, like the TNIV and The Message ( and ironically this makes Bible translations somewhat of an essential for me). But, for some people, they’re convinced everyone should use the KJV (if this is what you believe, I’d encourage you to please read this brief discussion). The point is what’s nonessential to me is an essential to some others.

More important than being “right or wrong” regarding nonessential is being convinced in our relationships with the Lord: Romans 14:5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.

When people aren’t convinced and violate their consciences, they sin because they’re doing what they felt convicted not to do: Romans 14:23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.