c’mon people!

I just noticed that Tony Jones’ blog picked up on Kevin Corcoran’s blog in which Kevin describes our recent conversation at the Emergent panel and on this blog.  Kevin said that my question assumed “the view that belief is belief that,” where “the idea is that belief is belief that certain propositions are true.”  Kevin went on, and this is the part which Jones cites, to say that God “is never satisfied with belief that. God is interested in the total reorientation and rearrangement of our lives, our loves, our desires our entire way of being in the world.”

Well, obviously.  I completely agree with Jones and Corcoran that God is not satisfied with merely “belief that.”  I have always said so–and clearly.  My only point is that we can’t have “belief in” Jesus without a “belief that” about Jesus.  We can’t follow Jesus if we don’t know who he is.  Why is this so hard?


Add yours →

  1. you are not being heard because clearly you are not part of the “conversation” …


  2. Do smart people go to heaven?

  3. Mike,

    I said on my blog that your “preferred grammar” is that of belief that. I think that’s true. I didn’t say that you dismiss, ignore or deny that there are other meaningful or even essential grammars. Try this: you are committed to both/and and not either/or–both belief that AND belief in. Right? Question: which in your view holds primacy of place? Which is primary? Which stands to the other as cause to effect or effect to cause? Both can’t. I think it’s clear that for you “belief that” holds primacy of place. FIRST belief that and then belief in. Here’s you: “My only point is that we can’t have “belief in” Jesus without a “belief that” about Jesus.” See? FIRST the one THEN the other.

    And that is why it is right to claim that your preferred grammar is that of “belief that.” A difference between us is NOT that one of us is a both/and guy and the other isn’t. A difference between us is that one of us thinks that “belief that” MUST PRECEDE inclusion in the household of God. The other doesn’t think that at all. The other thinks “belief that” can come AFTER one experiences the saving work of Jesus.

    See what I mean?

  4. Kevin,

    I understand what you are saying. But don’t you think that you are the one who is being the judgmental fruit inspector? If we went back 15-20 years ago I would look about at those who appeared cold hearted, and later find out that they didn’t do things for the praise of men – they would be at the hospital visiting a person at 3:00 a.m. and delivering food to the needy…

  5. Q: What’s a better use of time–talking to emergents about belief or talking to a brick wall about belief?

  6. I have a question.

    How can someone have a “belief in” without a “belief that”. If we’re “believing in” Jesus, aren’t we first formulating propositions “about” Jesus to “believe in”? We can’t “believe in” anything that we haven’t already made some conclusions (propositions–“that”) about…can we?

    This is a legitimate question. Please tell me where I’m wrong here.


  7. Kevin:

    Thanks for clarifying. I think that your use of the term “preferred” is misleading. I prefer both right belief and right practice, a point which neither you nor Tony made in your post. You both left the impression that I was satisfied with a mere “belief that.” And from the moment I asked the initial question at the Emergent panel, I clearly said that was not the case.

    You say that “A difference between us is NOT that one of us is a both/and guy and the other isn’t.” Help me square that with what you posted earlier on this blog: “My answer is, no; there are no beliefs necessary to follow Jesus.”

    Have you changed your position, so that now some beliefs are necessary? If not, then how are you both/and? I think that both beliefs and obedience are essential for salvation, but you said that the former is not.

    At any rate, I agree with your last assessment of the difference between us, I just prefer that you wouldn’t use the term “prefer.”

  8. Jason:

    I think you are completely right. “Belief that” logically precedes “belief in.” I think that’s indisputable, but others apparently do not. And so we talk.

  9. Hey Mike,

    Well, I think we’ve been around this block before, but here goes. When I say ““My answer is, no; there are no beliefs necessary to follow Jesus” (which I hasten to point out was immediately followed by “now the explanation” followed by a lengthy explanation!) it might seem to be inconsistent with both/and thinking, but ONLY IF you’re thinking of belief as punctilious (is that a word?), as being solely located at a particular point in time.

    At a particular point in time I believe someone may have had a life-transformative encounter w/Christ or might be a practicing follower of Christ w/o believing that>/em> Jesus was born of a virgin, raised from the dead, etc. I think belief is more fluid and ought to be considered over the course of a life. And over the course of a life, if they’re a well-formed adult human being, and they are presented with and understand (say) the content of the Apostle’s Creed, and they deny that content over the course of their life, then I would say that, under those conditions, they were not, over the course of their earthly life, a Christian.

    In short, over the course of the Christian life, both/and. At a particular point in time, or during a particular interval, you might have the one without the other or the other without the one–i.e., belief that all the right things are true without belief in, without being a follower of Christ OR being a follower of Christ without belief that all the right things are true.

    So again: A difference between us is that one of us thinks that “belief that” MUST PRECEDE inclusion in the household of God. The other doesn’t think that at all. The other thinks “belief that” can come AFTER one experiences the saving work of Jesus and over the course of their life.

    And as for Jason’s question, I didn’t say or even suggest that one could have absolutely no beliefs about Jesus. I said that one didn’t need the specific beliefs you quoted in your initial post.

    Mike, I think we’ve actually made progress. We see, I think, just where we disagree and where we are agreed on this issue. I hope others see that, too.


  10. Oops!! I must have forgotten some html code. Sorry!!! Unfortunately, that failure will make the reading and understanding of the comment even more trying for some than if I hadn’t forgotten to turn off the italics at the appropriate points. Dang!


  11. Kevin:

    Thanks for clarifying once again. I agree that we have made progress in that the difference is becoming apparent. I would just add that you should not exaggerate my position. I never said that belief in the virgin birth is one of the necessary beliefs to be saved. I have never argued that a person has to have a fleshed out orthodoxy in order to be saved, but only the minimal belief that Paul told the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

    It’s probably time to wrap this up. Thanks for the stimulating conversation.

  12. Why don’t you guys just sit down and talk? You work just a few miles away form one another.

  13. Daryl:

    This is talking. Remember my door is always open to you.

  14. Early on Emerging rightly complained that their critics had not read their material or dialogued with them directly (this is a complaint found in the famous Letter to Our Critics that Jones, McLaren, Pagitt, and others signed). But now many seem to be failing on the same point. If they would simply read your book then your position would be abundantly obvious, including a full-page diagram with co-centric circles about the relative importance of certain propositions about Jesus. Those are the specific beliefs Mike refers to. I urge Keven, Jones, et al to READ THE BOOK.

    But it really all comes back to believing before belonging or belonging before believing, doesn’t it? Again, you have a good chapter on that in the book. Maybe it will be read and discussed sometime…

  15. Kevin says, “I think we’ve actually made progress. We see, I think, just where we disagree and where we are agreed on this issue. I hope others see that, too.”

    Well, no, I for one don’t see it yet. It seems that Kevin and Mike are still missing each other’s meaning. It’s difficult when terms can be so equivocal.

    It’s difficult to understand how one can have any “belief in” without some rudimentary “belief that.” But it is clearly also true that we can “believe in” without a very well-developed “belief that.”

  16. Bob:

    I agree with your first sentence of the last paragraph, but your second sentence uses an elastic “very well-developed” term that seems to misrepresent my point. I have not said that we need “a very well-developed” understanding of Jesus before we can believe in him, but only that we need to know that Jesus is Lord before we can confess this truth.

  17. Mike,
    I have been doing a lot of thinking, researching, and wondering after hearing you speak yesterday.
    Your comments yesterday morning at WellSpring church regarding a recent interchange at the Calvin Worship Symposium basically built yourself up and tore down Kevin Corcoran, whom you labeled “a Calvin professor.” You described him as unable to say that people need to believe in Jesus alone, and you characterized him unfairly. Your flippant comments about Calvin College were also untrue and you really took the entire dialogue out of context. I had to do some digging to find out who this Calvin professor was, and what your dialogue was about, but it was out there. I will also listen to the panel discussion when it is posted online.
    I am a M.Ed. student in curriculum and instruction at Calvin, and I was extremely offended at the way you portrayed the college. I was a first time visitor to WellSpring, and I was surprised at these types of comments in the message time. I have read through all of the comments here and in the other threads your dialogue with Kevin Corcoran, discussing the panel discussion when you asked him “if there were beliefs that were/are necessary to follow Jesus. If so, what are they? And if not, why not?”
    He answered you accurately that someone just needs to believe in Jesus Christ. That is the very first step — One simple, honest step, accepting salvation through Jesus alone. Please consider the way you characterized yourself as the only correct one in the conversation, because Corcoran was never saying that all roads lead to salvation, as you accused him. I am really disappointed about those comments and your inaccurate portrayal of the conversation about the emerging church at the worship symposium. I hope you have an opportunity to right these wrongs, because you certainly gave incorrect information to a lot of people yesterday. I cannot let these kinds of comments go unanswered because as a Christian leader, your words were not building up the body of Christ.

  18. J. Maria:

    I’m not sure where to begin. I used my interchange on the symposium panel as an example of the increasingly common belief that we do not need to know and believe in Jesus in order to be saved. That is clearly the position of the person you name (and which I didn’t), and certainly of at least one other person on the panel. So I think you are wrong on the facts.

    Where does he say, as you claim, that “someone just needs to believe in Jesus Christ. That is the very first step — One simple, honest step, accepting salvation through Jesus alone”?

    At the symposium, Kevin said that everyone is saved through Jesus, but that God also “makes himself available” to those of other religions. He said that “Jews, Christians, and Muslims all pray to the same God.” This is a very broad inclusivism that borders on pluralism.

    Regarding my intent, it was the opposite of what you allege. I was not attempting to “build myself up,” but to explain why my conservative view is unpopular today. I understand why many think it is dangerous to conclude that any beliefs are necessary for salvation, but we must stand by the biblical claims nonetheless.

    I think that you are probably upset because I mentioned the name Calvin. And here I think you have a good point. I wasn’t sure if I should say the name of the college or not, but ultimately did in order to show how unpopular the view I was explaining is in our circles. In retrospect I wish I hadn’t, and should I mention this again, I will be careful to speak vaguely of an “evangelical Christian college.”

  19. You just don’t want to admit that you were wrong. I see that Kevin has gone around and around on this issue with you, and I fail to see how you have done any good except to drag his name down, as well as the name of his college and the worship symposium. His first reply to you on the separate thread discusses the one decision that a person needs to make, the act of believing in Jesus Christ. That is exactly what he was detailing to you, the act of faith. People come to God from a variety of experiences, cultures, and walks, but they still make one choice to believe or not…in Him. Kevin makes that point very clear. People may come with no prior knowledge of this Jesus, but they come. Once they make that choice, their journey with Him begins.

    Now, with regards to semantics, you continue to go around and around on this, but the fact is — you were dragging down a person, an institution, and labeling them as pluralistic when in actuality they were not, and you also accused them of it…which was really building yourself up. Dialogue entails that both people respect one another and listen to one another, and after reading your conversations with the person mentioned…and the other conversations in this blog, I think some of those essential components are missing.

    As a fellow Christian, I needed to tell you about the way your words yesterday were taken, and the harm that they did.

  20. JMaria:

    Your post is full of allegations without support. I don’t have much interest in revisiting an old dialogue, but you may want to re-read the posts more carefully. I don’t think further dialogue between us is going to be productive, but I have taken your words to heart and I thank you for them.

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