I want to propose a thought experiment.
1. Some people believe in God but live as if he doesn’t exist. Craig Groeschel’s book, The Christian Atheist, addresses this phenomenon. (Is phenomenon the right word? Or is it more of a trend? Or maybe just an observance?) Anyway, how many of us go through our lives saying we believe in God but live each day in ways that seem to contradict that belief? We worry. We trust more in money than in God’s provision. We live selfishly. We fail to extend the grace we hope God has extended to us. We don’t pray.
2. Some people don’t believe in God but live as if he does exist. In other words, they may not identify as Christians but live very Christ-like lives. Maybe it’s out of habit. Maybe it’s because they are committed to the ethics of Christianity even if they no longer believe it. Maybe they are attracted to Christian ideals like grace and compassion even though they no longer trust the Bible or Christian tradition. Maybe they do it because they hope God exists, and live that way externally…while doubting on the inside. I know some atheists whose thoughtfulness, ethics, and personal morality put Christians to shame.
In your opinion, which is preferable? #1 or #2?
Note: most religious people will say the ideal, of course, is to believe AND live as if you believe. But we don’t live in an ideal world. Some struggle with faith. Some struggle with behavior. I’m not sure everyone struggles with both at the same time. Which is why I want to know what you think.
In terms of spiritual health, is it better to believe in God but live like you don’t? Or to not believe but live like you do?
Or maybe we should phrase it a simpler way. What’s more important: belief or actions?
[Thanks to my friend Liz for suggesting this post.]