Over time, particularly in Western cultures, the word believe has become quite narrowed in its meaning. For instance, in the context of my own Christian tradition, when people hear the word believe, they may hear it as—
. . . I believe in God.
. . . Do you believe in Jesus?
. . . I believe what the Bible says.
. . . Do you believe in heaven? —
people typically understand the word believe to mean “intellectual assent to a propositional idea.” In that framework, people consider these statements and questions, and then choose to affirm or reject them as logical possibilities.
But what if that’s too narrow a definition of the word believe?
The English word believe has been shaped greatly by the frameworks of the Enlightenment and Modernism. The words of the Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament, however, speak of something quite different in their original languages.
These are words of the heart. . . words of will. . . and words of action. The words that often get translated into the English word believe are actually verbs of love, devotion, trust, purpose, and action.
Recently, I was reading Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening by Diana Butler-Bass. (Great book. Check it out.) She suggests that if we want to best translate these verbs into English, it would be better to use a word like Belove. . .
. . . I belove God.
. . . Do you belove from Jesus?
. . . I belove the way of love that the Bible reveals.
. . . Do you belove toward the Transformation of All Things?
Of course, these sentences I’ve created are remarkably clunky. But they cast a different vision entirely, don’t they?
The life of faith is not some intellectual, get-it-right-or-else game, working to conform the intellect (and in some instances, stretch it to incredulity) toward a set of particular propositional affirmations. It is not an endeavor to complete a holy, ‘check yes’ list and thus secure a key to a distant, heavenly future – the ultimate fire insurance.
The life of faith is much deeper.
It is love of God — Love itself, revealed among us,
– and –
It is love of Neighbor — Love itself, enacted between us.
This I belove.