Is How We Live More Important Than What We Believe? (Bad Secular Wisdom Series #1)

Is How We Live More Important Than What We Believe?Today I’m starting a blog series called, “Bad Secular Wisdom.” If you’re not familiar with the term, a blog series is where an author writes multiple posts on a related subject. I’m not normally a fan of such series because I think they get old fast, but in this case there are so many interesting and important topics for Christian parents that fall under the umbrella of “Bad Secular Wisdom,” I’m excited to do it. I’ll be posting once per month in the series, with remaining posts on other subjects.

The reason this series is so important is that our world is filled with bad secular wisdom…little pieces of a godless worldview that spread like a virus and infect the minds of young people before they even realize it. They sound good, but are harmful narratives that kids too often attach to their Christian worldview without understanding the great inconsistencies. My hope is that this series will inspire you to challenge your kids to think critically about each of the subjects we cover.

For the first post, we’re going to tackle the illogical idea that how we live is more important than what we believe.


Is How We Live More Important Than What We Believe?

I first came across the phrase “how we live is more important than what we believe” on a chalkboard outside of a coffee shop last year. I shook my head, thinking the baristas should stick to coffee making. Since then, however, I’ve seen the idea pop up in all kinds of places.

One well-known person who actively promotes this notion is Gretta Vosper. Vosper is a United Church of Canada minister…who’s also an atheist.

In 2015, a review committee from her denomination found that she was “not suitable” to continue in her role because she doesn’t believe in God (a shocking committee conclusion, I know). But Vosper’s congregation has insisted on keeping her as pastor, despite the fact she no longer preaches about Christianity.

If that sounds hard to believe, this quote from one loyal church member will help you understand the mentality of the congregation: “It’s not about coming to hear that I’m a sinner. That is so yuck. This fulfills my need to feel upbeat. The services are more happy and joyful, more interested in community and justice.”

Vosper has authored several books, including one called, With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important Than What We Believe. On her website, she emphasizes, “We’re not going to stop trying to make the world a better place. We hope you don’t either.”

Vosper and her church community are clearly committed to living lives that benefit the Earth and those who live on it. They’re presumably doing many good things for society, and that’s commendable. But is Vosper’s claim true, that how we live is more important than what we believe?

As we’ll see in this post, this is bad secular wisdom.

It’s not consistent with atheism or Christianity!


Inconsistent with Atheism

Saying how we live is more important than what we believe presumes there is some way all people should live. No one has an objective basis for claiming that, however, if God doesn’t exist—should implies a moral obligation. But if humans are nothing more than a bunch of molecules in motion, to whom would we be morally obliged? To other molecules in motion? Clearly not. In a world without God, no one can prescribe a way of living for anyone else because there’s no moral authority, and, therefore, no objective basis for doing so. How a person “should” live can only be a matter of opinion.

An atheist who chooses a life of crime because he or she doesn’t believe there’s any moral significance to our existence is living more consistently within the atheistic worldview than one who claims all people should live in a particular way.


Inconsistent with Christianity

The Bible says that what you believe about Jesus has eternal significance:

  • John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
  • Romans 10:9: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
  • And John 14:6 says Jesus is the only way to God: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

From a Christian perspective, how you live cannot be more important than what you believe—what you believe determines where you will spend eternity. To be clear, however, that doesn’t mean the way in which a Christian lives his or her life doesn’t matter. The Bible says that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17).

A genuine love for God results in a life of good works for God’s glory. Belief and action go hand-in-hand.

Furthermore, only Christians and other theists have an objective basis for determining what it means to do “good” works in the first place. In a godless world, there’s no objective moral standard by which works can even be called good.


The Bottom Line

Anyone, regardless of what they believe about God, can do good things with their life. Christians, atheists, and people with all kinds of other beliefs help the homeless, give money to charities, participate in environmental causes, fight child abuse, advocate for crime victims, and much more. For atheists, doing things like these that Christians and other theists would call good is a matter of preference…one as morally legitimate as a life of crime. While some atheists, like Vosper, might say all people should live to make the world a better place, that’s an objective claim that’s inconsistent with an atheistic worldview. “How you live is more important than what you believe” is a belief itself, and ironically determines how a person lives.

While the lives of atheists and Christians sometimes look similar in the good works they do, the Bible is clear that those similarities don’t make believing in Jesus any less important.

Belief matters…in an eternally significant way.


Ask your kids this question: “I heard someone say today that how you live your life is more important than what you believe. Do you agree or disagree with that? Why?”

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8 thoughts on “Is How We Live More Important Than What We Believe? (Bad Secular Wisdom Series #1)”

  1. Fantastic start to what will assuredly be a thought provoking series to promote great discussion with our kids!

  2. When I first read the title my immediate thought was that it’s always important to do the right thing (how we live) as far as making an impact for good as Christians, and that is the bottom line as far as the secular world is concerned. They benefit when we act as Christians.

    However, if we allow “what we believe” as Christians to divide us there is no eternal benefit to what we do. We help people here and now, and that’s good, but we do not lead them to a desire to embrace Christianity if we are divided amongst ourselves.

    I immediately thought about the division within Christendom today that does so much damage to our witness. As atheists often say, “When you folks get it all figured out then you can talk to us.” John 17 included a chilling warning that to the degree we Christians are divided the world will not believe.

    There is no question but that we Christians need to be united over the fundamentals of our faith (the resurrection, the virgin birth, the inspiration of Scripture, etc.). But we divide over things at the level of discipleship issues (Romans 14 things like drinking wine, what constitutes modest dress, etc), tradition distinctives (Things like communion frequency, worship music style, etc), and all the way down to personal opinions about end times and the like.

    So my only point is that we have lots of Christians doing lots of good things in this world, but we are so divided we are not a good witness to Christianity. How we live is critically important on two levels. We need to simply be good neighbors and live sacrificial lives to benefit others, BUT if we are divided as a Christian community all of our good works will ultimately be in vain.

    1. Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment. Jesus spoke about church unity at least 5 times in John 17. This is the secret to convincing the world that Jesus was sent from heaven by our Heavenly Father. Such unity is so out of this world and the evidence of such unity leads to a natural conclusion.

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