I have been reading Alan Nobel’s book: Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age. I have enjoyed the philosophical framework that he outlined in his opening chapters; probably the best part of the book. He proposes a thought related to what he calls “thin beliefs” and “thick beliefs”
Thin Beliefs – these are beliefs that have no real consequence in our life. We all have a wide range of things we believe. In fact we may stretch them out on a continuum where some we hold more dearly than others. Some might be things we embrace dearly to the degree that they actually affect what we do (thick beliefs). But there are another set of beliefs that we passively agree with; others are what I would call, Facebook “like” beliefs. These beliefs are no more strategic in our life than simply clicking “like” on a Facebook page.
Many of our “likes” on Facebook are done simply as recognizing a friend. I have “liked” some things my friends have posted for no other reason than to support or encourage them. Sometimes it is hard to know why people post some of the things they do. Others seem to have some kind of message. The ones I “don’t like” are some of the Christian ones where someone questions your spirituality if you don’t pass this along to all your friends. The point is simply this: “liking” something on Facebook can be pretty superficial. I look at something for a moment, see if I “agree” or not and then click Facebook to do nothing more than let the person know that I read their thing and I am acknowledging it.
These kinds of “thin beliefs” don’t change our life. They are humorous, funny, sometimes disturbing for lots of reasons, but I don’t have a lot weighing on this “like”. Usually if I know the person I will like a Facebook post, regardless of how silly, irrelevant, ridiculous or significant it happens to be. Why? Just to support a friend or to say hi, I read your thing.
Thick beliefs – thick beliefs are those that have substance. They are beliefs that actually force me to think deeply about what the implication is of that truth and how it should affect the way I do things. We could call these values. What a person truly values, they will do. Morality tends to be built more on thick beliefs because they actually do (or should) influence what I do. In the most general way that is how we know the difference between thin beliefs and thick beliefs. Our beliefs in God and His Word are to be thick beliefs because Christ changes the trajectory of our life. The Word teaches us thick beliefs because God is teaching us how we are to live.
The real danger is when we start treating thick beliefs like thin beliefs. In any other terms, when we start treating thick beliefs (truths that should be changing my priorities, my behaviors, habits or character) as Facebook “likes” (thin beliefs) we can find ourselves in some real danger. The phrase, familiarity breeds contempt, is where we take thick beliefs (truth that should be a real catalyst in our life) and checking them off as if they are a ‘like” on the Facebook of our life.
The problem is that we basically become indifferent to truth. You have your stuff you like, I have mine. You can do it or not, it matters not to me. If I get really curious about something I might explore what it is and what it leads to but I always hold the right to abandon this pursuit of truth if it starts to become too uncomfortable. Exploring truth does have a different feel that thin beliefs or thick beliefs because usually I am trying to decide how much I want to believe in something or not
When God simply becomes a “like” on a Facebook page we have to be careful that we are not taking Him for granted. When moral truth becomes nothing more than a “like” on the Facebook page of my life, we may find some serious slippage in our walk with God. This was the problem that Israel had especially when God richly blessed them with the abundance of the Promised Land.
Is it wrong to just “like” something? I do it all the time. If you ask me if any kind of food was good, the answer is always of course. I “like” everything. When it comes to personal preferences over color, where I sit, what position I have – many times it does not really matter – my thin beliefs. But when it comes to loving my neighbor to where I am sharing the gospel with him, that is much different than “liking” the idea of sharing the gospel and doing nothing. I believe in it, think it is a good idea, but don’t ask me to do it; that is someone else’s job… then we have thick beliefs turned to thin.
In His grace,