Articles by Topic
Articles by Type

Shades of Belief

Christian, tell me why do you insist that belief in Jesus is so important? Some people don't believe in God; others believe in God but not Jesus. What difference does it make?

Because…Facts don’t care what any of us believe; they are true regardless of us. But even if we believe the facts about who Jesus is and what He did for us, that is not the same as committing our trust — and our lives — to Him.

People talk about “believing in God” … or not. However, they don’t always mean the same thing by either the word “believe” or the word “god”. Here are some common statements showing the different shades of meaning.

I don’t believe in God.

…That doesn’t change the fact that He exists. 

There are those who say “Just because you believe in God doesn’t mean He really exists.” They are correct: God’s existence does not stand based on my beliefs. But neither does it fall based on theirs!

You may not believe in gravity, but it exists anyway. You’ll find out if you step off a building. 😲 Facts are stubborn things. They just sit there, immovable, no matter how much we disbelieve them or wish they weren’t true.

In our post-modern world, some can’t bring themselves to believe in any objective truth. There are Eastern religions, such as Buddhism, that say everything is illusion: Nothing is real or permanent; what we think we see is really our own internal projection rather than objective reality; overcoming this delusion is the route to ultimate peace. The goal is “egolessness”, to stop seeing oneself as an individual distinct from the world, including from other people. (See this article for one person’s explanation.)

That assertion is about as opposite to God and the truth He reveals as it is possible to get. The Bible teaches that we are individuals from even before we are born (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13-16), each one infinitely valuable to God and each one individually responsible to Him. These facts will continue to stand, no matter who does or does not believe them.

God’s name for Himself when speaking to Moses was “I Am” (Exodus 3:14). He didn’t need to give any justification or explanation. He just stated that He is, as an unchangeable, immovable Fact.

I believe in god, just not the same one as you.

…Then who? And why?

Over the millennia, people have believed in a multitude of gods. The Greeks had a pantheon including Zeus (Roman Jupiter), Hera (Juno), Poseidon (Neptune), Ares (Mars), Athena (Minerva), Demeter (Ceres), Apollo (Romans also used Apollo), Artemis (Diana), Aphrodite (Venus), Hephaistos (Vulcan), Hermes (Mercury), and Dionysos (Bacchus). The Norse had Odin, Frigg, Thor, Freya, Loki, Baldur, Heimdall, Idun, Freyr, Nerthus, Tyr, and Njord. The Mayans had over 250 gods, the most famous being Kukulcan (a.k.a. Quetzalcoatl). In Bible times, the pagan nations around Israel worshipped Molech, Baal, and Astarte, among others (and including child sacrifice and ritual prostitution among their worship practices).

Those who dismiss all of these as mythology may still revere Gaia/Nature/Mother Earth. Or they may join modern Hindus with their worship of Brahman, followed by Vishnu, Shiva, and others. And, of course, Muslims worship Allah and honor the prophet Mohammed.

For any of these gods, I would ask for evidence that they really exist. What causes their followers to believe that they are literally wielding power over the world, and in individual lives? Do they explain everything that we see in the world around us, and everything that we feel when we make moral judgments? The God of the Bible has provided such evidence. Others must be able to do so, as well, if they are to be worthy of worship.

Some believe in a more generic god, not so specifically named or described. Their god is a higher power “out there”, but the characteristics of that god are flexible depending on their current mood or circumstances. They prefer a god with no real authority or claim on them, one who can be manipulated to serve them instead of the other way around..

I believe in the same God you do. I just don’t think he would send anyone to hell. He’s too kind and loving.

…That’s not the God the Bible reveals.

God reveals Himself in the Bible as indeed infinitely kind and loving. But He also infinitely just. He cannot overlook wrong-doing. He also will not overrule the free choice that He granted to humans when He created us in His own image. So when we choose to turn our back on Him and turn toward Hell, it has to put a barrier between us, even though that breaks His heart.

He loves us so much that He made a way to bridge that barrier, though. He came in person, as Jesus, the divine-but-also-human Son of God, to deal with sin on our behalf and to provide a way for us to live in Heaven with Him. But, again, He won’t violate our free will to choose to accept that way…or not to do so.

I believe in God, but I don’t believe that Jesus was anything more than a normal man.

…How can you believe in God without believing what He says?

The same Bible that tells us about God also teaches that Jesus is more than just a man. It predicts the coming of a Messiah, a special Savior. Those predictions describe more than a normal man (Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies — time, place and manner of both His birth and His death, for instance — and proved Himself to be beyond merely human (Matthew 8:27, Matthew 9:33, Mark 1:22, Mark 2:10-12). Then His resurrection capped it off by proving that even death could not hold Him.

To disbelieve Jesus is to contradict the clear teaching of the Bible (Luke 24:25-27). If someone doesn’t believe the Bible is trustworthy, then why would they say that they believe in the God it reveals? If they do, then how can they not believe what it says about Jesus?

I’ll also repeat here my favorite quote from C.S. Lewis:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [that is, Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

I believe in God, and in Jesus.

…Good for you. So does Satan. 

Do you know who does believe that God exists? Satan! At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Satan tried to get Him to take shortcuts instead of the difficult path that God planned (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13). He showed a nice ability to quote Scripture 1, with every indication that he knew it was true. Demons who encountered Jesus knew very well who He was (Matthew 8:28-29, Mark 1:23-24).

But Satan and his demons can never believe in Jesus. They can never repent of their sin and trust Him for righteousness. They can’t be saved.

I believe in Jesus, as my Savior.

…Welcome to the family!

If you have just followed this progression, and have decided that you not only believe about Jesus but also choose to believe in Him, then tell Him so. A sample prayer would be:

Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner. I know that I need God, and can’t do anything to fix myself or get to Him on my own. I trust that You can save me. Please forgive my sin, and make me clean and fit to be with You. Thank you for loving me that much!

Don’t feel bound by that exact wording. But do talk to Jesus, admitting that you need Him and accepting His help. Give your life to Him to be fixed. When you do, you will be assured that you are forever born again into the family of God. Welcome!

You will need a local church family to help you grow in your new life. Please find one that teaches the Bible honestly, where authentic Christians can share life with you. You’ll know them by their love for God and for others (John 13:34-35).

Believing in Jesus changes everything!

Footnotes and Scripture References

  1. Although, the saying that “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.” comes from Shakespeare, not from the Bible.

Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture reference links go to, which defaults to another good translation, the New International Version (NIV).  The site has 20 or more translations available for reference.