Why Do Christians Believe What They Believe?

By Christopher Hunt

June 21, 2024

The question “Why do Christians believe what they believe?” results in few direct answers when searched online. Most results are summaries of Christian beliefs or apologetics—arguments offering proof as to why someone ought to believe—but don’t specifically address why they believe. On the other hand, searches for “Why are you a Christian?” or “Why am I a Christian?” result in a wider array of attempts by individuals (many writing for churches, ministries, or institutions) to give an explanation for their beliefs. A survey of these responses suggests that why one person believes may be very different from why another believes. It seems that why someone believes is very personal to that individual.

As a Christian who has wrestled with the question of why I believe in God and what it means to have salvation through Jesus Christ, these personal explanations do not surprise me. God reveals himself to each person in a way that is specific and special to that person; he invites each one of us into a personal and unique relationship with him. In fact, the ability to believe is itself a gift from God. And many Christians, including this one, believe long before they know why they believe.

While it seems difficult to find a general answer as to why Christians believe what they believe, it is a very important step in the faith journey of each follower of Christ to work out why he or she believes. These personal reasons why we believe are often the keys to sharing our faith with someone else in a connective, authentic way. The apostle Peter knew this: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Being able to articulate that unique way God revealed himself to us lays the foundation of our personal testimonies of faith.

What do Christians believe?

Across nearly every denomination and tradition, Christians believe in one God who created the universe, the earth, and all that lives upon it (Genesis 1). Revealing himself as “the Father,” God knows us personally and intimately and takes a loving role in our lives. They believe that the first people (Adam and Eve) disobeyed God and became separated from God (Genesis 3). The main theme of the Bible is God’s plan to bring his people back into a relationship with him through the work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus lived a sinless life and died for the sins of all who believe in him (John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This is what Christians call “the gospel,” or the good news. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven, and we have eternal life (Ephesians 1:7). Finally, Christians believe that Jesus Christ ascended to heaven and will return to earth at a time appointed by the Father to fulfill his kingdom (Matthew 24:36, 1 Corinthians 15:52, John 14:1-3). For a more in-depth study on the Apostles’ Creed—a summary and standard of Christian belief—check out our month of devotionals on the subject.

As mentioned earlier, the ability to believe is itself a gift from God through his Holy Spirit, who enables us to hear and believe the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:14-16). But what does it mean to believe?

What exactly does it mean to believe?

Dictionary.com defines the verb to believe as “to have confidence or faith in the truth of (a positive assertion, story, etc.); give credence to.” Although this definition sounds simple, philosophers have debated what it means to believe for millennia, and we don’t intend to settle that debate here.

We generally accept something as true when we perceive convincing proofs through our five senses or our reasoning. We often believe something with less information, for example, on nothing more than the word of someone we trust. We also find that seeing is not always believing; our perceptions can be flawed or subjective. Some people claim that they would believe in God if they just had proof. In the Bible, many people saw Jesus—God incarnate, walking on water, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and raising people from the dead—and did not believe (John 6:36). In fact, some of them, having just witnessed a miracle, became so angry by what they saw Jesus doing that they conspired to kill him (John 11:45-48).

Nevertheless, many people had not seen Jesus or any of his miracles, yet they believed in him anyway. One of Jesus’ disciples, Thomas, had refused to believe that Christ had risen from the dead until he saw him in person. Appearing, Jesus gently chided him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Why do I believe?

I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not believe in God, even though I spent a long season of my life acting like I didn’t believe in him. My parents taught me about God when I was young, and I believed it. At about eight years old, I understood for the first time what Jesus had done for me. I didn’t know why I believed… I just did. Years later, I set my relationship with Jesus aside and did what I wanted to do. Yet, somehow, I still believed I had a Savior. In those years, I went about my business with little reference to God. Occasionally, something would go wrong for me, and in desperation, I’d reach out to God. He was always there. My needs would be met, every time. Even so, I went right back to my own way of living.

Then, in my early thirties, my life fell apart. I came face-to-face with what had become of my life and knew the only thing I could do was return to my Father. And like he always had, he engulfed me in his love.

Even in the heat of such a strongly rekindled relationship with Jesus, I could not have told you why I believed. I just did. In the years that have followed, I have seen God do amazing things: people coming to Christ, getting healed, walking away from addiction, and receiving miracles of provision. I have known prison inmates convicted of murder who were transformed and became great men of God. I have seen many, many answered prayers. Yet all of these things do not answer the question of why I believe. All these things confirm and deepen my belief, but even the most mind-blowing apologetical arguments are not why I believe. There is a mystery to belief: I believe because God gave me grace to believe… and for no other reason.

That’s my story. That’s how I’ve been able to work out explaining why I believe. And I’ve certainly struggled with my share of doubt. Someone else’s story—yours, for example—may be completely different. Why do Christians believe what they believe? Everyone’s story is different. One important element unifies all of our whys: God’s immeasurable grace.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:4-6, 8-10).

About the author — Christopher Hunt

Chris loves to see God transform lives through the gospel. Prior to joining ReFrame, he served with the global ministry of Awana. Chris also served for 16 years in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve. He studied history at Alma College and has earned a Master's degree at Northern Illinois University. He blogs frequently for Today and all of our ReFrame Ministries sister programs. He and his wife have five children and serve as leaders in their church.

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