How Do Christians Know What Their God Wants?

wild persimmon

When it comes to how they are supposed to behave and the kind of lives they are supposed to have, how do Christians know what their "god" wants? Don't be silly! They know because they've read their bible. But have they? What percentage of self-identified Christians do you suppose have done so? If they've read it and still consider it "holy," why do they disregard so much of what's in it? There may be exceptions, but I suspect that the contents of the bible have very little to do with what most Christians think their "god" wants from them despite claims to the contrary.

Most Christians are probably far more influenced by what others tell them. This begins with parents and other trusted family members. It also includes clergy. And for those living in the United States or other countries where Christianity is woven into the fabric of daily life, impressions of what "god" wants come from the larger culture too. That's why so many Christians are quick to tell you they know what is expected of them even if they've never cracked open one of their many bibles.

It may surprise some readers to learn that I don't consider any of this to be a problem. I've long suspected that Christianity is more about belief than behavior. But really, I think it is probably even more about identity than belief or behavior. That doesn't make it meaningless, but it does suggest that we need to consider the very real possibility that being a Christian has more to do with the desire to be part of things and fit in with other Christians than it does with valuing particular beliefs or striving to bring one's behavior in line with various standards.

I think it also means that we ought to pay attention to the common observation that what an individual Christian says their "god" wants them to do almost always resembles what they would like to do. This "god" has an uncanny knack for wanting the same things individual Christians want. That's why "I need to pray on that" can easily be translated into "I need to think about that" (to figure out what I want).

Most of all, we would do well to remember that there is a massive chasm between what many Christians say they believe and what they actually believe. Fortunately, their behavior provides far more valuable clues to what they believe than their words. Those who are curious about what Christians believe should look there.