In our postmodern society, the above simple statement is bothersome to many people. I'm not surprised at all when non-Christians dislike statements about the importance of beliefs. What increasingly disturbs me, however, is how many self-professing Christians no longer seem to think that well-defined beliefs matter. If you listen carefully, you will find that many Christians hardly know what they believe and do not want to talk about it.
If beliefs were not important, then why were we given such a large book? The bible contains 66 books that inform us a great deal about what we are to believe and how we are to live. If what we believe didn't matter a great deal, then Jesus could have just left us a little 10 page tract of some sort. As we know, He didn't do this.
I believe God has given us His large book to, in part, inform us as to what we should believe. I become more and more concerned everyday when Christians downplay the importance of beliefs by acting as if they don't really matter.
We must be careful here. When we discuss beliefs we need to define them as the bible does. When the writers of scripture inform us in what to believe, these beliefs almost always play out in how we live. Our beliefs direct how we are to believe and act toward God and neighbor. Beliefs, if they have only intellectual impact but do not affect how a person lives, don't mean much. For example, if a person believes in his head that he is to love his neighbor but doesn't actually do this, then his "belief" is worthless because it is not real. Or, if someone says he believes in the sovereignty of God over all things, but then fails to trust God when his life takes a turn for the worse, his stated beliefs are bogus.
Additionally, we must be careful what the implications are of our beliefs. For example, we must be careful about what beliefs would cause us to unite with or divide from others. As Christians, we often make one of two possible mistakes in this area. On the one hand, we often state our beliefs so strongly that we feel like we have to divide from other Christians who believe differently from us. The sad case of Christians dividing over infant vs. believer's baptism is an example of this. On the other hand, some Christians have such poorly defined beliefs that they will join together with people who do not even believe the basics of the gospel. Both of these are problematic.
So, what should we do?
First, let's voraciously study scripture, asking God to show us what to believe.
Second, let's hold strongly, yet humbly, to our beliefs.
Third, let's also admit that we can be incorrect. Let's be willing to be corrected by scripture.
Fourth, let's remember that real beliefs impact how we live.
Fifth, let's not divide from other Christians, but only over the gospel itself.