Conditioned to Believe

“Your own parents had gone to such a school (and they turned out to be “good people,” as they would remind you on occasion), and it was only right and proper that they should allow you the same freedoms that they themselves had experienced. They believe what they believe because they were given the freedom to do so. So also with you. All of this – my past and yours – only proves the point of “accident of birth.” I believe what I was conditioned to believe, and so do you.

But perhaps because of your curious mind, you yourself have recognized that there has to be more to the truth question than mere conditioning; there has to be more than either context or environment will allow…

Given our respective pasts, we should recognize at least a couple of things. First, the options available to us are either that your life and mine are products of chance or that they were orchestrated by the One who created, sustains and controls all things. Let’s say the former is correct. What that means is that what you believe and what I believe are completely indeterminate. We may want to attach our beliefs, more or less, to our contexts and environments, but even those were a matter of “luck,” and so are unable to provide a ground for those beliefs. In other words, you may choose today to believe something that is the opposite of what your parents believe. If you do, that belief has as much “support” as the previous and opposite one. Each belief is simply a matter of what our brains happen to produce at a particular time, and has nothing to do with anything that is consistent, coherent, or rational. These beliefs simply issue forth because they naturally and arbitrarily do, period. The accidents of our births are the first of a multitude of subsequent accidents in our lives. As goes our birth, so goes our beliefs. They, too, are accidents. If all that we are and believe is an accident, then we need not continue our conversation. It, too, is an accident and can have no real consequence in the end. What you accidentally believe is different from what I accidentally believe, but such things are no different from the difference in our hair color. They amount to nothing in the end.

The second thing we should recognize is that if our lives were, are, and will be orchestrated by the One who created us, then it is no doubt true that much of what we believe right now has to do with his perfect and exhaustive plan for us and for creation. That plan included who our parents would be, what we would be raised to believe, what our own families would be like, and so on. Because his plan is exhaustive, it includes all things. His plan included the fact that I would decide to buy a Bible and to read it. So as I said above, it is no doubt true that who we are and what we believe has something to do with how we have been “conditioned.” But the conditioning that has been behind all that we are and believe is the very same conditioning that is behind this discussion we are having. That you and I are discussing these all-important matters is no accident. It comes to us as a part of God’s own comprehensive plan, and it has its meaning and significance only in light of that plan. The difference, then, between your kind of “conditioning” and mine is that yours is accidental, having no reference point, no controls, no purpose, and thus no meaning. The conditioning of which I speak is the polar opposite of yours. It has its reference in the God who made us both; it is controlled by him and his Word, and its purpose, in the end, is to bring glory to him. In other words, God, not chance, is the “All-Conditioner.”

(Oliphint, Should You Believe in God?, 11-13)

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