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“Thinking and Believing” by Dr. George C. Anderson

I once flipped through a notebook of sermons – sermons gathered over the years from fellow preachers I meet with every year.  I started reading the middle of a sermon, and it was good stuff.  It taught me something I didn’t know and provided me with a fresh insight.  That sermon blessed me.  I turned to the first page of the sermon to see who wrote it.

And there was my name.  It was a sermon I wrote years before.  I once knew what I didn’t know and once realized what I needed to learn.  Did I once believe what I no longer knew to be true?†

Thinking the faith is important.  The unexamined life is a dangerous one.  It is possible to learn your way into a greater understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ.  We are not simply sensate creatures who live by instinct.  We have this amazing ability to imagine a world that was here before we squawked our first baby cry and will be here after our last breath is taken.  We are able to consider our place and significance within a family and community, within an ever-expanding cosmos, and in relation to a God that we envision is not contained within our community and not bound by creation.  That ability to “transcend ourselves” makes us human.  We can refuse to consider our place in the world, but it takes that; it takes refusing.  We have to choose not to ponder the significance of our lives.  We have to choose not to reflect upon value, morals, worth, and meaning.  Thinking is very much a part of believing, and learning is very much a means of growing in the faith.

And yet, believing can’t simply be thinking.†

Let me tell you about Carson.  Carson has made mistakes, as everyone has.  Yet, when the evidence of his life is weighed, he is someone for whom it is easy to say he had been a faithful follower of Christ.  He set an example as to how to live in a faithful way at home, at work, in the community and at church.

Carson once had a fine mind.  He learned from others and became wise in his own way so that others learned from him.  Only when I visit him he is forgetful.  He repeats himself.  A tide is receding in his mind as he is in the process of forgetting a lot of what he had learned starting with the recent and moving back through the years.

Maybe down the road when the tide recedes some more, Carson will forget everything-maybe even God.  But in that nursing home room, I know that what matters is not what he forgets, but that God will not forget him.  He learned that truth once and taught it to others.  Forgetting it does not make it any less true, and forgetting it doesn’t negate the impact he made on others in teaching that truth, and living according to that truth.

So, what Carson forgot still matters.  The reason why is one of the great mysteries of the faith that I have been taught but am still, myself, trying to fully understand.  Carson’s believing and his witnessing were never his work alone.  His faith was the Holy Spirit believing and witnessing in and through him.  When he had a mind, God inspired what he learned and taught.  Now he is confused, but God still cares for him, and is making contact with others through him.   One day he will die, and God will use his dying.  What matters most is not what Carson believes, but what God is doing in and through Carson.

Believing and thinking are not the same.  The latter is what we do.  The former is what God does in and through us.  Believing uses thinking, but believing always begins and ends in a conversation that comes of a relationship with God … that God makes possible.

Are you afraid you will forget what you believe?  Try to remember this: God will not forget you.

George Anderson is the senior minister at Second Presbyterian Church, visit them on the web at

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