The “Right to Believe” vs. “The Rightness of Belief”

The other day while reading one of my textbooks, The Art of Biblical History by V. Philips Long, I came across the following quotation which I really liked:
“Are all worldviews equally valid? In many modern societies there is an insistence that individuals have the right to believe what they will. But this affirmation need not, and should not, slide into the kind of relativism or subjectivism that would insist that every individual’s beliefs are right. Put another way, the right to believe and the rightness of belief are separate issues, the former by no means guaranteeing the latter.”
At a time when postmodern thought as invaded our culture at virtually every level, this is a controversial statement, but its implications are enormous. You have the right to view the world however you want to, but that doesn’t mean that all worldviews are equally valid.

To use the classic example that everyone uses: as evidenced by his actions, Adolf Hitler was evil, regardless of the fact that his actions were in keeping with his beliefs. At the end of the day, if you can’t affirm that statement, then there really isn’t much common ground for any sort of serious/productive philosophical or theological discussion.


Justin and Heather Bland 3/5/11, 9:16 AM  

Whew, enormous thought and I like it - probably because I know that I believe what is right... therein lies the issue: I dont know many people who believe something they know to be wrong... everyone might believe that their belief is the right one.

It seems that if we are not careful we can misuse this quote to accuse others rather than scrutinize ourselves.

We do not make much progress for The Kingdom accusing people.

Yet another great post Luke.

Luke Dockery 3/7/11, 4:24 PM  


I agree.

I think the reason this quote is important is that it lays the foundation for any worldview/perspective/belief to be evaluated and critiqued. That includes a continued reexamination of our own beliefs, but also the beliefs of others.

In regards to your second point, I think it's important that, even when critiquing a belief, that it be done clearly where an idea is being questioned rather than a person being attacked.

That should be a given, but I'm not sure that it always is.

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