Beliefs Lead to Practice or Vice Versa?

Stained Glass Window of ChurchA professor of mine recently offered a quote on the reality of whether belief leads to practice or practice leads to belief. This is the ever-debated discussion around orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

The quote comes from Miroslav Volf, in his co-authored book, Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life. I confess that I greatly appreciate Volf’s thoughts, including this reflection on orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

“In most cases, Christian practices come first and Christian beliefs follow—or rather, beliefs are already entailed in practices, so that their explicit espousing becomes a matter of bringing to consciousness what is implicit in the engagement in practices themselves.” (p256)

I’d love to know other’s thoughts on this quote?

6 thoughts on “Beliefs Lead to Practice or Vice Versa?

  1. I tend to think that, belief leads to practice, more than the other way around. Before we believe that we have been forgiven, we care littlea about forgiving others. Before we believe that we are His workmanship, created to good works in Christ, we mostly live for our own selfish gain. Before believing in the judgement , we are not sober minded, but live for our momentary and sinful pleasures. Anyway, that’s my 2 cents worth.

  2. I think it’s a cycle.

    James K. Smith said, in ‘Desiring the Kingdom’ that our practices create our desires/beliefs.

    This certainly changed the way I think about worship – especially because so much of what we say we believe is ‘intellectual’ and not at all holistic.

    I argued something similar (not about rituals though) in a recent blog post where I talked about doubt and obedience.

    • Yes, I would agree in the symbiotic relationship between the 2. What I find is that western evangelicals would be quite taken a back to consider our practices determining our beliefs. Everything can be so driven by propositional statements. But it is very real, earthy & practice. Waking up at 5.30am every morning is actually a challenge. I believe that because I do it Mon-Fri each week. 🙂

      I’d argue the ancient world (and, thus, the biblical world), along with most of our current world, would lean towards this focus – that practices shape beliefs.

      And thinking of Jamie Smith, this is why liturgy shapes our hearts & desires. We create rhythms in our life, in our worship, that shape our beliefs.

  3. I have observed that experiences lead to beliefs. I.e. If you have a good experience with charismatic worship you will tend to develop charismatic beliefs, while the converse also holds true.

    • Yes, there are many examples. Unfortunately, in the west, we are all too ready to say something to the nature of, “Well, we need something more objective than our experiences or practices. We can’t trust those.” It’s actually a very foreign concept to the biblical worldview and to most people living even today. We’ve been ransacked too completely by post-Enlightenment thinking.

      Of course, our experiences, and practices, are not objective. Very little is in life, at least in comparison to all things. I don’t reject the scientific method nor scientific observation. But it doesn’t provide all the answers.

      In the end, I believe we need to allow for both.

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