Why Do You Believe?
The epistemological problem with Scriptural belief ascending to sacred knowledge and how denominations inadvertently stimulate a pattern of presumptuousness.
A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way.
But what will you do in the end?
Joseph Belcher, “The religious denominations in the United States: their history, doctrine, government and statistics. With a preliminary sketch of Judaism, paganism and Mohammedanism” (c.1854)
If you believe in something, you assume it is true. I need not convince any Christian that a belief or teaching grounded in Scripture ought to be true, and that when we believe in said doctrine, we assume it is true, whether that comes by faith, reason, evidence, experience, or other means. A belief that is of God is held to a higher standard than a belief we come to on our own terms, however impartial, honest, or reasonable we may attempt to be. That is, we are compelled to believe in the truth of Scripture because it comes from God – the source of our salvation, the foundation of our faith – for “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18), which means that we believe in the doctrines and dogmas (saving truths) found in Holy Scripture as God-given truths. Our belief in the Scriptures is mutually compelled by the truth of God, insomuch that our faith clings to Him so that our belief can be strengthened by it (cf. Mark 5:25-34). Truth itself, then, is necessarily binary–––true or false, yes or no, do or don’t, right or wrong, good or evil, obligatory or prohibited, forbidden or acceptable, and so on. Unlike truth, however, belief itself is not inherently binary or black-and-white but is a range between weak and strong with notes of grey.
That belief and truth are not identical yet share an inseparable bond is of no trivial importance: Belief is contingent on the truth to have any value. If a belief is false, it is worthless. If a belief that is perceived certain is, in fact, false, then it is detrimental, if not, potentially dangerous, the degree of which depends on the severity of its (perceived) priority, hierarchal value, intensity, and integration on a foundational level. A belief ought to be true, and Scripture demands that it is true. This is the doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy: Everything Scripture teaches is true, not because it is of man but because it is of God, the principal author working through man. Another way to look at Biblical Inerrancy is that God does not lie, and neither do those who speak directly from His Spirit such as the prophets and apostles (and nor should those who truly live in His word, way, and will, cf. 2 Corinthians 3:2-6); truthfulness, then, excludes grey tones such as white-lies, unrestrained fibs, loose lips and gossip, unwitting self-deception and confusion, embellished fabrications, aggrandizements as to speak presumptuously, and so forth. Prophets speak on behalf of God, and God is the truth. Therefore, Scripture cannot teach falsehoods because anything false is a contradiction of God’s truthful character and, therefore, worthy of unbelief. For this reason, we ought to be certain in belief about the teachings of Scripture.
Perhaps a good example of Christian belief that ought to be binary (and, therefore, certain), one that is not restricted to the sanctifying subjective growth of each person, is the essential dogmatic belief in the resurrection of Christ in the flesh. There is no wiggle room for negotiation – He did or He didn’t. Likewise, the foundational and obligatory belief that Christ is God incarnate – He is or He isn’t – and your Christian life fully depends on the firmness of your answer: Yes or no. Consider also the basic prerequisite belief ‘God exists’. A Christian must necessarily believe ’God exists’ to be Christian; it is a ‘brute fact’ of the Christian paradigm and absolutely necessary prior to believing in Christ, which in turn determines, binds, and holds other Christian beliefs. It is forbidden for a Christian to believe “God does not exist”. In other words, if a doctrine is true, people must believe in it, which effects the strength of other beliefs under the same categorical umbrella.
The Nature of Belief Ascending to Knowledge
Due to the strong and weak limitations inherent to belief, it is, perhaps, best to consider belief as both a status and process; if one believes in something, then he or she is constantly believing in that something with varying degrees of firmness and fragility, rather than that strength of that belief being instantaneously locked to a moment in time. In other words, the strength of belief can grow or wither over time, if not, completely die, which is both intuitive and Scriptural. A belief, then, is best analogically understood as grasping, to reach and take hold of something with a progressive tightening grip–––an inner action of the will to possess it. Whereas unbelief is both the absence of belief as well as the progressive loosing of grip or letting go of something once held–––an inner action of the will to dispossess it. Disbelief is to not reach for something at all, which is the refusal to accept something a true, to wholesale reject or lack a belief (i.e., ‘the audience watching Jurassic Park is in a suspended state of disbelief’ or ‘Elijah shook his head in disbelief’). One could also call disbelief pure unbelief. Disbelief and unbelief can be caused by believing in falsehoods too, where one is proverbially pulled away from true belief by grasping (or desiring to grasp) a falsehood. In this case of self-deception, whether conjured or perceived, believing is akin to grasping ‘vapour’, that is grasping in vain (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:2). The Hebrew word hebel translated “vanity” or “meaningless” implies vapour, as if to reach for an intangible substance is to be in a fog, “chasing” or “striving after wind” (1:14,17). This implies a contradiction of sorts, where one is self-deceived enough to believe they can grasp meaninglessness, which also emphasizes the degree of power sin can have over a person’s sense of self, perceptually and subconsciously, degrading our spiritual awareness, moral sensibility, ontic and noetic acuteness, et cetera. Anyway, regardless of how belief varies between firmness and fragility, all this suggests that there is a degree of doubt, hesitation, or indifference when it comes to the nature of belief, which means that one could have unbelief in Christ’s deity, yet desire to fully believe in Christ’s deity simultaneously (Mark 9:24).
With that in mind, there are also a very clear binary ends between belief and unbelief, where belief in something entails a cause to action, both inwardly and outwardly, and unbelief (or disbelief) entails the absence of a cause–––do or don’t. The weaker the belief, the more of a ‘thought’ it is, whether it is passing or worthy or entertaining is contingent upon its weight. Hence that a strong belief is not limited to our mental faculties of proposition or abstraction alone, it is also deep-seated spiritual want and subliminal feelings, the likes of which propels patterns of behaviour, attitude, affections, imagination, thought, and reasoning, among others. It is both inner action and outer action. As Christ says, we are to believe in this: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). (Hence, Paul’s call for transformation and a “renewing of your mind”, Romans 12:2.) To disbelieve in these words or to hold a degree of unbelief, however subtle or unassuming, would be to devalue His claim to Godhead to some degree, which affects our Christian witness and motivation to be like Christ. For instance, when a person declares to believe in Christ, that person binds themselves to fully follow and live like Christ (cf. Romans 12:1-2). And when that person does not fully follow or live accordingly, they ought to repent and ask God to forgive their unbelief, doubt, or lack of faith (Mark 9:24); bearing in mind that you cannot ask forgiveness for your unbelief unless the belief you are holding is sincere and, therefore, of Christ. Belief, behaviour, and truth are ontologically knotted to our Christian witness, and not just mere belief but with certainty in belief, for the closer to binary a belief is, the stronger effect it has on behaviour, which is exactly how we live like Christ; not that Christ probably raised from the dead, but that He did.
The stronger the belief, the closer to a binary it is, and the closer to binary it is, the more certain a person is about his or her belief, and the more certain a belief is, the less of a gap there is between belief and knowledge. Yet certainty, though the highest property of knowledge, does not dictate the truth of something. That is, our certain belief in Scripture can either ascend to actual knowledge or perceived knowledge. Actual knowledge depends on true belief, a belief that is true or just so happens to be true, with a priority on the strength of the belief (often called an outright belief). In other words, you cannot truly know something that is false, though you may think you do. The skinny of it is that (actual) knowledge is traditionally seen as a matrix of warranted and justified true beliefs, whereas perceived knowledge is the appearance of knowledge and is truly just a strongly held belief, a certain belief that is assumed to be true; so truly believed but not true necessarily. Perceived knowledge, then, can lead to the sin of presumption, which is when a person claims or believes to know something for certain that they do not know for certain. Even though there can be a good reason to reject the claim or belief, a presumptuous person is cocksure, stubborn, and doubtless in self-referential conviction. So, the stronger that belief is, the more presumptuous you become. For this reason, presumption is a lie even if the belief so happens to be true because the person did not know for certain yet claimed such knowledge; the belief came about from a wrong way of believing––in arrogance, stubbornness, and pride. Perceived knowledge is subject to some degree of self-deception because knowledge is, at bottom, determined by degrees of ascending belief. The former is real, the latter feels real.
As stated earlier, a strong belief that ascends to knowledge is not limited to our mental faculties of proposition or abstraction alone, it is also intertwined with deep-seated spiritual want and subliminal feelings, the like of which propel patterns of behaviour, attitude, affections, imagination, thought, and reasoning, among others. In other words, this is more than just rational ascent of knowledge; it entails an affectionate ascent as well. There are “holy affections,” as Jonathan Edwards puts it, that no doubt come alongside or underneath a sacred belief that which affect our understanding or perception of value; deep-seated affections of love, hope, joy, desire, longing, passion, zeal, repentance, contempt, fear, reverence, disgust, et cetera, all of which seem to support the endurance and reassurance of sacred beliefs, however true or false. Note that these holy affections are not necessarily the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23) nor is it necessarily the Spirit interceding for us with “wordless groans” (Romans 8:26-27), rather a holy affection is any kind of emotion or feeling directly integrated with sacred belief in some way. These holy affections, I would argue, are internally instigated the stronger the belief is, and partly responsible for cause to action, patterns of behaviour, and ways of believing. There is a coalescing relationship belief and affection share that cannot be overlooked, the degree of which intensifies the firmness of forbidden or acceptable views and behaviour.
Sacred Belief is Perceived as Sacred Certainty
Now with that groundwork laid, herein lies the dilemma: Christian belief ought not to be limited to a weak belief, one of possibility or even plausibility. Christian belief is sacred and true, it is of God, meaning there is a linear and assured sense of urgency in the heart and mind of a beholder for said belief to ascend from a strongly held belief to certainty, the highest property of knowledge. Yet, we ourselves know that belief itself is not the truth, and cannot be truly binary, but we ought to have that truth within us, the deposit of the Holy Spirit, in order to live (say, believe and behave) in truth, so that the belief clings to the truth to have certainty – sustenance, assurance, and value – given that truth is independent of belief. As Christians, we know Christ is divine from the Father or through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 16:15-17; 1 Corinthians 12:3), actual knowledge testifying of experience and evidence gained by faith working through love (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:17,19). Yet we also know that through this we are not given perfect knowledge, we are not God, but are given a directive toward humility like Christ, which to a large extent is epistemic: Knowing for certain what you do not know in juxtaposition to what you do know for certain. Meaning humility is knowledge knowing itself. This internal truth claim of Christianity cannot be understated. For these reasons, I am convinced, that true Christlike belief will ascend to actual knowledge with a heightened distinction from, say, confidence–––I know that I am which I know. The Holy Spirit truly indwells believers. The Father truly reveals His Son to people. That said, this dynamic relationship between certainty and truth, if not attended to, can be extremely problematic.
With this dynamic of ascension (degrees of ascending belief) in view, consider that a Christian can hold a belief of Scripture and, therefore, believed to be of God – even when that belief is, in fact, false, whether misguided, misinterpreted, or ill-conceived – and that false belief will ascend to sacred certainty in the mind of the beholder because a doctrine that comes from Holy Scripture (thus, God) must be true. Furthermore, a belief of Scripture comes from a fully trustworthy source, God, it ought not to be met with skepticism nor should it have a restrictive measure to prevent it from becoming actual knowledge (cf. Genesis 18:10-15), because it comes from the Creator of all things, the essence of Goodness and Truth itself (Mark 10:18; 3 John 1:11; John 14:6; Romans 12:2). God need not argue His case. This reason only intensifies with the moral imperative to not doubt God. To doubt God is oft considered objectionable (though inevitable and tolerable given our sin laden condition) because it holds God culpable as well as fellow believers (cf. Matthew 14:31; Romans 14:23; James 1:6;), which undercuts the very foundation of the faith (cf. Romans 3:4). Not only does the fact of God compel and overwhelm a Scriptural belief to ascend to sacred certainty, but there is a moral imperative for a person not to doubt God which aids it to do so, as well. Not only that, but a person’s holy affections integrated with sacred certainty and a moral imperative not to doubt would only intensify the unconditioned response stimulus––a cause to action and reaction.
When a belief is inferred from Scripture there is strong precedent and warrant for said belief to ascend to sacred knowledge because it is believed to be of God, even though it may not be true, especially if it is reinforced by a community of believers or teachers who believe likewise. Therefore, a sacred belief, however false or esoteric, can be unwittingly safeguarded as sacred certainty in an ironic attempt to be Christlike. In other words, if a belief inferred from Scripture just so happens to be false, it will ascend to perceived knowledge as if it is sacred and true, as if it is of God and twist other beliefs with it. Can you see it now? A person is locked in––they must be certain that their belief is true with little to no room to doubt (even forbidden to doubt). This is or at least can lead to the sin of presumption, where a person is certain of something that he or she does not actually know for certain; an especially grave sin if deliberately misapplied as God’s intention or spoken word. The likes of which can also misappropriate stubbornness to a sacred conviction and arrogance to a divine humility.
The Crux of the Problem
It seems self-evident to say that we should only believe in things that are true. It seems equally self-evident to say that we should not believe in things that are false (unless, of course, you believe that something is truly false). If I ask you: Should you believe in a doctrine that could be true? A pastor might say “Sure, Romans 14” and others may say “it depends,” while the mainstream consensus seems to be, “by all means, yes”. To this, I emphatically say, “No, no we should not.” Why not? That is, by believing in a Biblical doctrine that could be true, you necessarily affirm that the Biblical doctrine would be true, given that a belief and teaching in Scripture that comes from God is assumed to be true, and must be true without a shadow of a doubt having come from God, which not only can gradually elevate a belief to the status of certainty or to a foundational belief but also to the level of truth (however perceived or false it might be), which then, in turn, can also distort our understanding of the truth along with it by pedestalling our belief to an equal value of truth, as if spoken by God, all of which is deeply intensified by holy affections. A belief that could-be-true must consciously remain a weaker belief, never ascending to the integral level of sacred certainty.
Encouraging this pattern of belief can elicit an is-ought dilemma, where the two––could and would––are perceived as one and the same, to varying degrees. And since belief ought to cling to the truth, we have a deep problem because a belief, in this case, is not clinging to truth but to one’s own notion or sensibility of perceived truth, which means that person has adopted a false pattern of understanding what is true. A could-be-true belief does not logically or spiritually entail will-be-true certainty. Confidence for certainty is just cocksure. (Hence my ever-growing struggle with denominations; if it is not true necessarily, why divide into separate worshipping institutions if it is not foundational or integral doctrine?) As previously stated, the Holy Spirit does not give each person perfect knowledge; in fact, He seems to give you just enough wiggle room to hang yourself with self-deception if a life of repentance and forgiveness is not fully integrated into your way of believing. Granted, while it is true that the text cannot teach falsehoods and our faulty interpretation is to blame for incorrect teachings, it does not follow that every interpretation and teaching is permissible or normative, either. That sects and denominations possess an abundance of idiosyncratic foundational doctrines is far from optimal Christianity (more on denominations in the next entry).
Be that as it may, if God is truth, then it ought to come as no surprise that belief in the truth is necessary, essential, and incontrovertible. God cannot lie and everything God’s Word teaches is true. Truth is not optional, nor is it up for negotiation. Dissimilar to everyday secular truths, like the grass is green or mountains are high, or Vienna is the capital of Austria, the essential value binding Scriptural truth is of an exceedingly higher value, invaluable even, which is in a different category altogether: Scriptural truth is sacred, foundational, eternal, and divine–––it is of God. Even still, there are some Scriptural truths that are more valuable than others. Consider that love is given higher priority over faith so that our Christian life and witness is faith working through love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3,13; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:25-28). That is, Scripture claims to teach spiritual-moral truth profitable for edification of the soul, such as love, wisdom, insight, fortitude, perseverance, affection, morality, and righteousness, not just generic facts about the world. And its spiritual-moral truth is ontologically binding because of its relationship with the final day of judgment. It is universal and obligatory for everyone. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man [or messenger] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) In this sense, then, if a doctrine is wrong, it is more than false, it is forbidden. In so much that any doctrine of Scripture that is false is not just mistaken necessarily but an eternal lie: heretical, sacrilegious, profane–––not of God. Therefore, when a Scriptural belief is true, it cuts off counter beliefs as forbidden, and if forbidden, it ought to be avoided like the plague (cf. 2 John 1:7-11). For true believers in Christ, false doctrine, such as the prosperity gospel or Christ rose only in spirit, no doubt arouses our holy affections, say, repulsion or spurn. It is contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture and the invocation of the Spirit. In this dynamic, then, any doctrine that teaches it is profitable for true belief obliges a gapping psychological and spiritual chasm in the heart and mind of a believer, where contrary teachings to said doctrine are false and forbidden, worthy of unbelief and disdain. For a true belief is sacred knowledge. If sacred, then certain – the highest property of knowledge.
Teaching Patterns of Belief
The vitality of what we teach is true in Scripture cannot be understated – you are speaking on behalf of God, a fact that cannot be taken lightly, for if a prophet was found guilty of speaking presumptuously, it was punishable by death (Deuteronomy 18:22). To falsely speak on God’s behalf is the lie of lies; it has eternal consequences. Granted, we cannot dissipate God’s grace and mercy, nor should we say someone mistaken or unconscious of their false teaching is just as guilty as someone conscious of it. The intention is what divides a false teacher from a teacher who taught falsely – repentance is always on the table. But regardless of one’s intentions, false doctrine deeply alters how one person or group perceives or believes in God. Likewise, what we say we believe is true in Scripture intimately reflects the truth of Scripture to others, simply because we are also called to conduct our lives in that truth. Just as the Truth became flesh, we are to be a light onto the world, so that the world may see Christ living through us. The relationship belief and truth share cannot be stressed enough, especially with how it affects our actions.
That is why clergy, a spiritual leader directly responsible for representing God and teaching His Word (i.e., a deacon, elder, pastor, priest, bishop, presbyter, minister, evangelist, apologist, preacher, the Pope, et cetera), is held to a higher standard than laymen (James 3:1). How a pastor behaves and what a pastor publicly claims to believe in Scripture can be seen as synonymous with truth, because the congregants are listening to believe what is taught and the teaching directly represents God (which, in my view, only reinforces that notorious church-hopping lifestyle when the congregation is being taught a pattern of how to believe––to believe/worship as they want to). Thus, if you teach or exposit a passage in Scripture that you believe to be true as though it is truth, representing it as truth when you know it is not true necessarily, or, say, you publicly declare to believe in a teaching of Scripture that you know it is not necessarily true, you tread into these dark waters. You teach others to adopt a certain pattern of belief (a way of believing), one that permits a doctrine that is not true to be worthy of belief. This is perpendicular to how the apostles believed, and how we intuitively understand belief: You ought to believe in true things, not wannabe truths.
The noetic pattern of a belief ascending to an anomalous state of sacred perceived knowledge can have ill effects on a number of levels, the likes of which are not limited to conditioning a beholder to presume that the affirmation of raw propositional belief (void of a cause to action) or holy affections in itself is the discerning voice or arbiter of truth and, therefore, the linchpin of the Christian life, or prioritizing belief over truth to dictate the essential value of dogma, as if certainty or consensus determines its inconvertible truth. Consider the danger; by teaching could-be-true Biblical doctrine as worthy of belief, we teach a pattern of how to adopt potential false beliefs as sacred certainty, however unwitting or inadvertent, which conditions an unconscious stimulus of unbridled presumptuousness within a beholder to adopt a tacit or subliminal standard, sense, and pattern to expect, identify, and adopt other beliefs like it–––it aims to reform the way a person presupposes, expects, anticipates, and identifies profitable doctrine and sacred belief; it gives a false sense for how a true belief from God should tacitly or intuitively feel/be, and, in turn, stimulates poor, if not, potentially dangerous behavioural patterns, as well. Such implanted belief can act as misdirected reference point, which will inadequately differentiate right from wrong, forbidden from acceptable doctrine. In other words, we teach that it is permissible to believe in potential false doctrine as if it is part of the sanctification process, such as our variety of views on eschatology, the rapture, millennial reign, creation and evolution, Sabbath and the Mosaic Law, et cetera. Yet we know that all views cannot be right and that a belief ought to grasp truth, especially because a weak belief hardly passes as a belief. From one ‘deep-seeded’ lie do more lies grow, blossom, and flourish.
So, my point is simple—why believe it? Why not entertain it as a possibility, or even a likelihood? Encouraging proper foundational beliefs that are conscientiously understood, rather than mixing the clay with the iron, will restrain false beliefs from ascending to sacred certainty. For once a belief that is not true is pedestalled to the top of the hierarchy, on par with gospel truth, it teaches a pattern of believing that values the belief as much as truth. In other words, if you teach others that x is true in Scripture and it is not necessarily true, then you are teaching others to believe that x is true when it is not true, even though Scriptural beliefs profitable for doctrine ought to be true: binary, necessary, sacred, essential, foundational, universal, obligatory, eternal, and divine. Likewise, if a clergyman, or any spiritual leader representing God for that matter, publicly states, “I believe in x doctrine,” then they are implying that it is worthy of belief and you ought to believe it, too (unless, of course, the weight of such belief is clarified as, say, weak or undergoing revision). Since all teachings of Scripture are worthy of true belief, then it is worthy to ascend to sacred certainty. This is especially damaging if it is not necessarily true because a Scriptural belief ought to be true and sacred, given the extreme weight of its source—it is of God. This teaches a false pattern of belief (a subliminal way of identifying truth). It teaches others that they can strongly believe in hypotheticals, non-truths, or possibilities as Godgiven knowledge, say, ‘I will never see the antichrist because I’m going to be raptured before he comes’ (because Pentecostal denominations only permit dispensational or Pretribulation eschatology to be taught on the pulpit) or ‘all miracles, tongues, prophecies, and supernatural acts through men have faded away’ (because Reformed teach global cessationism is a valid NT doctrine) or ‘You must follow the Sabbath to be saved’ (because Seventh-Day Adventists require it to be Christian), with little consequence, since that the Bible supports their beliefs, as if the freedom to believe is Biblical.
We ought to take into consideration the book of Job. When Job was suffering, his three friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were cocksure that he was totally depraved because of their false theological presumptions. God could never punish a just man, so Job must be guilty of tremendous hidden sin, “a man who drinks injustice like water!” (Job 15:16) They believed a hypothetical assessment about Job (and God) as if it were true—and it wasn’t—so God held them accountable (Job 42:7-9).
Without truth as the mediator, the line between a sacred, foundational beliefs bleeds into personal convictions. Since the words of God – divine revelation and doctrine – are to be believed without doubt or resistance, then even a weaker Scriptural belief demands to be a sacred strong belief, even if it does not ascend to a foundational status, which means that the belief in hypotheticals, non-truths, or possibilities is tacked onto truth as if it is truth or equal to truth, which, in turn, ignites those holy affections and disregards alternative or contrary beliefs as forbidden, sacrilegious, or irreverent (the degree of which depends on the personal understanding of value, i.e., doctrinal triage), even when the contrary belief is true or could potentially be true.
This renders Scripture a double-edged sword to some extent, for how we approach it and the pattern in which we interpret makes all the difference in how we wield it—in the Spirit or in the flesh. The teachings espoused in Scripture are cocked, ready to ascend to an untouchable place of sacred certainty in the mind/heart of the average beholder. To believe in a could-be-true doctrine will only strengthen stubbornness, self-reliance, presumptuousness, and idolatry, which will weaken a person’s trust in Christ and the Church (and, thus, Christianity) by placing their trust on themselves because they were taught a false pattern of believing in wannabe truths as though it were properly good. We would do well to be conscientious of this power, and not make dogmatic mountains out of doctrinal mole hills or divide over the undivine.
Matlock Bobechko | January 25, 2023 – 9:00 AM EST
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 Anon. The Chicago statement on biblical inerrancy. The Gospel Coalition. Themelios (Volume 4, Issue 3).
 In necessity, a belief is not always producing actionable behaviour, there are exceptional cases such as the thief on the cross (Luke 23:32-43), but a belief in an ordinary and normative setting does entail a cause to action.
 Admittedly, identifying actual knowledge from perceived knowledge is tremendously difficult to discern at times, especially when people make spiritual truth claims about the inner dynamics of Christ such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-24); compassion, humility, meekness, wisdom, a forgiving and thankful heart (Colossians 3:12-17); perseverance, discipline, judiciousness (sense of justice), endurance, obedience, contrition, loyalty, humbleness, respectfulness/reverence, hopefulness, all amidst persecution (Romans 5:3-5), et cetera, all of which do not necessarily have easily recognizable identifiers or outward behavioural characteristics that cannot be faked in a limited setting. For instance, a false teacher can outwardly appear good on the pulpit because he knows what goodness looks like, but he is clearly not good in private and can bring in “secret heresies” into the Church (2 Peter 2:1). It requires an immense amount of spiritual wisdom and communal experience with sincere truthful saints to spot the patterns of (self-)deception.
On that, possessing actual knowledge in something means that a person can actually follow through or carry out or apply said belief in physical reality, whether in sincere reaction and behaviour, improving the quality of aptitude into excellence, et cetera, hence the notion of knowhow, even if that means improving your skill of deception! In shorter words, if you know something, you can do something about it. Genuine knowledge is proven by its inward and outward correspondence, coherency, consistency, et cetera. The point is actual knowledge can grow. Perceived knowledge, on the other hand, is a constituent of (self-)deception and only amounts to claims and nominalism. A person can think or claim to be an architect because he can stack bricks and hammer nails but lack the technical skill to apply it well, so when the house is built it comes crashing down when a storm hits. He is not truly an architect, even though he might consider himself one; he can, however, rightly consider himself a builder, which has no bearing on quality or capability. In this instance, the higher quality of aptitude determines its validity and status, not just possessing basic ability. Either way, the central point to be made, here, is that the more certain a belief is, the closer to truth it is or feels; until the storm hits and proves its worth.
 Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, ed. John E. Smith (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959 ), p. 95. Extracted from Alvin Plantinga, Knowledge and Christian Belief (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2015), p 73.
 This is especially problematic for categorizing (or compartmentalizing) true and false doctrine; it is subject to cognitive dissonance, emotional/false categories such as political labels and propaganda, and so forth.
 On a broader scope, our all-too-human inability, so it would seem, to understand or distinguish illusions from actuality is troublesome, whether tradition from truth or foundational belief from personal opinion. The capability to truly believe in a lie reaches well beyond the scope of this entry.