Inner Formation of the Heart
Part 6: Principle #1--Will Power, Central Beliefs, and Lifestyle
[Dallas Willard uses the expression “our governing idea systems” in Renovation of the Heart, NavPress, 2002, 96-99.]
But even these terms may be confusing. Talk of “beliefs” and “ideas” may seem it is primarily about what we know, about what we think, but that is not the case. The matter goes much deeper, so the qualifying term “core” represents not just any of our beliefs, but central governing worldview beliefs at the depths of our character that are the ones that are very stable. Our central governing worldview beliefs include our settled perspectives or worldview on reality, as we have come to know it. Bottom line, we live out of what our central governing worldview beliefs are.
For example, in our country you do not want to drive normally on the left side of the road except when it is safe to pass a car on a two-lane highway. Otherwise in the left lane you will eventually have a head-on crash with a car going the opposite direction. All American drivers have developed a core belief that it is not safe to drive in the left lane. Imagine driving a car on a two-lane highway and suddenly your car starts veering over the dividing line into oncoming traffic. Perhaps you hit an oil slick or there is a sheet of ice on the road. Immediately your actions indicate how badly you do not want to be going over that line—a core belief about driving safely is being violated—and you do everything in your power to avert that. But if you lived in England driving safely in the left lane would be part of your central governing worldview beliefs.
Many years ago at our house, we were having a large gathering during the day and I noticed that the air conditioning came on. It was not that warm in the house, but my first reaction, the moment I heard the air conditioning starting up, was to get up and turn it off. Gladly I stopped myself in my tracks and began to muse about why I felt such an urgency—such a conditioned response like a rat in a maze—to turn off the air conditioning when I heard the sound of the unit coming on? I realized how stingy I was, that money concerns were too highly valued in my central governing worldview beliefs. I decided to be more generous to our guests that day and let the unit run. I had received similar feedback from our daughter Ruth, during some intense discussions, in which my first response to a new idea was “it costs too much.” Facing this kind of feedback was hard, but it began a journey of inviting God’s gracious work in my heart so that it is much easier now to be more generous.
Consider another situation. A person living on the third floor of an apartment building would not normally jump off the balcony to the sidewalk below. Respecting the law of gravity would be a core belief, along with preserving one’s life. (Note how it is possible to have central governing worldview beliefs that greatly influence our lives about which we hardly ever think.) But if a dangerous fire was threatening us and our only escape in this third floor apartment was out over the balcony, we might be willing to risk the jump, especially if there was a chance to land in a bush nearby that could cushion our fall. We can see that in some situations our central governing worldview beliefs may clash and one belief may get more allegiance than another—in this case self-preservation over respecting the law of gravity.
If we want to know what our central governing worldview beliefs are, we note how we act in a variety of situations. Almost all of our actions exactly match our central governing worldview beliefs. As the proverb phrases it, “Actions speak louder than words.” God designed humans so that our central governing worldview beliefs primarily dominate our lives.
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Next Musing: Principle #2—Central Beliefs vs. Professed Beliefs