The Source of Unbelief?

The Source of Unbelief?

 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’  “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’  “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'” Luke 16:27-31

It seems that a large number of unbelievers feel that God is unjust for not showing himself in an overwhelming way and then judging people for not believing. The truth is that God has given sufficient evident for his existence, so that all men should believe[1]. However, the evidence is only sufficient, it is not overwhelming. God has never given overwhelming evidence of his existence  because that would force men to believe and obey out of fear. If I understand the Bible correctly God wants a love relationship in which man freely enters, not a shotgun wedding brought about by fear.

Therefore, it seems that the real problem is not the lack of evidence which involve the intellect, but rather the lack of a will to believe. Unbelievers could be divided into two different groups of people. Those who to varying degrees are indifferent towards God; we could call this group “practical atheists”. These individuals are everywhere in the world and even in the church. For this group, there is simply no room in their lives for God. This group would include religious  people who have what we might call a lukewarm faith; they have a cognitive recognition of a God but not enough faith (trust) to act on it. Next, there are those who are hostile to God and want to prove that He does not exist in order to justify themselves either intellectually or morally[2].

Both groups of unbelievers will say that if they had more evidence of God’s existence then they would believe and act differently. Of course this would be true of anyone, unless they are mentally ill and why would not anyone act differently in the face of overwhelming evidence that there is a God?  However, the question is, do they believe and act differently because they have a will to believe and want to obey God? Or did their transformation come out of fear? If they changed out of fear, could you say that they were free?  Could they ever be happy living in such a relationship?  This raises the question,  how can an all-powerful God reveal Himself and at the same time protect the free will of his creation? It seems that the only way He can do this is to hide or veil himself in such a way as to give humankind a choice. Then in freedom, a person could will to believe and obey, and at the same time be free and happy in relationship with God.

When we turn to the scripture that is exactly what we find. We are told that God is a God, who hides himself[3]. Hiding himself gives people the opportunity to serve him out of love and freedom; responding in obedience to the sufficient evidence that that God has given. This  response is what the Bible calls faith.  True faith is accepting that there is a God, trusting his promises and obeying him.  This faith begins with a passion to find the hidden God; this passion we might call the ‘will to believe’.

Now, here is the bitter pill. Most unbelief comes from the will, the rebel passions and the hubris of man, rather than the intellect.  In a large percentage of people, the intellect is a much smaller player than they would like to admit. For most, the reason and intellect are called on by the will to justify itself and its rebellion against it creator. This truth is stated in the story of rich man quoted above, that someone coming back from the dead would not convince someone, which does not have a will to believe. They would simply say that it was an illusion. This raise the question, what would God have to do to change a person, which does not have the will to believe?

The atheist says they want more evident under the assumption that the problem is the intellect. However, it is much more likely that their unbelief at least initially was the problem of the will and emotions, i.e. a heart problem. Once unbelief is accepted then ego comes in to support the intellectual unbelief.  This is the worst kind of problem, because a person’s intellectual pride locks them into unbelief.

If we are right about the source of unbelief, the begin place to escaping it, is too humble yourself before the creator of the universe and ask for the gift of faith, while seeking God with all of your heart.

[1] Some might raise the objection, if the existence of God is self evident, why are there so many, which do not see it? Jesus said “some people have eyes but do not see”.  Sometime over exposure deadens are sensitivity to a thing. We are often actually insensitive to our senses until they are impaired in some way. We seldom think about seeing or of our eyes until something threatens our sight. When we look out a window we will not often see the glass unless we focus on it. The reason being we have given our full attention to the things we are watching outside the window. However, if the window is dirty or has a crack in it we see it immediately.  The problem with modern man is that he is too focused on things to see God. Through neglect he has lost his ability to sense God.

[2] Of Course there are others cause for unbelief, which I study in a essay on “The Making of A fundamentalist Atheist”.

[3] Isa 45:15, “Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel.

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