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The Reason for Unbelief

March 23, 2018

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse,” (Rom. 1:20, ESV).

Ravi Zacharias often speaks on college campuses. On one occasion a student told him that an atheist friend of his attended the lecture, replied afterward that he could not refute anything Zacharias said, but was still not going to become a Christian. The student asked Zacharias what he should do in that situation. Zacharias responded by telling the student that that is precisely why he does what he does. He defends Christianity intellectually to show people that the root of their unbelief is not actually intellectual, it is moral.

That is what Paul is explaining in Romans 1 and 2. In The passage above, Paul explains that God has clearly revealed Himself to mankind in the created world. The verse before this one states, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them,” (vs. 19). God has clearly revealed Himself, which of course includes the concept of His existence. General attributes of God are “clearly perceived,” by observing the created world. Why then do people reject Him? Paul tells us, “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened,” (vs. 21). Also, “Who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,” (vs. 18). They reject Him because of their sin, not because they do not have enough information about Him. These texts tell us that they already knew God (of course not in a saving sense). We must remember this when we walk among unbelievers. They do not simply need more information. They need the Gospel. We also must remember that this was true of us, and would still be true of us, if not for the grace of God.

In Romans 2:14-15, we read something similar. Paul says, “For when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or excuse them.” God’s law is written on the heart of every person. It is not written in the same sense in which it is for those who believe, whom God molds and shapes so that their hearts receive and desire to obey that law. But this text tells us that people already know what God requires. We reject the things that we know because we are sinners. We are not sinners because we don’t know enough.

All of this should guide us as we live our lives and seek to honor God among the lost. Do not forget these things in your conversations with unbelievers. The person you are talking to knows God exists, and they know what God requires. Focus on that. Speak to that. Do not abandon what the Bible tells you is true about them in conversations. Hold fast to true teachings of Scripture.

But let us not forget this important truth. We have the same sin nature in us. Although the Holy Spirit is working to put to death our sinful desires, we can still reject truths about God that are abundantly clear. Perhaps our upbringing, or our dispositions, or our church history are affecting us. We must pray that God remove those hinderances that stand in our way from acknowledging the things the Bible says are true, and that God has revealed about Himself.

May God work to remind us of these things, grant us boldness to speak the truth in a contrary culture, and cause us to understand and believe the truth.

From → Theology

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