Looking for Reasons NOT to Believe

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It’s my firm belief that atheists aren’t really questioning seekers of truth. The Bible backs me up, as I’ve discussed in my posts on total depravity. Instead, I think that atheists actively look for reasons to not believe. Right now, I’m working on a series of YouTube videos answering 36 questions for Christians from a user named “azsuperman01” and I’m about to re-enter the podcasting arena with three shows detailing other “honest” questions for believers.

Do you know what I’ve learned addressing these so-called “honest” questions for believers? Nothing–I’ve only re-enforced my belief that atheists are actively seeking reasons to not believe in God. One way they do this is by making a great big, hairy, fat deal out of peripheral issues.

I wandered over a great example, although it’s a couple of months old. The post, “William Lane Craig, King of Fail,” discusses the issue that seems to be a hot button for non-believers: what happens if you’ve never heard of Christ? This video is evidently striking a chord with unbelievers, as it has three likes and three re-blogs to date.

William Lane Craig

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Contrarian, the blogger, quotes William Lane Craig on the issue of not having heard about Christ:

God ensures that no one who would believe the gospel if he heard it remains ultimately unreached. Once the gospel reaches a people, God providentially places there persons who He knew would respond to it if they heard it. He ensures that those who never hear it are only those who would not accept it if they did hear it. Hence, no one is lost because of a lack of information or due to historical and geographical accident. Anyone who wants or even would want to be saved will be saved. (source)

Which, Craig is quick to add, is only a possible solution. Craig is no friend of Calvinism, and therefore the whole notion of unconditional election isn’t considered in this solution. Despite that, I might point out, it’s a fair solution. As Craig says, there is some Scripture to back this notion up. Of course, as I’ve pointed out in reply to John Loftus, geographic isolation may be a manifestation of unconditional election. That, I think, may be the more biblical solution to the issue at hand.

But this issue really is peripheral to the gospel. Attachment to material goods, wealth, and (yes) people takes a backseat to holding a covenantal relationship with God by faith in Christ.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that we are to cut off our hands or gouge out our eyes if they cause us to sin. Jesus tells us that treasures on earth are susceptible to moth and rust, therefore we must store up treasure in heaven, which is incorruptible.

Willingness to part with body parts to eliminate sin and relying solely on God for provision of needs is re-enforced by what Jesus says next: we are to hate our family in order to be his disciple. This blurb (which I call the skeptics’ favorite verse since it so often used out of context to make Jesus into an a-hole) is part of a speech on counting the cost. Jesus tells us that no ruler would build a tower without first figuring out if he had enough resources to complete it. He’d look pretty silly if he only got halfway and then ran out of money. Kind of like Rossford, OH and their amphitheater project that has been sitting half done for over a decade.

Part of the cost of being a disciple of Christ may be losing friends and family. You can extend “family” to mean “human race,” since we all share ancestry with Adam. The fact is, some will place faith in Christ, and most others will not. The peripheral issue is whether it’s fair to condemn a person just because they never heard that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. The fact is, before you can profess Christianity, you have to be willing to part with friends and family. Inevitably, some of those people you once called “friend” will become naysayers to your new found religion. You have to be willing to cut your ties if that’s what it takes to maintain a strong relationship with God in faith through Christ.

Remember that humans aren’t being sentenced to hell only because they lack faith in Christ. Humans are totally depraved–that is, predisposed to sin. We all sin and deserve condemnation for that. The moral law is written in our hearts, and we choose to disobey it, we choose to go our own way. Instead of letting God be the arbiter of good and evil through his word in the Bible, mankind has chosen to be its own arbiter with disastrous results.

We all fall under the condemnation of God, and therefore deserve hell. That happens independent of any knowledge of a Savior.

Jesus was once asked about the Tower of Siloam, which fell and killed 18 people. The seeker wanted to know why: what did those 18 do that brought the wrath of God? But Jesus redirects the question back on the seeker: are you any better off? Of course, the answer is no.

Salvation is solely by the grace of God. We did nothing to merit it. On the other hand, we’ve done plenty to earn condemnation and thus, eternal wrath.

“What about hypothetical people on remote islands that will never hear about Jesus?” It’s not an honest question. It’s a taunt. The question about the Tower of Siloam, likewise, was also a taunt. We should respond as the Lord did, by turning the question back around:

Atheist, forget about those hypothetical people on remote islands that will never hear about Christ. You have heard about Christ. You know the consequences of not responding in faith. What are you going to do?

About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on October 5, 2010, in Apologetics. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Here we go again with your complete lack of understanding of what atheists are saying, or why they bother with these “peripheral” issues. Many of us go through each reason you give for believing in God one by one, systematically, evaluating each one on its own merit. Free-will? How does that match up to an omnipotent being? Can anything be all-powerful? What does that really mean? Is knowledge of evil and the power to stop it but don’t a point of responsibility? Is a human sacrifice moral, even if it’s Jesus? Why does scapegoating work for God? Can a fully moral being justify killings of innocents? Is self-referential information trustworthy? (Ie. “the only source of truth is this very sentence”) Can cumulative concepts of a kind lead to some other kind? (Can too much huggin’ love become strangulation? Can too much life-giving water become death?)

    And on and on the list goes. Each ethical point, each theological point, weighed against what else is out there in the moral landscape. The point about people not having heard about Christ is a rather important one, simply because it is touted as being part of the Christian way and of God’s plan; it’s yet another piece of the puzzle you believers offer up. Responsibility for them burning in hell lies on this very fact. If people don’t get to hear it, then God is directly responsible for their burning in hell as he is supposed to be omnipotent (which is a ridiculous statement in itself, rife with paradox) and all powerful to intervene or guide. And the follow-up is perhaps even more important but never played well by believers; once people hear about Christ, how do we cater for human cognition and psychology that they heard it right? What is right? Can we make ontological statements about the truth value of whatever people are being told? Or epistimic ones?

    Here’s a furthering of this very argument; is there anything that can be said about the truth of your religion which doesn’t amount to guessing, hope or exegesis?

    The reason this “what happens when people in isolation never get to hear about Christ” is important, is because Christians make truth-statements about their faith which is challenged by the conundrum. Either you solve the conundrum in a way that is satisfactory (and no, exegesis is rarely very satisfying because of its self-referential nature) or logically valid, or you will have a lot of smart people shrug their shoulders and think you a crackpot.

  2. Do you actively look for reasons not to believe in Islam or Hinduism?

    Also as part of looking for truth, I’m still curious as to why a god makes beings that are totally depraved and dependent on him. Big, big problems squaring that with any kind of benevolent deity.

    And if he’s omnipotent he could make a gospel that reaches everyone, guaranteed, however resistant they are and at any point in time. The wriggling around why brown people on the other side of the world are off to hell is… unconvincing.

  3. There are many people out there who look for reasons not to believe. Also there are many others who look for reasons to believe only certain things, things by which they can justify themselves. I have been interacting at one blog in particular and have proved certain beliefs wrong with scripture of a professing Christian. However, the verses I have thrown out there go ignored and pushed aside, replaced with something that appears to support their agenda, to justify themselves. While there are many who look for reasons not to believe, I feel even more sorry for those who are deceived and deceived by themselves in order to justify themselves.

  4. “Atheist, forget about those hypothetical people on remote islands that will never hear about Christ. You have heard about Christ. You know the consequences of not responding in faith. What are you going to do?”

    But we think of God like Santa Claus, how do we “know” the consequences? It’s like saying: “Tooth fairy-atheist, forget about those hypothetical people on remote islands that will never hear about the tooth fairy. You have heard about her. You know the consequences of not putting your tooth under your pillow. What are you going to do?”

    Craig’s supposition doesn’t work with the rest of Christianity, I only think it’s compatible with Calvinist-type faiths…I mean, if God has realized how you were going to react to his Gospel, then you can’t really have free will, what you’re going to do would be pre-determined…If at baby Andrew’s conception the Lord knows he will murder his wife when he reaches 30 years old, then at that point there is nothing Andrew can do to stop that from happening…if he can do something about it, God was wrong, which means God can’t know everything…if he can’t, than he doesn’t have free will, if free will means the ability to make ANY decision at any given point in time…but I guess that works with Calvinism…you said yourself that being the Creator of the universe maybe allows someone to be an asshole, or something, don’t quite remember the word you used…

    I wonder if you really think we’re in denial…I seriously doubt it…

  5. Héhéhé…when I saw this video, I thought of you…:

    Just came to mind, not saying that your claim comes even close to this…

    • I couldn’t even get through that. My tolerance for profanity is low. What I saw was amusing, and I can see where you might think of me. You’ve been around long enough to know that I don’t think that atheists are evil, or out for world domination.

      But they do unwittingly serve one who is evil and out for world domination. 😉

  6. The guy is often obscene, héhé…I know you don’t think that, but this post suggests you may think that we are fighting the inner feeling that God does exist, looking for little things to cling on to our non-belief, and the video deals with that too. As for us serving the devil, I guess that if Christians are right, we are…héhéhé, I’m one of Satan’s footmen…

  7. because we may not have free will, so what? i have seen a whole lot better reasons not to believe the truth than that,lol.

    • Héhé, I actually don’t personally believe in free will, in the strict sense of the term…I believe we’re very complicated robots. But Christians, and many other religions, believe in free will. I was just pointing out a contradiction in their theology.

      I know some people try to explain it away with “God chooses not to know”, but even there, the truth has to be available to Him, if He has the ability to reach out and know it…so the truth has to exist somewhere, your decisions are already “written” in a sense…if they aren’t, God can’t reach out and know them…and follow further contradictions. Again, I am just pointing out a contradiction in most Christian’s belief system. It’s like if you said: “How does Santa get into my chimney if I don’t even have one?” You objection would be like “because Santa may not come down chimneys, so what? i have seen a whole lot better reasons not to believe the truth than that,lol”. Most people who would state that contradiction wouldn’t believe that Santa Claus comes down chimneys in the first place.

  8. This one might amuse you, it’s about free will…and in addition, it’s less profane…:

  9. I also do not believe we have free will. I believe we are predestined. God lets it appear to us that we do, but he puts it on our mind to make the choices we do I think.

    • I felt that had to be the case, most Christians wouldn’t have discarded “no free will” as a point against Christianity. But how can God be All Loving if we don’t have free will? How can we deserve whatever happens to us? How can He be Just, if you do believe He’s Just?

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