BELIEF OR UNBELIEF: A MATTER OF CHOICE

William W. Baker

"First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised?" Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation. But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and with water. By water also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed."

Many years ago a young man who had scoffed at the Bible and its claims of inspiration and of being a divine revelation from a living God, became a follower of Christ when he was faced with the overwhelming evidences corroborating and substantiating the Bible and its message. In particular, the geological evidences, found world-wide which testified to the Genesis teaching of the universal flood, proved undeniable. This young intellectual could not explain away the sharks’ teeth he personally extracted from the massive rim of the Grand Canyon: nor could he ignore the dinosaur vertebrae he helped remove from their fossilized burial places in Utah. When faced with one scientifically verified discovery after another, culminating in astounding archaeological finds in ancient Palestine which consistently confirmed the veracity and integrity of the biblical record, the young skeptic was faced with the most important decision of his life; to change his unbelief and skepticism in the Bible and the Christ of the Bible in the face of overwhelming evidence, or, ignoring the evidence, CHOOSE to retain his unbelief. To alter his comfortable and popular attitude of unbelief would most certainly make him an object of suspicion and "un-scientific" thinking among his peers. The young man, like all human beings who have ever lived, made a rational, intelligent, and objective CHOICE OF BELIEF! That young man was indeed myself in the early years of study in the science of archaeology.

UNBELIEF ALMOST INCOMPREHENSIBLE

Faced by such tremendous evidence supporting the Bible and its claims and teachings, many Christians do not understand why there is any unbelief today. Why do so many sensible, sincere, reasonable people not acknowledge the same biblical truths as the followers of Christ? For some, it is due to a simple lack of knowledge. Millions of people have never heard of Christian Apologetics, manuscript evidences, hermeneutics, etc. And this lack of knowledge must be placed squarely at the feet of the so-called "Churches" or congregations of believers who have not presented the good news upon the foundation of empirical evidences and history. But it is clear from Romans 1:18ff that even a lack of knowledge will not be accepted as an excuse by God since all men have had enough knowledge of God revealed to them that they stand condemned if they CHOOSE to disbelieve.

UNBELIEF IS DELIBERATE

Several translations, including Lamsa's Ancient Eastern Manuscripts version, translate II Peter 3:5 as: "Of this they are WILLINGLY IGNORANT" and "they purposely ignore this fact." Unbelief, then, comes to men because in most instances, they choose to ignore or play down the import of facts and evidences that reveal a God to whom they have a moral responsibility.

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator who is forever praised" (Romans 1:21-25).

Notice that the concept of man choosing to believe or disbelieve begins with verse 20 of Romans 1 which uses the Creation or Cosmography to prove that all men are aware, from evidences all around them, that "God's invisible power and divine nature" have been and continue to be, clearly seen and evident. In fact, verse 20 concludes that from such abundant and observable evidence, "men are without excuse."

One prominent Paleontologist from Harvard whose writings were required reading by my professors was G. Gaylord Simpson. I shall never forget his statements regarding the highly improbable evidence used to prove the evolution of the horse.

"Nevertheless it is so improbable as to be unacceptable unless we can find no hypothesis more likely to explain the facts."

In other words, he is willing to accept an unacceptable explanation if there is, in his estimation, none better! So much for "scientific" thinking and the art of deduction. Jesus once made a shocking accusation against the Pharisees of his day when he said: "Yet because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me" (John 8:45). All men, of all time, who love evil and lies but hate the truth, will never choose to become humble obedient believers in Christ or His Word. To love truth is to put aside your own prejudice and preference; to love truth is to speak up and out concerning the issues of Justice, Truth, Mercy, and Compassion; to love truth is to welcome a moral guideline bringing constraints upon the desires and demands of the flesh. As the world plunges further in to the morass of immorality and sexual deviation, this basic truth of man's responsibility for his own choices becomes ever so valid.

"... and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness" (II Thes. 2:10-12).

So it is that those men and women who hate the truth will indeed have things their own way, and will be deceived and believe a lie. Those who do not love truth WILL NOT BE ATTRACTED TO IT! And even when they see it, they reject it and rationalize and "sensibilize" their decision. I have concluded that this is the only answer as to how people can continue participating in non-scriptural teachings and practices, many advocated by "Pastors" and popular denominations and cults, even when the evidences clearly expose the practice and/or teaching as evil and wrong. Morally bankrupt television "preachers" are continually exposed and convicted of illegal, ungodly activity, yet when interviewed their followers continue to state their undying financial support for these scoundrels. How can such irrationality and willful ignorance be understood?

"If our gospel is hidden, it is hidden to those who are lost. To those in this world whose minds have been blinded by God, BECAUSE THEY DID NOT BELIEVE, lest the light, the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the likeness of God, should shine on them." (Lamsa, II Cor. 4:24).

News media and network reports abound promoting the "rights" of homosexuals to openly promote and, in many instances, recruit others into their deadly "spin-the-aids-bottle" lifestyle. The relatively newly added impetus in the movement for acceptability and "normalcy" among homosexuals is the claim that they, too, are Christians. But how do they deal with the numerous scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments condemning the lifestyle of their choice? They don't! They simply ignore those scriptures, or relegate them to that cloudy and ambiguous phrase used to escape all Biblical scripture that intrudes or condemns one's preferred choices in life known as the "that's only your own interpretation" syndrome. But Paul makes it crystal clear that even phony "Christians" will refuse to listen to and obey the truth when it condemns the unrighteous or immoral things in which they find pleasure and which they are determined to continue. Perverted men of all stripes and perversions will forever seek for some basis of authority to "approve" and legitimize their illegitimate acts, thoughts, or concepts, even to the extent of publishing their own "new" bible translation.

God does indeed, as Paul states, send such people strong delusions which comfort and assure them even in their unrighteousness since their hearts are totally unfit for receiving and obeying the truth. The concept of man deliberately choosing belief or unbelief, morality or immorality, is found also deeply rooted in the Old Testament.

"To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it" (Jeremiah 6:10).

Read also Jeremiah 6: 16-19. Sadly, this accusation is true of many "pew sitters" whose faith and even eternal hope rests not upon a clear understanding and obedience to the scriptures alone, but upon denominational orthodoxy, theology, and ritual. I have come to believe that the unbelief, especially in America, has no connection or claim to a lack of tangible, observable and verifiable biblical evidence, but rather stems from the reality that men choose deliberately to have financial security, sensual pleasure, and pride. Was it not King Agrippa's lust for a woman which caused him to deliberately refuse to believe Paul in Acts 26:28?

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" (John 3:19-20).

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, TO SUIT THEIR OWN DESIRES, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths" (2 Timothy 4:3,4).

I am convinced after many years of debating every type of unbeliever, including evolutionists, satanists, humanists, abortionists, atheists, etc., that these individuals HAVE MADE A DELIBERATE CHOICE NOT TO BELIEVE IN GOD OR THE BIBLE! I have flooded them with mountains of evidence supporting the scripture and totally discrediting their alternate philosophy, yet they have stubbornly held on to that false concept rather than surrendering to the Word of God.

"He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16).

The prejudiced and biased mind is deliberate unbelief. Unbelief comes to men when they distort or "wrest" the scripture to support or condone their perspectives or activities. Satan, the father of unbelief, distorted the scripture during the temptations of Christ in Matthew 4:5,6. Paul had to contend and battle with the Judaizers who corrupted and intentionally twisted the word of God to their own liking, as in 2 Cor. 2:17 and 2 Cor. 4:2.

The distortion of scripture is the only explanation for the tragic man-made divisions within the body of Christ. Of course, this division provides un-ending fuel for unbelief, as scoffers and skeptics use the divisions to prove that the Bible is "up for grabs" and no one man or group has all of the truth.

Therefore, they reject all men and their claims that they are truly teaching and following the scriptures. Divisions between believers supposedly in the same and single body of Christ over such mammoth and theologically significant issues as paper or aluminum communion cups, electric instruments, choir robes to name only a few, make mockery of the prayer of their claimed redeemer when he prayed in John 17:20 "...that all of them may be one, that the world may believe that you have sent me."

DISTORTING SCRIPTURE IS NOT A NEW PRACTICE

The Jews opposed the Old Testament Prophets and distorted or "wrested" the scriptures by forcing the interpretation of the prophecies predicting the coming of the Messiah and His new Kingdom to be fulfilled in a renewed and horribly arrogant world-dominating power named Israel. "Their" Messiah would defeat all their enemies, and his new kingdom would be a fleshly, human empire with them (the Jews) the recipients of all this power and treasure. Nearly three thousand years later people professing they are Christians and Bible believers STILL wrest and distort the scriptures on the same subject, teaching men that Christ and His Kingdom will be nothing more than a "re-run" of the brief rule and imagined power of Biblical Israel with the Jews once again prospering materially and reigning over the world. Now, as then, they are wrong and must be challenged!

BELIEF IS DELIBERATE

Just as unbelief is deliberate, so then also belief is deliberate. There are many today who believe their conversion to Christianity is totally above and beyond the scope of human reason and understanding. Most assuredly it (their acceptance of and belief in Christ) has nothing to do with their own choosing, but rather occurs because God ordains it and they have no alternative. Once again the scriptures themselves, read and accepted at face value without any theological gobble-de-gook teach just the opposite, that the revelation of God, thus God himself, WILL NOT OVERRIDE the individual's moral freedom of choice! The purpose of God is not to produce obedience by force, but to treat all men and women as free moral agents. Belief comes to an informed mind as Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:1.

"Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking."

And what of Paul's statement that God's revelation was made intelligently and He expects man to apprehend it by use of that same intelligence.

"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).

The very first disciples and apostles of Christ clearly appealed to the mind and intellect of men when they proclaimed the gospel to the civilized world of their day.

"We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).

Paul "reasoned" with the Jews from the scriptures about the Christ. Peter places a high premium on knowledge of Christ through the word for he knew that belief comes by way of knowledge of God, Jesus, and the Scriptures.

I suggest that the reader study, not merely read the two letters of Peter. Over and over again, he fills the pages of his letters with clear, distinct instruction that men CHOOSE TO BELIEVE AND OBEY THE GOSPEL.

"Now that you have purified yourselves BY OBEYING the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart" (1 Peter 1:22).

Believers are challenged by Peter to accept and forever recall and remember the word of God (2 Peter 1:3-21).

True belief comes as a by-product of a submissive will as in John 7:17:

"If anyone CHOOSES to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own."

"For we know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him MUST WALK AS JESUS DID" (1 John 2:4-6).

No man has ever been overpowered and forced into obedience to God or Christ against their will! No man has ever been forced to accept and obey the commands of Christ against his will! And no man has ever accepted Christ into his life, all the while stating it is not his personal desire to do so but he is unable to withstand some mystical, magical power which forces him into repentance and obedience. The idea that no man is responsible for choosing belief or unbelief, eternal gain or eternal loss, has transferred from theology to every facet of American life.

We live in an age when no criminal, no matter how heinous the crime he may have committed, is responsible for his actions. Environment, poverty, society, parental failure, anyone and anything EXCEPT the criminal is responsible. Such foolishness has even produced the tongue-in-cheek catch-all "the devil made me do it." The simple truth is that every human being will choose belief or unbelief. Every person claiming to be a Christian must choose to follow Christ, and that decision must be based upon the evidence so abundantly available. No one will become a Christian believer by reciting monotonous liturgical phrases or scripted prayers, nor by standing or kneeling at the appropriate moments, nor by singing the "correct" hymns with or without instrumental accompaniment. They will become believers when they permit the facts or truths of God and His Word to penetrate their will and heart, which will then produce a new mind and new actions and attitudes.

"The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace" (Romans 8:6).

"For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 8:6).

It is the awesome responsibility of every believer and most certainly every "church" to set forth the abounding evidence of the reality of God, Christ the Son, and their Revelation to mankind called the Bible. The appeal from Christians to the world must be one of open invitation to examine the truths of our faith, to analyze our claims through comparison of known historical records and events with the Biblical record; to appeal on the basis of intellectual honesty when considering the invalid, unscientific theories and speculations forwarded by men in order to oppose or replace the Biblical accounts of such cataclysmic events as creation, world-wide deluge (the flood), the crucifixion and the resurrection. Every Christian must be able to challenge the world with at least a basic presentation of Christian Apologetics.

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the REASON for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15).

"Therefore, prepare your MINDS for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:13).

It has never been the role or responsibility of Christians to "convert" OTHER MEN. That process remains solely in the realm of God alone. But we ARE responsible for learning and then conveying or presenting the REASON for Christian faith, thereby affording every man and woman at least the opportunity to choose belief or unbelief.

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from who you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:14,15).

(Editor's Note: Bill Baker has published a CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS NOTEBOOK of real value. Available from DEFENDERS, P.O. Box 11134, Las Vegas, NV 89111. Cost $20.00. Order a copy!)