There are reasons for unbelief and then there are excuses to remain in unbelief. Unbelief can apply to lots of different things. For example, I am in unbelief that the universe popped into existence from nothing, by nothing for no apparent reason. My unbelief is based on reason rather than excuse. We can scientifically demonstrate that anything that came to be had a cause. The universe came to be, what was its cause? The universe exists physically but is it possible that it could have simply sprung forth from nothing? I have discovered no reason for belief up to this point and so remain in unbelief. On the other hand I do find many reasons to believe the universe was created which by definition would argue for a creator. There is an important key here. Unbelief usually doesn’t stand on its own. It is juxtaposted against something someone does believe. I am in unbelief in the miracle of nothing creating nothing by nothing and for no apparent reason but very much in belief that God created everything from nothing and for His own purposes.
It is important, I think, to test our beliefs and to do so from time to time. What is it that we believe because we invested the time and energy investigating and how much of our beliefs are adopted from others we know who have influenced us? Even scarier, what will others think of us if we do question the main beliefs of our social, political or religious circle? One of our supporters recently emailed questioning where the idea of the soul of an unbeliever existing eternally and in torment eternally came from. Is it believed simply because it has always been believed? Have they accepted it simply because it is what they had been taught from a very young age? Was the idea simply brought into the church from Greek or Egyptian religious and philosophical thought? This all required several hours of thinking, researching, writing and encouraging the question in order to have a reason for the belief or unbelief and not simply an excuse.
In the process of typing out the reasons for my belief I went off on a rabbit trail of other thoughts (as I am want to do from time to time). I was working through the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. Most reading this will know that in the story Lazarus dies and is carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom. A comforting picture. By contrast we are told the rich man died and “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.” My rabbit trail began not because of this part of the story where one is rewarded with comfort and peace and the other is in torment but by the reason for the story which precedes it and is in it. The reason for the story is that some choose to believe in their own worthiness with the result that in spite of their claims to the contrary in actuality they embrace unbelief in God’s revelation in spite of the evidence. What do I mean?
In Luke 16:16 Jesus points to “The Law and the Prophets.” This is a record of what God has done in the past, what God expects and how He has proven Himself. In verses 19-31 He tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus and ends with something profound:
And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
The importance of this statement is missed by many. Thosewho look past or negate the available evidence won’t be persuaded by a new miracle. I cannot say how many times I have had a non-believer say that if God performed a miracle before their very eyes they would believe. It isn’t true.
My friend, the late Jhan Moskowitz, co-founder of Jews for Jesus, was fond of saying that faith is an act of the will, not a function of information. That doesn’t negate information but puts it in its proper perspective. We become informed about God and what He requires based on what He has done in the past and which is documented but we choose to believe or we choose to not believe. No one can be argued into the faith and if they are prone to unbelief even a miracle will not persuade them.
“…they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.”