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Why is There Doubt and Unbelief?  Part 1

The evidence of God's existence is abundant in the world. The common experiences of all men in God's created world demonstrate the work of a divinely wise mind and a divinely powerful hand. Even within their own bodies, men behold the proof of God's work, for "that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Rom. 1:19). Scripture appeals to man's experience in the world and assigns the wonders that he observes to the glory and power of God in passages such as Psalm 19:1-6 and Job chapters 37 through 41. The cosmological (origin of the world) and teleological (design in the world) arguments for the existence of God arise from a consideration of this evidence, and they comprise powerful and irrefutable proofs of His work.

Perhaps it would seem that this copious evidence would make man's unbelief in God to be impossible, but that is not the case. Rather, the abundance of undeniable evidence only serves to make man's unbelief inexcusable. This is the assertion of the apostle Paul in Romans 1:20, which states, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” In other words, when men like the infamous atheist Bertrand Russell say, "Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence,” they are utterly mistaken. Russell may have been a genuine atheist, but his claim of a lack of evidence is not a valid excuse for his unbelief.

In saying that unbelievers are "without excuse,” Paul implies that man oughtto believe but not that he mustbelieve. There are moral and intellectual obligations for man to believe in his Creator, but the Creator does not force him to do so. God permitted unbelievers in the ancient Gentile world to refuse to give Him glory and thanks when they "became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21). Likewise today, God still allows men to disbelieve and turn away from Him in their self-imposed foolishness and darkness of heart.

God has ordained that man should believe in Him by faith. Faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Because "no man has seen God at any time” (John 1:18), the only way to believe in Him at present is by faith. This is by God's design, for Hebrews 11:6 says that "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Therefore, God has devised a system of faith whereby man may believe in Him, please Him, and be rewarded by Him.

This system of faith allows unbelief and doubt as necessary alternatives to faith, for God permits man to make choices between them. In this way, the relationship between faith and doubt is similar to the relationship between free will and evil. To have free will, man must be able to choose between good and evil. Likewise, to have faith, man must be able to choose between belief in God and unbelief. The Scriptures contain example after example of men faced with the choice between faith and doubt. Each of these examples records an opportunity for men to choose faith and please God. Some succeeded (such as Moses in Hebrews 11:24-26), some failed (such as the Israelites at Kadesh in chapters 13 and 14 of Numbers), but all had a choice.

Without this ability to choose, man could not have faith and therefore could never please God. God does not force anyone to believe in Him, for that would destroy man's opportunity to have faith and to please Him. Some men insist that God should reveal Himself in such a way that removes all doubt, but that would render faith impossible. Actually, the Scriptures say that God will make such a revelation of Himself at the end of time (Rev. 1:7), but then it will be too late for unbelievers to have faith in Him. The probationary time in which man now lives is a time of both faith and doubt.

(See next week's bulletin for "Why is There Doubt and Unbelief? – Part 2.”)

Stacey E. Durham



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