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Why is There Doubt and Unbelief? - Part 2

The choice between belief and unbelief is often made according to what man desires rather than what is "clearly seen” (Rom. 1:20). This was often evident in the way the opponents of Jesus among the Jews responded to Him. For example, when the Pharisees questioned a man whom Jesus had healed of blindness, the man said, "Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes.” (John 9:30). The Pharisees could not deny the evidence before them, but they refused to accept the conclusion, which was that Jesus had come from heaven. They chose not to believe simply because they did not want Jesus to be the Christ.

Belief in God is often inconvenient and contrary to man's desires, and therefore man chooses not to believe. Those who want to indulge the flesh and live by their own lusts comfort themselves by denying God, for to acknowledge Him is to recognize His authority, His law, and their accountability before Him. Paul wrote of men "who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18), which indicates that they deny the truth of God in order to practice unrighteousness. In Romans 1:28, Paul said that they "did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer.” Sadly, this is the basis for much of secular psychology today (a la Sigmund Freud, Carl Rogers, etc.), which seeks to release man from the restraints of belief in God so that he may do as he pleases without the feeling of guilt.

When men are willfully disbelieving of God, He gives them over to their own desires. In Romans 1:24-32, Paul wrote that God gave them up to "impurity,” "degrading passions,” and "a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.” God does not force unbelievers to confess Him or to conform to His will, but rather He lets them go in the way they choose and receive "the due penalty of their error” (Rom. 1:27). He allows them to sink deeper and deeper into unbelief until they become insensitive to the truth. Paul wrote of such men and the effect of Satan, saying, "In whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2Cor. 4:4). In 2Thessalonians 2:10-12, Paul described the destiny of those who "did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved,” saying, "For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.”

Even among believers in God, doubt is a frequent problem. The Bible records that some of the apostles still doubted Jesus even when they saw Him after His resurrection (Matt. 28:17). Perhaps some believers do not expect to struggle with doubt because they think the choice to believe in God is like a switch that is either off or on. However, faith and doubt exist in varying degrees within men. This is illustrated in Matthew 14:22-31, for when Peter failed to walk on the water, Jesus said, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Faith is a process of growth and education that is often marked with the growing pains of setbacks and diversions. In this process, old habits and false beliefs have to be uncovered and corrected, and each trial of faith can be another opportunity for doubt.

One reason for the plague of doubt is that doubting God is easy. It takes little or no effort to be doubtful or agnostic toward God. Man does not have to work hard not to believe in what he has not seen. It is easy to take the attitude of the apostle Thomas, who said, "Unless I see…I will not believe” (John 20:25). Even when man sees the abundant evidence of God's existence in the world, he will not come to believe in God unless he makes the effort to carefully consider the evidence. Those who are intellectually and spiritually lazy make themselves susceptible to overwhelming doubt and disbelief.

Unlike doubt, faith can be difficult. Faith requires strength, diligence, and perseverance. The element of diligence in the practice of faith is recognized in Hebrews 11:6, for in a context of explaining faith this verse says that God "is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” In other words, a half-hearted, casual pursuit of faith in God will not suffice. For this reason, faith is described in terms of a grueling endurance race in Hebrews 12:1-3. While some believers may expect faith to be easy because God's existence is "clearly seen” through this world (Rom. 1:20), the spiritual current of the world flows contrary to faith. Doubt is the path of least resistance, but faith requires dedicated effort to swim against the streams of worldliness, lust, materialism, and pride. "The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1John 5:19), so believers in God will have to overcome the world to defeat doubt.

Thus, doubt and unbelief are not only possible, but they are even probable. God allows unbelief and doubt to exist as necessary alternatives to faith, and man embraces these in conjunction with his worldly desires and his aversion to the difficulties of faith. Nevertheless, doubt and unbelief are inexcusable in the sight of God because the abundance of evidence within the world clearly shows His existence to say the least. Therefore, those who fail to have faith in God will never be able to please Him or be rewarded by Him.

Stacey E. Durham



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