There are a few things that anyone attempting Christian apologetics must remember in order for them to keep their sanity. I’m going to talk about one of those things today. I’ve alluded to the fact that for Chrisitians, the salvation of souls is always, at the very least at the back of one’s mind, and it should be accompanied with a clear acknowledgment that it isn’t our ultimate responsibility to see those souls saved. Here is what I mean; we are given the general directive to share the gospel message, which is the good news of Christ, when and where the Holy Spirit leads us to, and to give a reason for our belief if asked, which lets us go into any realm; the Spiritual reasons we have, the emotional, the logical, etc… To put it in a metaphor, we are to sow the seeds when called (I don’t believe everyone is called to be in the formal position of an evangelist at all times and places, nor that it is our calling to go around beating people over the head with Bibles…)
That’s all well and good in theory, but those of us who have loved ones who are atheistic, or close friends, or even strangers, fellow humans that we worry about, it can be a hard thing to not place more of a burden on ourselves. We must always remember that it is God doing the ultimate work; John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. But, the main issue I’m referring to is the fact that everyone is already without excuse when it comes to a belief in God.
As we read in Psalms 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. And, more fully in Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: The existence of God is known, and that knowledge is inherent and also seen. We, as believers interested in Apologetics, do well to keep this in mind, lest we shoulder a bigger burden than what needs to be shouldered. Yes, going through all the various apologetics with others is interesting and can indeed build one’s faith, but let us not ever take on a false burden that does not belong to us; it is not our fault if, for example, an atheist remains an atheist. It is easy, esp. for the tenderhearted amongst us, to try to take responsibility, to feel a sense of guilt along with the sadness when someone we dialogue with doesn’t immediately come to the faith…but that idea that somehow we are guilty if someone else doesn’t believe isn’t how it is meant to be, as presented in the scriptures. We can indeed feel sad, and pray about the situation, and discuss apologetics, but as long as we have presented what we are called to present, which definitely includes the gospel, there is no logical room for overwhelming guilt for some perceived failure on your part.
So, if everyone is without excuse, why then do some lack faith? Paul tells us a bit further in Romans 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge… They did not like to retain God in their knowledge. When something like this occurs in a secular sense, in psychology, we call that a type of repression; pushing unwanted thoughts aside, or out of conscious awareness. It is also interesting to me that Paul, in the first chapter of Romans, ties the idea of rejection of God with worship of the creation (anything in nature, anything created) rather than the creator. What do we see in our modern culture that tries to assert itself as the end all and be all of truth, usually through secular science? Naturalism. The idea that everything can be explained through purely natural means. (Which of course begs the question; where did nature/the universe come from?) So, we do indeed have people who deny God that are worshiping the creation over the Creator.
Why would someone do this; deny God in favor of a lie? I believe that there are many reasons, too many to touch upon here, but I will mention what seems to be a major factor; emotion. Ephesians 4:18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Several times throughout scripture we are pointed to man’s “heart” as a main problem; honestly, emotions hold sway over many humans, for good and ill.
In my dialogues with various atheists, both in “real life” and on the ‘net, many times there seems to be a strong emotional component to their beliefs, which should probably be expected; there are emotional components to Christian belief as well. Many non-believers that I have talked to have had bad encounters with Christians in the past; either themselves, or sometimes even more powerful, they cite cases where Christians, or a Christian was cruel to someone in their family. My clinical psychologist husband (“The Country Shrink”) has just added a post about his experiences with atheists who have had bad relationships with their earthly fathers, and sometimes all that anger, and sadness, and hurt, gets transferred to their Heavenly Father (you can read about it here, if you like: http://thecountryshrink.com/2008/07/01/some-psychological-aspects-of-atheism/ ). There are some that let pride, or fear, or anger, or complacency get in the way…
Regardless, this message is for non-believers as well, since often times it is easy to get Christians you are dialoguing with to think that if they could just say the right thing, or present just the right evidence that you would suddenly come to faith…just keep in mind that we are all truly without excuse…when we are standing before God, no human will have an excuse for not believeing in Him.