What’s Stopping You from Believing in Jesus?

Hugh Ross once said that after he offered very convincing cosmological evidence in support of God, some atheists in his audience said that while they found his evidence compelling, they weren’t ready to believe. Something or someone was holding them back. Sometimes the reason people do not become Christians has nothing to do with whether we provide compelling evidence. Instead, it’s based on the emotional state or personal preferences of the evaluator of our religion and/or his or her experiences with Christians or the Church. Sometimes Christians can be judgmental, smug, hypocritical, and pushy. These traits turn people away. Period.

Other reasons may also lead people away. Romans 1 makes it clear that sometimes people aren’t ready because they prefer to live out their lives in sin. They prefer not to “bear their own crosses.” They don’t want to be held accountable to a higher power and authority.

Consider Peter Hitchens, who’s the brother of the late famous atheist Christopher Hitchens. Both became atheists in their early teens. When Peter became an atheist, he believed the following, as quoted in his book, “The Rage Against God.”

“I smugly congratulated myself on being able to be virtuous without hope of reward or fear of punishment. I know now that proper virtue is easier to lose, and harder to find, than I thought it was then. I rather think I imagined this was a tremendously original thing to do and a shrewd blow at the dull believers who needed to be scared or bribed into goodness. This is one of the principal joys of the newly fledged atheist, and a continuing joy for many rather experienced non-believers…But my excitement was undimmed. There were no more external, absolute rules. The supposed foundation of every ordinance, regulation, law, and maxim – from “don’t talk after lights-out” and “give way to pedestrians on the crosswalk,” to “Thou shalt not commit adultery, “Thou shalt do no murder,” “Honor thy father and they mother,” and “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of my brethren, yet have done it to me” – was a fake….I did not have to do anything that I did not want to do, ever again. I would therefore be “happy” because I was freed from those things whereof my conscience was afraid…That is pretty much as far as my personal confessions will go.”

“My sins are unoriginal. The full details would be tedious for most people, unwelcome to my family (who have enough to put up with anyway), and upsetting for those directly affected by my worst behavior. Let us just say that they include some political brawling with the police, some unhinged dabbling with illegal drugs (less damaging than I deserved), an arrest – richly merited by my past behavior but actually wrongful – for being in possession of an offensive weapon – very nearly killing someone else (and incidentally myself) through criminal irresponsibility while riding a motorcycle, and numberless acts of minor or major betrayal, ingratitude, disloyalty, dishonor, failure to keep promises and meet obligations, oath-breaking, cowardice, spite, or pure selfishness” (Hitchens, 2010, p. 19-21).

Peter eventually converted back to Christianity and now speaks out in support of Christian values and causes. His experience is not unique. God hardens the hearts of people who choose to deny Him so that they can do as they please. Sometimes they come to realize a life devoid of God lacks a higher purpose and meaning. Sometimes they return to the Christian faith.

But why leave the Christian faith?

But why did they leave in the first place? Studies have distinguished two types of religiosity: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic religiosity is a shallow belief system, focusing on the benefits one gets from the community of church-goers and church offerings. Intrinsic religiosity is deeper, focusing on a tight-knit bond with God. Compare this difference with a famous statement by President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Replace the words “your country” with Jesus.

A person who has high levels of intrinsic religiosity is unlikely to abandon God when faced with very difficult circumstances. Job from the Bible is an example of a believer with high levels of intrinsic religiosity. Despite the fact that God took everything from him, Job remained a staunch believer. He never gave up his faith in God.

People who have low levels of intrinsic religiosity and high levels of extrinsic religiosity are like the “sunny day” sports fans. They’re only at the games in which the team is winning. Losses drive them away.

The mother and the son

An atheist (Courtney Heard) who calls herself “Godless Mom” wrote a blog where she detailed the story of one of her neighbors, a former Seventh-day Adventist. Her neighbor’s son announced one day that he is gay, so his mom began to pray for him and to search for answers in her church. People at her church told her that being gay is a “choice,” excluding the possibility of other factors impacting her son’s decision to come out. They also endorsed “conversion therapy.”

She read a few scientific studies on homosexuality and discovered that other factors may contribute to being gay. Parents’ hormones may play a role, so some may be more likely to be gay based on epi-genetics or genetics. After making this discovery, she questioned her church and her beliefs.  Two years later, Courtney Heard’s neighbor decided to abandon her church, become an atheist, and march with her son in a Gay Pride festival.

To me, this is a non sequitur, yet it’s all too familiar. Too often, people “throw the baby out with the bathwater” by giving up on God thanks to the actions or beliefs of one or more humans. Using a person’s or group’s interpretations of one part of Scripture to justify abandoning the holy source of Scripture equates to using a county judge’s opinion on a court case to abandon the legal system. It makes zero sense.

I suspect people who so easily turn away from the Christian faith had only shallow and extrinsic faith systems in the first place. We should pray for our brothers and sisters that they may grow stronger in their faith before being snared away.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” – Ephesians 6:10-18.

God calls on us to be heroes, not heathens. He wants us to overcome, not succumb. He wants us to persevere and to strive to be more like our pioneer and perfecter of faith, Jesus Christ.

Nabeel Qureshi’s dream

This calls to mind a dream that I heard a former Muslim called Nabeel Qureshi recount in a YouTube video from David Wood’s Acts 17 Apologetics ministry. Nabeel had been raised a devout Muslim in an American home. His family had a long tradition of Muslim apologetics and he had been trained to respond to any Christian challenges. Then he met David Wood, a Christian apologist and former college roommate who challenged him back.

Nabeel started questioning his faith after digging into it, so he called on God to give him answers. God provided dreams and visions, yet Nabeel was still hesitant. He knew if he renounced his Muslim beliefs, he would lose his family and he loved his family immensely.

Then he had the following dream. He found himself at a very narrow doorway. Inside the doorway, he could see his friend David Wood sitting next to a table at a banquet. The owner of the banquet had not yet come to the table and Nabeel felt the urge to go in – but he couldn’t enter. When he asked David about joining him, David responded, “You haven’t yet answered.” Nabeel hadn’t yet accepted Jesus.

When Nabeel woke up, he asked his friend David Wood for his opinion on his dream. David pointed Nabeel to the following passage from the New Testament, which Nabeel had never read.

“Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.  Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’” – Luke 13:22-25.

Make every effort to enter the narrow door by following the calling God has given you and persevering in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We only have one chance in this world to fulfill our mission. Let’s let our light so shine!

Reference:

Hitchens, P. (2010). The Rage Against God. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

6 Replies to “What’s Stopping You from Believing in Jesus?”

  1. Hugh Ross’s opinion on how convincing his cosmological evidence supporting the existence of God was, is quite frankly irrelevant to whether the evidence was convincing or not. If some atheists found it compelling and it indeed was good evidence and compelling, please present it. Otherwise somebody’s opinion on what they consider good evidence is irrelevant, evidence is based on its merits and how well it holds up to scrutiny and reality, it is not based on an individuals interpretation of its value.

    If the group mentality of the people professing absolute morality is poor and demonstrates a lack of character substance and integrity, it reflects on God that these are his alleged chosen people. Regardless of this, whether the original evidence presented was valid at suggesting the existence of a God, it is quite a jump to go from the existence of a God to this God definitely being the God of the bible. Why not any other God that has been claimed in history? How could you reliably determine?

    Romans 1 might make it clear to believers that people aren’t ready to abandon their lives in sin, for many people who are hard working, honest and loving people, to be told their absence of a belief in your particular deity is an inherent sin for which they should be cast into eternal agony for, leaves a rather sour taste. These can be people that hold themselves accountable and now to be told they are being judged by a being that isn’t even willing to let them know he’s there, is deeply insulting. Certainly when the people he sends to let them know of their sin, are people that you admitted freely are smug, hypocritical and pushy. If these are saved people, perhaps being damned is not so bad, at least they avoid an eternity with them.

    Peter Hitchen’s story is by no means unique, from a man that grew up in a time when Christian “values” forced restrictions on society in ways that even now, most Christians themselves would not indulge invading their lives. We have no reason to assume the rebellious actions of a teenager from a bygone era that disliked the bizarre ritual practices of religion has anything to do with a God, or any reason to suspect a God hardened anybody’s heart. It’s quite arrogant to profess atheists must have no purpose in life because purpose can only come from a God that made you with a specific purpose in mind. It’s incredibly conceited to view reality this way, when there is no way to demonstrate this to be the case. It rather goes against the suggestion of religious humbleness.

    I do not see how it is a non-sequitur to see the questioning chains of a mother whose beliefs now fail to line up with reality. Her absolute religious texts denounced homosexuality as a sin worthy of death, it is preached by believers in a just God that homosexuality is not natural and is a choice. If her own experience and study fails to line up with claims she’d previously never took the time to question or unravel, it stands to reason indoctrination would win out, as it usually does. Without mischaracterising the events that led to disbelief, you can see a premise and a conclusion and all of the circumstances leading up to it. If God’s own people are pushing an agenda that does not line up with what God wanted them to believe, he either does not care to correct his mistake or he is not there at all. This also lines up with what you would expect if God is not what he is claimed to be, a benevolent all loving deity. Though at a cursory glance at the bible, he clearly isn’t a benevolent being of any description. Or he is a fiction bought in to by others that has never had any foundation of truth.

    It is reasonable to conclude if God has taken the time to reveal information to people, it is in his interest to ensure that the information revealed is being interpreted correctly. In absence of this, it is concerning to see a silent God. It is not so much about one person or groups interpretation at all, it is regarding the failure of God to relay his messages to humanity in a manner you would expect of a perfect being. To suggest once more that upon these very real and deeply concerning evaluations of belief, the person’s faith must have been shallow to begin with is again to dismiss all of the questions to which they found no satisfactory answers and rather in a rather accusatory manner, insist there is some inherent fault in them. Deeply insulting to say the least.

    A devout Muslim that already had an incredible foundation of indoctrination and was now in a position to ask questions of somebody with another faith, found himself questioning and seeking answers regarding obvious flaws in his own religion and as a result he had a set of powerful dreams due to conversations he had. Yet you know this to be from God, how? Is there any way to determine this? Nabeel Qureshi’s dream is much the same as the convincing forces that have swayed Christians towards Islam, both conversions occur and both faiths cannot be correct at the same time. This is not compelling and at the best it’s anecdotal evidence, the weakest form of evidence one could present.

    What’s stopping us from believing in Jesus? Evidence. Where is he? He’s everywhere the religious claim, yet only really with the one sect the claimer belongs to. Convenient, really. Unsurprising, definitely.

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    1. I usually don’t respond to comments, but yours has a few errors, which I feel I must address. Hugh Ross has written numerous books. You can freely access his information at Reasons.org.

      I also never said the “7th Day Adventists” profess “absolute morality.” That’s silly. No mortal has a claim on absolute morality. Only God is absolute morality. He, in fact, is our objective, absolute, and universal moral standard. I’ve written numerous blogs on our morality. Please feel free to read them and comment.

      I never said Peter Hitchens’ story is unique. I claimed the contrary.

      Christians are commanded to follow the New Covenant and homosexuals are not condemned to death in the New Testament.

      A mother who decided to give up God based on the beliefs of a group of people in her church is using the same logic as a person who gives up our legal system to protest the actions of a single judge.

      I’ve given numerous pieces of evidence in support of Jesus’ divinity. Please see my blog posts under “Jesus Christ.” You’ll be investing your time wisely if you do.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Asking for evidence for which you suggested was given, was reliably convincing and compelling, was not an error. If there is a particular argument or evidence that could be presented, it makes absolute sense you would have done so. Reading numerous books as a suggestion is rather bleak if there was such evidence.

        You didn’t need to suggest 7th Day Adventists profess absolute morality, if they believe their version of a religion is “the one true religion” it stands to reason they believe their religion is the one professing absolute morality. You’re distorting the context, I rather hope not deliberately. God endorses slavery, rape, torture, genocide in the bible, none of these things can be considered moral in any way, let alone a moral standard.

        When I said Hitchens story was not unique, I was merely reiterating what you wrote so you knew to what part I was referring to. I was not suggesting you meant his story was unique, obviously.

        Whether or not Christians are commanded to follow the New Testament is rather a matter of opinion, since it is frequently referenced by devout believers as why homosexuality should be condemned. Your opinion on whether they should be following the New Testament is irrelevant. It’s a No True Scotsman fallacy to suggest the other Christians using the Old Testament are not valid. Though the barbaric genocidal God of the Old Testament suggests God’s moral standard is somewhat low and not a standard to reach for.

        Not at all, if a mother gave up God because she had valid reasons to scrutinise her faith and when confronting the reality of what she discovered, deciding there was no validity to what she previously believed is closer to her being the judge and finding the lack of evidence in a case unconvincing to warrant prosecution. Not the other way around.

        You’d be the first person ever to give any evidence of Jesus being divine and in absence of providing any sources in an article regarding what stops people from believing in Jesus, an entirely relevant situation to do so, I find it unlikely you’d deem it unnecessary and fail to do so, unless you had no evidence. It’s actually more suspicious that you don’t provide anything.

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  2. Excellent. Very well summarized.

    Love this: “Make every effort to enter the narrow door by following the calling God has given you and persevering in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We only have one chance in this world to fulfill our mission. Let’s let our light so shine!”

    Michael Wilson
    Christian Training Center International

    Liked by 1 person

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