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Meanderings on Disbelief

Long, long ago, in a galaxy not so far away that we can’t hyperlink to it, Mr. Marcus Schooley Calvin “Wile E.” Quixote said this:

“What notitia of the gospel, or perhaps even its rational support, can the natural man assent to or place his trust in? Is not the message of the cross foolishness to those who are perishing?”

Translation: What part(s) of the information that Christ died for your personal sins (or even the information that supports this) can you agree with or place trust in when you don’t trust the whole religious concept of a Jesus Christ? The Scripture reference Marc quoted basically says, Isn’t this a self-evident contradiction?

Spiritual Enlightenment: It’s So Insulting

Herein lies the rub: along with this Scripture reference comes a snippet of isolated text which is claimed to say that those not enlightened by God cannot perceive God accurately. (As if those enlightened will then get it all perfectly right?) Essentially, it’s claimed, humanity cannot choose God. Even if a person wanted to. Which they won’t, because people are naturally hostile to God.

Insulted yet? Because it is. It’s insulting to our sense of our own goodness. Of course we’d choose God, if we wanted Him, and if God would only live up to being good enough for us to accept Him. But who wants a God who talks down to His creatures like this? The immorality of any religion which proposes such a Supreme Being!

Divert all Engine Power to Bombast and Verbal Frippery

This particular area of Christian teaching too often sets up fabulous ground for the religious to reduce all dialogue to the rubble of appeal to authority rather than thinking about things. And that in turn sets up fabulous ground for skeptics to engage in gratuitous debunkings. As I wrote two years ago:

See the problem with, “Because it says so,” is that it’s not asking anyone–skeptic or churchgoer–to take the Bible at its word; it’s merely asking them to take the pseudo-arguer at their interpretation. There is a time and place to say, “Take me at my word,” after trust is earned and relationship is built. But let me just say that for those who don’t believe in personal relationship with a divine being, this trust thing is not even in the scope of consideration. It is more than blind; it is like trusting the void, empty vacuum of space, only with less substance and measurability.

So does the prediction of hostility to God proceed into reality, and it causes all kinds of strife. It’s sometimes difficult to say, pragmatically, whether the non-Christian’s hostility to God is due to what the Christian’s jargon calls “spiritual blindness” (no high moral ground in that terminology, no, no) or whether it’s due to a vicious cycle of stupid conversations in which both sides are entirely culpable (vide here and here).

Nonetheless, we are all responsible for our own choices, thinking, and the base of knowledge we cultivate, regardless of what stupid things others say.

Egads, We Do Have Things to Talk About (For Instance, Aliens)

This is why it’s important that Quixote’s question presents a different light which–potentially, at least–brings the smarmy collective of the religiously enlightened and the self-righteous antagonism of the religiously disinclined to the level of actual dialogue.

Notitia: a list of known things.
The gospel: See 1 Cor. 15:1-4.

This, at least, we can talk about, can we not? Perhaps. Or maybe we’re instantly in trouble, because you can’t discuss the Gospel while avoiding the question of resurrection. Shall we? No, no, after you. Very well, then. I’ll go first.

The believability of resurrection is really not on the line here. (And all the atheists throw up their hands and walk away.) I say this because the question of resurrection–or the perception that it has occurred–is perennially fascinating to a society rife with technological advances. Could it happen? Perhaps. Must we invoke aliens to make it work 2,000 years ago? Oh, goody. The possibilities are endless.

Wait, It’s Not About the Aliens?

That’s not the main problem with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The main problem with resurrection is that it’s assigned a key spiritual meaning and purpose in a theology despised by its detractors. Resurrection means victory over sin. It means sin needed to be vanquished in the first place. It means that karmic apathy and the hope for eventual human betterment are off the to-do list. That is, if anything the notitia of the Gospel present is true.

No, it’s not about the aliens, it’s unapologetically about the insult to human pride. This only ceases to be an insult when all pride is gone.

There are more painful ways to come to the end of one’s self-importance than to make free-minded inquiry. I believe that’s something the atheists have been trying to get across to the religionists for quite awhile now.

The notitia of historic claims can be investigated through a variety of lines of inquiry. But this is not the list of known things which most greatly concerns a hedonistic culture. No, we are most concerned with what interferes with or advances our own happiness–whatever we perceive that to consist in.

Welcome to my Get-Rich-Quick Scheme

And unfortunately, the churches are part of the problem more often than part of any solution. We are bombarded with argumentation that religion and its associated moral tenets will make us happier, wealthier, and Save The American Way.

Really? Is that all she wrote? Lie in the stadium aisle and pray that the end won’t come? Let me return once more to yon Quixote’s remarks of long ago:

Notitia, assensus, fiducia: a tripartite latin formula some reformers relied upon to illustrate elements of saving faith. The notitia was the intellectual, informational, or knowledge component of the gospel. In normal situations, a person needs to know the gospel content to be saved. Assensus is the belief aspect–a person needs to assent to the gospel. There’s an emotional draw to it in one’s soul. Fiducia is the act of placing one’s trust in Christ.

Saving faith necessarily combines and includes these elements, according to the formula, roughly equivalent to the mind, heart/soul, and will. Faith involves the entire person.

Faith involves the entire person. Not one’s pursuit of happiness, one’s wallet, or one’s political leanings or moral policy. None of that matters. The divine demand is for all of you. Now that…that’s something to generate hostility.

And it sounds so very much different than what the religious culture presents. More power, then, to those who challenge our meanderings on and off the trail of disbelief.

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10 comments

  1. Excellent thoughts. Interesting that you linked to an article from the UK about nervousness over Rick Perry’s run for the presidency. His campaign is imploding so all can lay that worry aside. To the heart of the matter, however, it really all does come back to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. While we can sit down and reason over many things with unblievers, this is one that cannot be danced around. Perhaps the reasons after the Apostle Paul left the Atheian philosophers on Mars Hill he told the Corinthians on the next stop in his missionary journey that he determined to know nothing but Christ and Christ crucified.

    1. “His campaign is imploding so all can lay that worry aside.”

      “Perhaps the reasons after the Apostle Paul left the Athenian philosophers on Mars Hill he told the Corinthians on the next stop in his missionary journey that he determined to know nothing but Christ and Christ crucified.”

      Hmm, interesting thought. Though imo, Paul was very successful at Mars Hill.

      1. My pastor and I have had this discussion on several occasions. Read the last few verses of Acts 17 and find evidence of great success in Athens.The Scripture emphasizes that many mocked Paul for his belief in the resurrection but some wanted to hear more.

        “But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.” (Acts 17:34)

        No church was founded there by Paul (as far as we know) and he left almost immediately for Corinth. This does not mean his approach was not successful at Athens. It accomplished exactly what God wanted it to. But a careful reading of Paul’s presentation in other cities reveals no such appeal to logic. Doesn’t mean it was wrong at Athens. It just wasn’t Paul’s standard approach.

        1. “The Scripture emphasizes that many mocked Paul for his belief in the resurrection but some wanted to hear more.”

          Right, and that’s what I was sort of aiming at, but maybe didn’t quite get clear with, in the OP. The problem isn’t the resurrection claim as much as it’s the offensiveness to people’s pride in their own ways of thinking. There’s a Charismatic teaching that “destroying fortresses” means some kind of goofy praying-against-territorial-demons ritual. It doesn’t take the full context into account:

          “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God…” (2 Cor 10:4-5a)

          Which goes straight to what Luther W. said in the next thread down about the greatest commandment. The mind is very much involved in the spiritual life, and to use it is not anti-God at all. To use it to build walls around one’s thinking just to avoid the possibility of religious claims having validity, on the other hand…is not true freethinking.

          “It just wasn’t Paul’s standard approach.”

          See, and reading the man’s writing, such as Romans, or the aforementioned 1 Corinthians, certainly some of the things he wrote to Timothy, I tend to think the use of logic was very much his standard approach. The man was a master of reasoning. *But* he clearly understood the presuppositional differences involved in addressing Gentiles, addressing Jews, and addressing Christians.

          1. Perhaps where I was unclear was in what I meant by logical reasoning. Paul certainly, under the inspiration of God, wrote logically ordered presentations of truth. But, when Paul mentioned the resurrection, he violated the majority of Greek thought about what it considered to be logical.

            This is where the line is drawn for all of us as believers in reasoning with those who do not accept the foundational premise of our belief. Christians should be reasoned and reasonable. We should attempt to engage the minds of unbelievers on their turf (as Paul did in Athens). And, we must also recognize there will almost inevitably come a wall that we cannot scale with reason. That wall is the depravity of man’s own heart and his blind determination to believe a lie and call it truth (Romans 1).

  2. Hmmmm…..I will skip to the very near end to make my first comment: “And unfortunately, the churches are part of the problem more often than part of any solution. We are bombarded with argumentation that religion and its associated moral tenets will make us happier, wealthier, and Save The American Way.”

    If, as most of the Word of Faith charlatans claim, this my best life now, what exactly does that say of the hope of our resurrection and spending eternity in the glorious presence of our God and King?

    <<<>>
    I know you just did not say that the Reformed/Calvinistic/Particular strand of Christianity is devoid of thinking. :)
    To often we are charged with trying to be to logical/rational in our presentation of the Gospel instead of letting the Spirit move as He wills. Bah humbug.

    As Jonathan Edwards put it, man will always choose what he most desires at any given moment. Apart from God what man most desires is always sinful ( even our ” good ” ).

    ” The notitia of historic claims can be investigated through a variety of lines of inquiry. But this is not the list of known things which most greatly concerns a hedonistic culture. No, we are most concerned with what interferes with or advances our own happiness–whatever we perceive that to consist in. ”

    In discussions with most American atheists/agnostics it always comes down to pragmatism and skepticism on some level. Will it work for me? Can I touch it, see it, feel it? They, even when presented with evidence, will move the goal posts ever increasingly into the distance. We, as Christians, must have and present the Gospel, with a certain amount of presuppositional apologetic. We know that God exists, that He has provided evidence of His existence, that the Bible is His Word, and that Christ rose bodily from the grave.

    Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul.
    Love your neighbor as yourself.
    Can any of us do that apart from the miracle of saving grace? Does unregenerate man even want to?
    Great post and God bless

    1. “If, as most of the Word of Faith charlatans claim, this my best life now, what exactly does that say of the hope of our resurrection and spending eternity in the glorious presence of our God and King?”

      Exactemente. This life is too brief and uncertain to put all stock in it, if you ask me. Every time I come across the word-faith thing, I can’t help but think of what happened to that guy in the Bible: “You fool, your life will be required of you this very night.”

      “I know you just did not say that the Reformed/Calvinistic/Particular strand of Christianity is devoid of thinking.”

      Nah, I probably said the North American church is a bit low on thinking…I’m not Reformed/Calvinist, but I’m in favour of a more logical, reasoned faith, which has led anti-intellectuals to accuse me of being anti-faith. Doh.

      “They, even when presented with evidence, will move the goal posts ever increasingly into the distance.”

      The very Reformed Quixote and I have in past discussed the “extraordinary evidence” demand…gerrymandering lives on, eh. The thing is, it’s not about the evidence in the end. Evidence still requires interpretation, and naturalism is just not a great ground to work with.

      “Great post and God bless”

      Why thanks, and same to you.

  3. “What part(s) of the information that Christ died for your personal sins (or even the information that supports this) can you agree with or place trust in when you don’t trust the whole religious concept of a Jesus Christ? ”

    none

    when the idea of religion (meaning all past, current and future religions) is ridiculous and unsupported on the face of it – that there are supernatural forces and agents who are personally concerned about humans individually or collectively

    the details of any given religion aren’t significant, never mind trustworthy

    1. Yep. Although I’m writing from the theist perspective at this point in my life, I grew up atheist/agnostic and gravitated towards atheism specifically by early adulthood. There was a time when I saw it very much that way too, and I see no reason to disrespect people who don’t agree with religion.

      “I want to change the world, but I can’t crack the source code” Love that tagline on your blog. Thanks for joining in here.

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