I want to attempt in this essay to articulate what it is about the nature of skeptical unbelief that can boil-down and decompose into the self-interest of autonomous individualism…the life apart from God lived in self-sovereignty…that is the core ideology of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…and conversely…what is so critically important about the nature of faith and trust in the God of the Bible…that places such a high value in connecting personally with God within the biblical narrative stories of faith…that demonstrate biblical faith in action…which is the fundamental characteristic of the Bible…the underlying issue of the existence of God debated in public forums.
I would like to build and expand upon what has already been said in Chapters One and Three on the delicate balance between belief and unbelief.
After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead…it is succinctly and brilliantly recorded in John 11:45-48:
45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.
46 But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.
47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.
48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.
This narrative story of Jesus…leading up to His rejection and crucifixion…tells us that there was no overlapping middle-ground between letting Jesus “thus alone”…or the huge extreme on the other side of the spectrum of accusing Jesus of the capital offences of blasphemy before the Jewish Sanhedrin court and political treason before the Roman authorities…resulting in His execution on the cross.
Were these religious leaders acting for the good of the nation of Israel in removing Jesus from the scene…or were they acting out of the most worldly self-centered self-interest?
Like the scriptural example of the resurrected Jesus not walking down Main Street and into the Temple…even though Jesus moved freely and openly amongst these religious leaders during His time of public ministry…sharing His message and outreach to them as well as to the general populace…Jesus does not appear to compromise in the slightest regarding the components of faith and trust in Him.
Jesus gives not the slightest hint of surrendering His status and position as the Son of God and eternal King in order to reach a common-ground conciliation regarding self-sovereignty versus God-sovereignty…of giving-in on principle to these religious leaders in the biblically critical point of self-governance as opposed to God-governance (Jn. 5:36-47)…even though…and by God’s deliberate intention…this principled stand leads to the cross of Calvary.
This tells us that the importance of the components of faith and trust within a personal relationship…are non-negotiable elements that reside at the peak…the pinnacle…the apex of moral reasoning and righteous character.
Paul writes about the faith component in a relationship with God…in Hebrews 11:6…”But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Skeptical unbelief cannot enter into a biblical-quality journey of faith today, following the leading of Jesus Christ…through communication in the Spirit through the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13)…because the atheist does not believe at the outset that God even exists.
The atheist is no more likely to pick up their cross to follow Jesus…than they are to enter into a contractual business agreement with a fictitious and non-existent person.
This explains in part the inability in Christian versus atheist public debates of reaching a common middle-ground of overlapping engagement on the issues…or any semblance of an overwhelming resolution to the specific topic being debated…because the fundamental natures of the worldviews of belief and unbelief are so far apart…they themselves in relation to each other are non-overlapping.
This explains in part why the two people debating the issues in a Christian apologetics public debate…often appear to be talking past one another…each person capably presenting their side but being miles apart in terms of finding common ground.
The contention in this essay is that this reality is by the deliberate and creative intention of God…in order to expose through the dimensions of time and space the un-admirable and non-commendable outcomes of going our own way (Isa. 53:6) both in this current life and in the eternal heavens where God is King and Ruler.
The combination of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…with the complete absence of a happy center between the two opposing sides of belief and unbelief…having a huge hole between these two worldviews…cannot plausibly be the product of human literary invention.
This cannot be over-stated.
Finally, once a person gets past the huge gulf between unbelief and belief…and enters into faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God as our Savior and the Lord of our lives…the equally important question then arises as to why faith is often so difficult and that it must be “tested” and refined within a God-composed adventure of faith life-script (Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:7)…as previewed for us today in the biblical narrative stories of faith.
Once a person is spiritually born-again (Jn. 3:1-21) and receives salvation and eternal life…the journey is just beginning as the new believer steps into their God-composed journey of faith…designed individually and specifically for them…to create a context of life events and circumstances that will produce a personal relationship with God…based upon mutual faith and trust in each other…God-ward toward us…and us-ward toward God.
The delicate balance between belief and unbelief takes us up to the pinnacle of moral reasoning…because mutual faith and trust are critical components within personal relationships.
Going our own way in autonomous rebellion is at the heart of the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden…Satan in the spiritual form of a talking serpent calling into question the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God’s character in His setting of parameters of do’s and don’ts regarding the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…slandering God by inferring that God’s motivations were suspect.
Atheists and skeptical critics can choke on the idea of a past angel of God…Satan… transforming himself into the spiritual form of a beautiful serpent possessing enticing speech…but the issues at stake in this classic confrontation in the Garden of Eden are simply too profound and way too complex in their spot-on application to human nature…to be the mere product of human literary fiction writing…to be mythology…in the composition of the first book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible…our modern Old Testament…in ancient times around 1,450 B.C.
This delicate balance between belief and unbelief…makes a subtle case for the divine origin of the Bible and of Christianity…because this issue of faith and trust…that goes both ways between people and God…is the central through-line of the biblical narrative stories of faith…which is inaccessible and incomprehensible to people choosing to be skeptical unbelievers living in self-sovereignty…but which is the priceless gift of God to believers through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross…prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34 to occur for new covenant Christians…knowing God personally from the least to the greatest.
From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.