Can Unbelief be Good?

That's the big "no, no" in the Christian system: unbelief. The Bible condemns it. Preachers warn against it. C.H.Spurgeon starts his August 27 devotional thought in Morning and Evening with "Strive with diligence to keep out the monster of unbelief." After reading some of the contributions from my atheist and agnostic friends, I too ask, "What's the difference between the unbelief forbidden in the Scriptures, on the one hand, and sincere inquiry into the love of God, the reliability of the Bible and the reasonableness of the Christian faith, on the other? Is there a difference? Or have I and millions of fellow believers been brainwashed, as our atheist and agnostic friends charge?

What does the Bible condemn?

Here is a typical biblical text on unbelief. "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." (Hebrews 3:12-13)

Several observations: 1) this is addressed to folks who have already entered the faith. That's why they are called "brothers"; 2) "unbelieving" is coupled with "evil", indicating that the unbelief contemplated is not honest inquiry but rebellion against the living God; 3) finally, while unbelief is a personal and individual failure, it's the responsibility of the whole believing community to address it in a timely way.

Good unbelief

God expects human beings created in his own image to think for themselves. He made us to do so. He's given us plenty of evidence to ponder. "The heavens declare the glory of God." (Psalm 19:1) God invites human beings to seek him. "I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me." (Proverbs 8:17) Seeking requires that you investigate the data.

That investigation, when fueled by hunger to know and to love One who is larger then us, God honors. Down deep every human being has that hunger. But it often goes unsatisfied because worldly junk food has provided a temporary relief.

That's reasonable, no?

Every parent knows the difference between a sassy challenge to his or her authority and a youthful curiosity about why things are the way they are. Would you charge the parent who doesn't tolerate the sassy challenge with brainwashing the child? Don't think so.

God too recognizes the difference between a sassy challenge to his authority and a healthy curiosity about how He has set life up. So why is an evil, unbelieving heart (read "sassy challenge") so offensive? It's an affront to the very nature of God and a rejection of his love. Is there anything that hurts more than seeing your acts of love trampled under foot by those you care about?

More by this Author


Comments - I'm listening 15 comments

Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Thanks for your response. I need to think about this and inwardly digest :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Trish, it seems we are treading together down a path we've tread before. Our conficting world and life views will inevitably land us on oposite sides of the great divide. I write that, not out of hopelessness, but out of respect for you and your views.

So to the point. Christian morality is not a set of behaviors attempted in isolation from each other and from God who embodies all that is moral. This is why the Scriptures assert that to conquer one sin but succumb to another is to be guilty of breaking the whole law. And further, whatever is not motivated by faith (ie a desire to honor our Saviour) is sin. (James 2:11,12 and Romans 14:23)

The closest analogy I can think of is a sound and loving marriage. (increasingly rare these days) When a person enters marriage he/she experiences a complete change in perspective. Suddenly certain expectations are justified and special privileges are granted. On the other hand there is a range of attitudes and behaviors that is no longer available or appropriate. This change, while codified as laws or mores in society, is not brought about by those laws. They are readily respected out of love and loyalty to one's spouse.

So apart from love for the Lord my moral acts will be appreciated by my fellow human beings (maybe) but the are unrecognizable by God. This, in the same way that apart from truly loving my wife, all acts of service or gifts to her fail to impress her. I know. I've tried it :-)


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

I find it very disconcerting, when someone I consider to be a lovely person, tells me that they are only 'lovely' because of their Christian beliefs.

This just feels very wrong to me. I don't go around behaving badly, so why should they? It doesn't make sense.

If they are decent people, then surely a change in religious opinion shouldn't stop them being 'nice'?


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

I would be one of those. But why is it worrying to you?


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Many Christians seem to think that they could not be moral without their beliefs ~ which is worrying :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Again we agree. I've come across many a non Christian whose morals and values I admire. And many a Christian whose lives I deplore. The issue is who get's the credit for it. A consistent Christian will always acknowledge that any good he does is a gracious gift from his Lord.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi liftandsoar :)

As I so often say, Christians don't have a monopoly on morals. :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Methinks you might be a closet Christian :-)


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Well, I certainly do try to live according to a caring attitude, good morals, etc, etc. :)


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Good to hear from you, Trish. Guess what. I actually agree with you. While I believe the Christian faith is reasonable it's appeal does not rest on reason alone. I'm persuaded that far more is accomplished by godly and loving living than by astute argumentation. I would never encourage you or anyone to believe against your brain. Thanks for stopping by!


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi again :)

The problem with this is that genuine questioning and searching can often lead to either complete disbelief or to serious doubt ~ and it simply is not possile to make oneself believe in something, if one's brain rejects it. (Just try making yourself believe in the fairies at the bottom of the garden.)


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

This proved to be a very enlightening peace. "Only the fool says in his heart, there is no God." I do know it takes us time to put away our foolishness and come to God. We have to grow up first! So I really liked the analogy between sassiness and honest curiosity.


GrowingDeeper profile image

GrowingDeeper 5 years ago

oh, well glad i could be a blessing. hope the rest of you're day goes just as well


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA Author

Thanks, GrowingDeeper. I'm always eager to see who and what my first response will be. You made my day. Been hubbing all day while watching out for Irene.


GrowingDeeper profile image

GrowingDeeper 5 years ago

Numbers 23:19 "God is not a man, that he should lie...". Unbelief slanders His nature. Nice hub

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working