Rejection of Christ: Speaking to Motives

Introduction

What prevents a person from embracing Christ? While there are a number of excuses given by skeptics, there are zero valid reasons (Rom 1:20). When we consider Biblical truths regarding unbelief, we realize that some unbelievers are seldom intellectually honest in this regard. They will either claim there is a lack of evidence to support Christian doctrine(s) or rant about crimes and atrocities committed because of religion. We are wise to remember that many who reject God may be lying to themselves.  Therefore, their answers cannot be trusted. The main point of this work is to consider the real motives behind unbelief and we will do so in the following (3) sections: I.) Pride II.) Moral depravity III.) Willful ignorance

I.) Pride

Positively speaking, pride can be a feeling of great satisfaction in something or a valid level of self-respect. However, pride can also be a sinful trait. Sinful pride causes a person to be filled with conceit. An overblown perception of self-importance is probably the number one reason people reject Christ.

The late paleontologist from Harvard, George Gaylord Simpson, writes:

“Man stands alone in the universe, a unique product of a long, unconscious, impersonal material process with unique understanding and potentialities. These he owes to no one but himself, and it is to himself that he is responsible. He is not the creature of uncontrollable and undeterminable forces, but is his own master. He can and must decide and manage his own destiny (1953, p. 155).”

Pride can cause men to seek godhood.

It has been said that pride is the very reservoir and commencement of all sin. Just as pride led Satan to seek godhood, it seduces mere mortals to do likewise. God said of Satan, “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezek. 28:15). People often ask, “Why did God create Satan? Technically, God created Lucifer, but it was Lucifer’s eventual pride that turned him into Satan (the Devil). Many rejecters of Christ don’t want to worship and serve God because they are too busy trying to be godlike in their own minds. Unchecked pride can cause us to put self above all things.

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “But now God is dead. You superior men, this God was your greatest danger. Only since he is in the grave, have you risen again. Only now comes the great noontide; only now the superior man will be – Lord!”

When we allow our will to displace God’s will, we reject His authority. Those who reject Christ, rebel against God to the point of claiming that He doesn’t even exist. Satan wanted to dethrone God by becoming a god himself and has seduced mankind to follow suit. Genesis 3:5 says, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Take note of how Satan questioned God’s words, contradicted them, and finally urged rebellion. Unbelievers likewise deceive themselves and others. They question God’s existence, contradict statements attributed to God, and then seek to replace God with man (self). [1]

“Let us watch our own hearts carefully in the matter of unbelief. The heart, and not the head, is the seat of its mysterious power. It is neither the lack of evidence, nor the difficulties of Christian doctrine, that make men unbelievers. It is lack of will to believe. They love sin. They are wedded to the world. In this state of mind they never lack specious reasons to confirm their will. The humble, childlike heart is the heart that believes.” – J.C. Ryle [2]

Sinful pride and unbelief are closely linked. When we turn from God to seek fulfillment in ourselves, we exhibit what is probably the ugliest form of pride known. So powerful is this form of pride that it compels us to self-exaltation. No man can be his own god. Yet the pride of self-deification seduces us; self-exaltation leads us to dethrone God in our own lives. And this is more easily done when we pretend that God doesn’t even exist.

Submission to God and His authority is contrary to the desires of a prideful heart. Likewise, a prideful heart puts us at odds with God (James 4:6). Prideful men lust after total autonomy so intensely, they become irrational. The delusional notion of self-perseverance is strong in those who are drunk with pride. It causes them to pretend that God is not necessary. Subsequently, they reject Christ as a result of this self-delusion. The pride and rebellion of man keeps him from seeing just how finite he is. The unbeliever’s arrogant denial of any need for God places him in an untenable position. He must be unashamed in his proclamations that unaided humans can solve all problems and be gods unto themselves.

Power can corrupt a good man, but the man who lusts for power is corrupt already

“Power attracts the corruptible. Suspect all who seek it … We should grant power over our affairs only to those who are reluctant to hold it and then only under conditions that increase that reluctance.” – Frank Herbert

Christ is rejected by those who lust for power because they want to run the world by their own hopelessly human abilities and wits. Mankind’s history is replete with accounts of megalomaniacal despots. Men like Caesar, Stalin, and Hitler were held spellbound by their lust for power. They reveled in their influence and subjugation of others, committing humanity’s most horrific atrocities to keep the power they loved so much. Any man who thinks he is self-sufficient is dangerously prideful. He is dangerous because he not only rejects Christ but is willing to fight against those who embrace Him. When we insist that the Universe is an accident and that no God will hold us accountable for our actions, we are capable of great evil.

The existence of God is a problem for those who lust for power. If God is real, there exists a Supreme being Who is Holy, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. And if such a Being exists, we are all under His authority and, therefore, must either pledge our allegiance or rebel. Actively rebelling against Almighty God is futile. Yet unbelievers waste their lives and forfeit their souls by speaking out against Biblical truths and pretending to believe that God doesn’t exist. Vladimir Lenin is quoted as saying, “Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism.”

Pride causes men to hate God

It should not surprise us that modern man can so easily reject and even hate Christ. He was reviled and rejected by His own countrymen while He was physically with them (John 1:10-11). He performed miracles in their presence, only to have those who hated Him accuse Him of being in league with Satan (Matt 10:14; 12:24). Not only did they reject Him, they actually hated Jesus deeply because of religious pride and jealousy. It can be argued that pride is the culprit anytime we see pure truth rejected and fought against.

There was no falsehood or lack of clarity in Jesus’ testimony; He was in no way incapable of making the truth comprehensible. In fact, it was His clarity that cut His own people to the heart (Luke 4:28-30). A sad, destructive attribute of a pride-filled heart is its intense hatred of truth. It is quite difficult to provide a reasonable explanation for unreasonable behavior(s). Yet we can all remember times when we’ve witnessed the fury of a person faced with the hurtful truth.

Pride negatively affects all men’s hearts.

When forced to countenance the reality of Christ, a choice must be made. Jesus made bold claims and attached great significance to them. He told us to repent and believe the Gospel or face damnation. Prideful hearts are enraged at having such an ultimatum presented to them. In addition to this, prideful men hate having their significance eclipsed by someone else. For example, Jesus manifested a level of moral excellence and power that took the spotlight from the Pharisees. Likewise, modern day rejecters of Christ hate the idea of being considered inferior to anyone or anything. The comforts afforded men by modern instrumentality spoils their flesh and seduces their minds. They are victims of their own deception, being deluded by a well-situated existence. Pride can fool men and make them believe that science and technology will ultimately win the day for humanity; they presume to foolishly believe that men have outgrown their need for God.

It is one thing to disbelieve a truth, but it is an entirely different matter when we fight against it.

We admit the existence of truly indifferent persons. They obliviously breeze through life not giving a whit about the origin and meaning of human existence; they take no thought for the future of their own souls. We will speak to those vacuous personalities in the final section.

For those contentious persons who claim to simply lack belief in God, we have a question. Why can they not stop raging against Him? Christ Himself, during His earthly sojourn, was incessantly maligned and brutally attacked. His Apostles suffered likewise and prophesy tells us that Christianity will continue to be hated and fought against til the end. Pride-filled hate mongers have never been in short supply and will not depart from the Earth until they are ultimately annihilated. Ask the average rejecter of Christ to tell you of the god he or she doesn’t believe in, and you will most likely not believe in that god either. The heart of their problem is the problem of their prideful hearts. They are so set on not being ruled by God, they haven’t even bothered to find out who the God of the Bible is. They are ruled by pride and not love or wisdom; they have forfeited their immortal souls to be malignant minions in Satan’s army.

II.) Moral depravity

“God will be perfectly just in condemning those who rejected Christ. They saw the Light, but hated it and turned away from it because they loved their sin.” – J. C. Ryle (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], 3:164)

Depravity originates from Latin words meaning “very crooked” and ‘moral depravity’ is commonly understood to be “the state or an instance of moral corruption” [3] Sinfulness and moral depravity are different in that a sin (verb) can indeed be a depraved action, but moral depravity (noun) is the unregenerate state of being. Therefore, a morally depraved person is a reprobate and one mired in sinful behavior. “Sinful man is a slave of his flesh’s passions. He walks according to the course of the world, and is partner with the devil in revolt against the Kingdom and good pleasure of God.” – Domenic Marbaniang

The morally depraved reject Christ in favor of self-gratification

We are free to act as we choose, but God’s moral law dictates whether an act is right or wrong. When we continually, knowingly gravitate toward immoral choices and choose sinful behavior over that which is Godly, we are morally depraved. A person will not knowingly, continually behave as a reprobate unless they love sin more than God. The love of sin equates to a love of self. Unbridled sin, among other things, is that self-seeking act of gratifying one’s own desires without compunction. The love of sin pulls us away from God because, we know He hates sin and commands us to avoid it. A morally depraved person is committed to a sinful, selfish lifestyle. This type of person has literally chosen self -gratification as their Lord and master.
Christ exposes our sin

One of Christ’s primary functions was to proclaim the will of God. In doing so, He made clear what was and was not morally correct behavior. Prior to this, the sins of many were hidden in that they weren’t exposed as actually being sins. John 15:22 says, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.” So, the world hates Christ in the face of the undeniable revelation He provided by His word (John 15:22). And it was not only Christ’s words, but His actions also which exposed the shortcomings of men who thought they were morally upright. John 15:24 says, “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.”

We are responsible for our choices

Moral depravity in the face of Christ’s revelation is a willful, volitional state of the human heart. Romans 10:10 says, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Until the human will relents in its rejection of Christ’s truth, until the heart is renewed, moral depravity prevails. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Feeding our carnality dulls our spiritual discernment. We are, therefore, left to our carnal pursuits as the Holy Spirit solicits but does not coerce acceptance of Christ.

Those who reject Christ are no different from the rejecters of God existing from the beginning of humanity. In 2 Timothy 3:8 we read, “Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” Here Timothy is comparing false teachers in Ephesus to Egyptian sorcerers who opposed Moses. In both cases, we learn of morally depraved men who have a deep seated, malignant hatred of truth. Men reject truth when they have corrupt minds. They are quite literally enemies of truth because of their unrepentant, reprobate minds. Minds governed by carnality are not subject to God’s moral law and indeed cannot be (Rom 8:7). This reprobate rejection of truth makes one susceptible to satanic doctrines and even unbelief of all things theistic. Lies accepted as truth in the reprobate mind take hold and are all but impossible to displace with sound doctrine.

Aldous Huxley, son of Thomas Huxley, writes: “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; and consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do. For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning – the Christian meaning, they insisted – of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever.” [4]

Here, Huxley openly admits that his aversion to Christianity was part of a particular agenda. It was not that he couldn’t believe in Christ, but that he didn’t want to. He openly states that he saw Christian morality as an impediment to erotic whimsy. So, Huxley remained deliberately ignorant of what serving Christ would do to change his life because he had no intention of changing.

III.) Willful ignorance

Francis Thompson wrote: “Maybe the atheist cannot find God for the same reason a thief cannot find a policeman.”

Getting a handle on what willful ignorance is

Willful ignorance can be understood as a deliberate avoidance of being informed in order to give oneself an excuse for failing to change course or countenance undesired truths. “Apart from this revelation, their sin would have belonged to the times of ignorance, which God overlooked” (Acts 17:30-31). So, what we don’t know won’t hurt us, right? Actually, this verse in no way excuses those who are ‘willfully’ ignorant. Those who willfully remain ignorant of God’s truths are fooling themselves. While we may only be held responsible for the things we are given, God is not mocked (Gal 6:7). A person who is truly uninformed can be honest before God. Yet God knows the hearts of men and will judge those who willfully hide their eyes from His truth. “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” – Plato

Examining creation

For those who would claim that the existence of God is not ‘forcefully obvious’, we have a question. Is the created Universe and all that it contains not a forceful evidence of divine design and power? It is not the Universe or the Earth which originally gave life to mankind. Yet they do bear the fingerprints of God and give evidence that He alone is the Creator of all things. By looking at nature, we are able to discern the things of God and have no valid reason for failing to do so (Rom 1:20). Only the willfully ignorant deliberately blind themselves to this truth. Refusal to believe that which is true is no different from willfully embracing lies. In both scenarios we make fools of ourselves.

Romans 1:21-22 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

Paul spoke forcefully in Romans 1, not because the Pagans didn’t know God, but because of their pretense. Anti-theists and their ilk scoff and rail at such assertions. Yet the Apostle’s view was not a judgmental, reckless accusation. Paul spoke from a conclusion rooted in common sense and divine revelation about the human heart. We humans have an amazing capacity for suppressing the truth no matter how much is shown to us. Today, just as in Paul’s time, people still refuse to accept the existence of God simply because they don’t want to (Rom 1:28).

Summation

When we know better, but pridefully refuse and suppress the truth, we foolishly submit to the darkening of our own hearts (Rom 1:24-25). The downward spiral of human depravity is set in motion by a prideful heart which is dead set on serving self and carnality (Rom 1:25-27). Rejection of Christ equates to rejecting Father God and leads us to damnation in the end.

I humbly adjure all skeptics and anti-theists alike to consider the following point closely. No matter what you’ve experienced in your life, no matter what you’ve seen other humans do, never stop looking for the truth. Don’t let outrage and disillusionment dissuade you from finding what true Christians have already found. A true Christian isn’t out to gather people to himself, but to Christ. We seek to gather people to Christ for Christ’s sake and theirs.

In fact, let the following scripture speak for us regarding pure intentions. In 2 Corinthians 4:3-5 we read, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
References

[1] Atheism – creation.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://creation.com/atheism
[2] Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Mark, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1985], 110.
[3] Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged. S.v. “depravity.” Retrieved September 12 2015 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/depravity
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[4] Aldous Huxley, “Ends and Means, 1937”

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