Saturday, June 20, 2009

True Nature of Unbelief All Non-believers Share

THE FOLLOWING quote is from the pen of Horatius Bonar (1808 - 1889), the great Scottish preacher, poet, author and hymn writer. It talks about the characteristics of the true nature of unbelief. It’s worth reading and pondering. This from a post last week on Tim Challis' site:

In all unbelief there are these two things—--a good opinion of one’s self and a bad opinion of God.

Man’s good opinion of himself makes him think it quite possible to win God’s favor by his own religious performances; and his bad opinion of God makes him unwilling and afraid to put his case wholly into His hands.

The object of the Holy Spirit’s work (in convincing of sin) is to alter the sinner’s opinion of himself, and so to reduce his estimate of his own character that he shall think of himself as God does, and so cease to suppose it possible that he can be justified by an excellency of his own. The Spirit then alters his evil opinion of God, so as to make him see that the God with whom he has to do is really the God of all grace.

But the inquirer denies that he has a good opinion of himself and owns himself a sinner. Now a man may SAY this, but really to KNOW it is something more than SAYING. Besides, he may be willing to take the name of sinner to himself, in common with his fellow-men, and yet not at all own himself such a sinner as God says he is—such a sinner as needs the cross, and blood, and righteousness of the Son of God. It takes a great deal to destroy a man’s good opinion of himself; how difficult it is to make a man think of himself as God does! What but the almightiness of the Divine Spirit can accomplish this?

Unbelief, then, is the belief of a lie and the rejection of the truth. Accept, then, the character of God as given in the gospel; the Holy Spirit will not give you peace irrespective of your views of God’s character. It is in connection with THE TRUTH concerning the true God, “the God of all grace,” that the Spirit gives peace. That which He shows us of ourselves is only evil; that which He shows us of God is only good!


gcotharn said...

thanks for posting this.

Ellen said...

"Unbelief, then, is the belief of a lie and the rejection of the truth. Accept, then, the character of God as given in the gospel"

The above statement must include the presumption that YOUR concept of God MUST be the only CORRECT concept of God, and all others are lies.

Incredibly arrogant and narrow.

Bill Maher was right when he recently said: "Democrats are the new Republicans.... Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital. So, what we have is one perfectly good party for hedge fund managers, credit card companies, banks, defense contractors, big agriculture and the pharmaceutical lobby … that's the Democrats.

And they sit across the aisle from a small group of religious lunatics, flat earthers, and Civil War reenactors who mostly communicate by AM radio and call themselves the Republicans -- and who actually worry that Obama is a socialist. He’s not even a liberal!

jAne said...

In May I spoke at a graduation and shared some thoughts (woven here and there) by Bonar...

In one of her novels, Jan Karon was inspired by Horatius Bonar’s hymn, “Thy Way, Not Mine, O Lord”: Karon shared . . .
“Does the future in its turn seem to frighten me? I smile at the foolish fancies of my imagination; is not my future in God’s Hands? What; when all that will befall me tomorrow, next year, ten years, twenty years hence, is ordained by Him, shall I distress myself with the thought that it may not be good for me! Lord! Be Thou my Guide, and choose my lot, as may seem best to Thee!”

jAne at

Webutante said...

Thank you jAne for this wonderful quote....I'm reminded of John the Baptist's statement that God must increase and he must decrease...

Ellen, this is all in God's Word.

Ellen said...

Which of the many 'gods' are you referring to?

Reminds me of that phrase, "I don't know much about it, but I know what I like."

What that really means is: "I like what I'm most familiar with. That is what I know."

fraydna52 said...

To say that "YOUR concept of God MUST be the only CORRECT concept of God, and all others are lies" is "arrogant and narrow" requires one to believe that one's own concept, whatever it may be, is more "CORRECT" than the one quoted. Is one not then falling into the trap of being judged by the rules one has set for others?

If one does believe that all religions are simply different ways of approaching a god (gods?) whom no human being can really know, one still has a problem. Using the old "blind men and the elephant" analogy, i.e., we all see just part of the picture, overlooks one thing. The teller of the tale knows the elephant - what it is, how it behaves, and what it looks like - otherwise, the story is meaningless.

Christianity simply maintains that God has made a way, through Christ, for all the nations to come to know God.

One is not compelled to believe it, and without the Holy Spirit's work in the heart, it indeed is foolishness.

Webutante said...

As I drove back from Atlanta late this afternoon, I listened to one of Tim Keller's sermons from Redeemer in NYC. He talked about exclusivity and referred to the elephant analogy and how in the end, the one who concludes from this that everyone has a portion of the truth, but no one has the full truth...that person presumes they know what the whole truth is.

He goes on, we all believe in a "religious doctrine" of some kind, even those who adamantly declare all paths lead to God or declare no paths lead to God.

I actually jotted down some notes on the way and will write more here either later or in the morning...a bit worn out, but his sermon dazzled me so much that I listened to it twice.

Ellen said...

"One is not compelled to believe it"...

If this were true, Christianity would have a whole lot more validity. What kind of god requires worship of followers under the penalty of eternal torture (hell) and holds out the fantasy carrot of an everlasting life? I'd say that's pretty compelling. Sounds more like the authoritarian regime of a cruel dictator. The Muslim fable of "72 virgins enjoyed by the martyrs," a concept Christians love to ridicule, is really no less absurd.

No one knows what death brings. All we have is belief and faith. Belief, like faith, is a human frailty... unfortunately used by some to divide and subjugate people, as most religions often do, and this blog post is a prime example.

Love and kindness have a whole lot more validity to me than concepts involving worship, faith, beliefs, and the supernatural ... and I'm not saying that the supernatural does not exist. No one knows, especially us.

Webutante said...

You make many good points and raise very typical questions, Ellen. I want to nibble at them over the summer and later today. I am at the moment covered up with other work, and so will have to leave these until later...

Maybe some of my readers can also add a few comments also.

fraydna52 said...

I would gently reiterate my view that there is no compulsion to believe except the compulsion of love.

That said, it is certainly not logical in human terms that God would give his image bearers free will to choose to believe or not and that the choice would have such eternal consequences.

I am very sorry that some people who call themselves Christians may have given such a poor witness on behalf of Christ.

And I consider these questions a call to self-examination regarding my own life.

Thanks to all for a very thought-provoking and challenging post and comments.

Webutante said...

Thank you Fraydna for adding so much here.

Ellen wrote:

"What kind of god requires worship of followers under the penalty of eternal torture (hell) and holds out the fantasy carrot of an everlasting life?"

Answer: A God that loved us all so much that He came to earth to take the penalty we ALL, deserved---the penalty of death and eternal separation from God (what hell is)---and die on the Cross to pay our penalty, that includes mine and yours too Ellen, and to give each of us the chance to escape eternal damnation from original sin. we're all under. In the New Testament Christ doesn't threaten to punish us as much as he offers to save us from ourselves and the many ways we've put ourselves in the place of God in every aspect of our lives.

God says over and over that Christ has given us the ONLY possibility of redemption from the damnation we already live under. His blood on the Cross was the sacrifice---He became th Sacrificial Lamb of God. Because Christ has therefore paid each of our penalties through his suffereing and passion, our accepting His free gift is the only way for each of us to cross over from condemnation and death to life and true transformation. While you see this as mean and arrogant, it is really Greatest gift of Love the World has ever known.

Ellen wrote:

"I'd say that's pretty compelling. Sounds more like the authoritarian regime of a cruel dictator. The Muslim fable of "72 virgins enjoyed by the martyrs," a concept Christians love to ridicule, is really no less absurd."

Answer: Actually, I'd have to disagree with you again. It's interesting that you'd bring up 72 Virgins and the promises of Islam martyrdom.

Did you know that real Christianity is the only religion that promises ultimate transformation and renewal of the physical world---A new heaven and a new earth---and our physical bodies that exists? All other religions promise escape from this world and the body---hence the 72 maidens in the great beyond. But followers of The Way understand that Christ came to begin this transformation of each of us and the entire World one day, rather than an escape from it. Yes we may die, but we'll all come back into resurrected bodies one day and a resurrected heaven on earth.

And Christ died sacrificing and loving those who didn't love him, in fact hated and despised Him...he died for all of us who don't deserve it Ellen---that's you and me both---so none of us who have accepted His Gift of Salvation can look
down on anyone else. We can only look up to Him in humbleness and praise Him and give thanks---not because we have to, but because we want to. It's not through our performance that any of us are saved, but rather through Christ's work and performance on the Cross.

Ellen said...

Thanks for your detailed response. I really appreciate your point of view. The passion of Christ is a very evocative and emotional story that is persuasive to anyone who has even a little empathy. There is certainly no harm in belief based on emotion but the fact remains, your post attempts to disparage and divide, demonizing non-believers of the Christian religion.

It must be noted that humans are fallible and the Bible was written by men. Throughout human history there have been Messiahs, in fact, more than 2 dozen 'major Messiahs' that come forward and presented themselves to the world with their credentials. Gods, Saviors, and Sons of God, according to history or tradition have, in past times, descended from heaven, and taken upon themselves the form of men, and furnishing incontestable evidence of a divine origin, by various miracles, marvelous works, and superlative virtues; and finally these messiahs laid the foundation for the salvation of the world, and ascended back to heaven... their stories strikingly similar to that of Jesus but predating his birth, sometimes by over 1000 yrs.

To name a few...
# Krishna of Hindustan.
# Buddha Sakia of India.
# Zulis, or Zhule, also Osiris and Horus, of Egypt.
# Odin of the Scadinavians.
# Crite of Chaldea.
# Zoroaster and Mithra of Persia.
# Baal and Taut, "the only Begotten of God," of Phoenicia.
# Indra of Tibet.
# Bali of Afghanistan.
# Jao of Nepal.
# Thammuz of Syria.
# Atys of Phrygia.
# Xaniolxis of Thrace.
# Zoar of the Bonzes.
# Adad of Assyria.
# Deva Tat, and Sammonocadam of Siam.
# Alcides of Thebes.
# Beddru of Japan.
# Hesus or Eros, and Bremrillah, of the Druids.
# Cadmus of Greece.
# Gentaut and Quexalcote of Mexico.
# Fohi and Tien of China.
# Adonis, son of the virgin Io of Greece.
# Prometheus of Caucasus.
# Mohamud, or Mahomet, of Arabia.
# Jesus Christ of Nazareth

Will the real Messiah please stand up? We are only humans that are in this world together. We obviously have a common need for a spiritual leader and answers to questions of life and death we can not discern.

The bottom line here is that: If our beliefs are so dogmatic that they separate us from one another, create division - the way religions have done throughout history, then what good does religion do us as a species outside of our immediate realm where we associate with mostly like-minded similarly believing people? Should we stay divided among spiritual and ethnic lines? In my opinion, that does not make for a positive future for humanity.

Webutante said...

Well I agree that "religions" can be divisive.

Let me say only briefly tonight one point I neglected to say last night before turning in:

Christ Jesus of The Way was the only Messiah that was a God, then born as a man. All the rest you've listed above were born men and then became leaders of various movement. Christ was here,there and everywhere before the Foundations of the Earth were formed and spoken. This is profoundly different from all the so called saviours born as men above.

Webutante said...

One other thing, Ellen. Followers of The Way do not believe the Bible is fallible. Rather we know it was written through men through the power and direction of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God.

In other words, it was written for man by God through the prophets of the Old Testament and also through various apostles who had first hand accounts and encounters of Jesus during his time on Earth, before he rose and ascended to the Right Hand of the Father.

Webutante said...

Ellen, In your non-stop attempts to disprove Christ here, I can only direct you back to the original point of this post: Most non-believers have an inordinately high regard of themselves and their views of how things are... and a very low regard for God.

I would add one other characteristic of all non-believers here too: the adherence to a basic relativistic belief that all religions are equally valid and that any religion that purports to corner the truth is thus invalidated. I happen to disagree with this world view and the one that you espouse.

Finally, only the Holy Spirit can bring us to Christ; it's never just through our rational thought processes. When we do come back, we slowly learn that every jot and tittle of Salvation History is true and what's left, will come to fruition as prophesized. Not because I say so, but because God in His Word says so over and over again.

The proof of the power of Christ are transformed and healed lives, and in opened eyes and hearts.

Ellen said...

Most non-believers have an inordinately high regard of themselves and their views of how things are... and a very low regard of God.

You have proven my point. You see your beliefs as more valid than others who don't believe similarly, and you disparage those who don't share your beliefs. That is what our discussion has shown, not that I am 'trying to disprove God'.

I hope that a lesson can be learned by this discussion and it's implications for the future of humanity because no religion has a corner on truth. I prefer to think that in some way, they all do and that what is important are virtues of love, kindness, cooperation, and learning.

Religion as you have described it, benefits only the individual, not humanity as a whole. The concept of "my way or perish" will never work, and that is essentially what you stand for.

Webutante said...

Hold your horses, Ellen. I am not disparaging anyone...don't project that on me.

However, I believe what the Bible says about sharing the Gospel with anyone who will listen. I believe what it says about those who ultimately don't come to Christ. But there's not disparaging there.

Do you know why? It's because I didn't deserve the kind and gracious gift of Grace I received and didn't and couldn't have worked for it....It was all, ALL, Christ's doing and so it's a humbling process.

And as to whether you think the way God works through humanity and the individual, I'll not presume to speak for God. You'll have to take it up with him.

As to learning a lesson from this discussion, I realize only the Holy Spirit gives understanding no matter what I may say here.

Ellen said...

I am not disparaging anyone...don't project that on me.

Your post says:
"Unbelief, then, is the belief of a lie and the rejection of the truth."

And you don't find that disparaging?

When one stops seeking the truth, learning ceases. When one believes in an absolute truth, there is no room for learning, and in the case of fundamentalist beliefs such as yours, no chance for bridging the division and bigotry toward those who believe differently, or simply just don't know. There can never be any proof that these men who wrote the Gospels are any more credible than those profits who came before them, or what is believed by 1 billion Hindus, or 1.5 billion Muslims, or 400 million Buddhists. As I said in the beginning, we tend to believe what we are most familiar with, it doesn't make it correct or more credible... only in our minds.

It is easier to bow to an authority who proclaims an absolute truth than to go to the effort to seek it ourselves. We humans want an easy path. Worship and thee will be forgiven and will have everlasting life. Fall in line, do as you are commanded.

As humanity has seen repeated in history, progress and learning come to those who think outside the confines of traditional and fundamentalist thought. Just think what could be achieved by humanity if worldwide cooperation existed. Fundamentalist religion is the #1 impediment to world-wide unity because, as you admitted, it is divisive. It also breeds ignorance and a lack of willingness to understand and embrace those who are different.

fraydna52 said...

One of the hardest lessons I've had to learn as a believer in Christ is the depths of my own depravity.

No, I've never committed any great overt evils in the world, but the desire to has certainly been in my heart and mind at times. And that's what matters in the final analysis.

The consequences of actions are more severe, but thoughts are just as damaging in their own way.

This discussion makes me think of a couple of things - the parable of the sower, and a quote from an elderly preacher: "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."

I appreciate the opportunity to respond and the civility of tone here.

Webutante said...

Well thank you both.

Ellen, no I don't think it's disparaging, actually. And fraydna is so right on...when we come onto the path of Christ, actually, we find that a powerful spotlight is shined on the depths of our own depravity. Far different than anything you can now understand, turning your life over to Christ is often turning your life over to difficulties beyond your comprehension.

Have you ever heard the story of William Borden of the Borden dairy family? I'll post it soon on a Sunday.

If it's real, this journey is not about sitting piously in church looking down at other people thinking pious and absolute thoughts. Far, far, far from it. And I'll tell you what, it's more challenging than you could ever imagine.

That's all I'll say for now, except fraydna, I ask you to pray with me about this one....

We can continue this in later posts and through the summer.

Best to you Ellen.

fraydna52 said...

It is a privilege to pray with you and I will do so.

From Thomas Aquinas:

"O Creator of the universe, who has set the stars in the heavens and causes the sun to rise and set, shed the light of your wisdom into the darkness of my mind.

Fill my thoughts with the loving knowledge of you, that I may bring your light to others.

Just as you can make even babies speak your truth, instruct my tongue and guide my pen to convey the wonderful glory of the gospel.

Make my intellect sharp, my memory clear, and my words eloquent, so that I may faithfully interpret the mysteries which you have revealed."

Webutante said...

Amen. Thank you so much and God bless.