Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"I Believe in God, but Not Jesus"

God talk is an incredibly delusional activity.

The number of people who say they "believe in God" but who do not believe in Jesus is alarmingly high, especially in regions of the world that are culturally/nominally Christian. The sentiment is nearly everywhere.

"I believe in God. I say my prayers each morning and each night."

Or, "I believe in God. I know He has seen me through a lot of struggles."

Or, "I believe in God. And I don't play with Him."

I'm glad for all of these statements, and they contain some important truths. For example, God is not to be toyed with. He isn't a teddy bear. He is to be reverenced and loved and worshipped in awe. And God does make His rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. His common grace toward creation means that a whole bunch of people who do not know Him experience His goodness in myriad ways, including deliverance in struggle. These things can be affirmed, and should be.

But we dare not stop there! This kind of belief in God is hardly any different from James' famous assessment: "You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder" (James 2:19).

The reality: it is impossible to believe in God in any saving way and not come to Him through faith in Jesus. The unavoidable Person in all creation is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

We do not have God the Father apart from God the Son. "No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him" (Matt. 11:27). Or Jesus' extraordinary words in John 14:6-7a: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well."

Appeals to 'believing in God' without believing in the Son are empty idolatries, demon-like faith often without the shuddering. So much God talk allows the veneer of religiosity and faith, but denies the power by denying the Son. And that self-deception is eternally dangerous.

Of course, the opposite problem exists as well. There are those who love Jesus meek and mild but who deny the Father, at least any biblical understanding of the Father. But Matthew 11:27 speaks to them as well: "No one knows the Son except the Father...." Or, John 10:30, "I and the Father are one." And John 14:9, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."

The Father and the Son come together. You can not have one and not the other. Either you have the Father with and through the Son, or you have nothing. Vague God talk obscures this critical reality.


Stephen Ley said...

Excellent post.

Calvin said (I paraphrase) that no one experiences God as Father, author of salvation, or in any favorable way, until Christ the Mediator comes forward to reconcile us to him.

Christina Cooper said...

This is wonderful!!! I had a person tell me recently that Jesus was nice and God was mean... I couldn't believe it. I explained it to them, but I wish that I would have seen this then. Thanks.

Christina Cooper
If I Only Had One Wish

Anonymous said...

I guess that I am astonished by the close-mindedness of this article. I really wish people would stop over-analyzing scripture and stand back to see the big picture. I do believe that there is one all powerful being (call it God or whatever you choose). But, I also believe (like most Christians believe) that God gave us the freewill to decide for ourselves what to do with our lives. I'm sorry but one of the things I know for a fact is that MEN wrote the bible. I didn't just magically appear one day out of thin air with a magical 'poof'. In fact most of the writing done for the bible was done many, many years after Jesus actually walked the Earth. Look it up. Do your research. Maybe it's just me, but I don't believe everything that is writin in a book. I'm sure the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, ect. all have books that they will defend to the death. But of course you would consider them WRONG simply for the reason that u think that your book is more of the truth than their book is. I have news for you... we all experience God in different ways. We ALL have experienced a life-changing event in which we felt God(or whatever being started this mess')'s presence in a positive way or even a negative (because I believe that the supreme being is the creator of BOTH good and evil). Is that what we base our truth on? A book and some random miricles. I think I'll stand in the "I don't know" line. Because we really don't know. You might THINK you know because 'the bible tells me so'. Well open your mind for a couple seconds to just examine the possibility that maybe only so much is truth and a large part was improvised by the hands of man, who may have been givin the free will to edit out OR edit in certain information. Now I know you Super-Christians prolly stopped reading this article long ago. God forbid that you accept anything but what you've been told. Other Super-Christians will say "well if the bible had flaws God would've fixed them or influenced people to write the right thing". Well first of all, why wouldn't God have influenced those other 'holy' books or influenced the people writing those books. The answer is simple: because he gave us the freedom of choice. Just like the authors of the bible had a choice to put in certain things and take out certain things. Maybe all these religious books are just tests for us to help us realize that we only know what we are told. That is where faith comes in. Do I have faith that there is a God, who started this universe? yes. Something, a supreme force, being, or whatever started this whole thing. After that..... who knows? We only know what we are told!
We don't know

Anonymous said...

"Appeals to 'believing in God' without believing in the Son are
empty idolatries, demon-like faith"

All you have to defend your argument are New Testament verses. And the verses you quote are merely assertions.

The irony is that worshiping God alone is not idolatry at all, but the complete opposite as envisioned by Abraham and Moses.

Please explain how it is idolatry.

FellowElder said...

Anonymous 2,
Thanks for your comments and for dropping by.

I should think that NT verses that assert this position would be enough since in the Scripture it is God doing the asserting. Here's an idea "asserted" by God in His word in several places. I simply trust that God's word is true.

As for Moses and Abraham, Moses begins the Bible in Gen. 1 with a reference to both God and the Spirit of God. By Gen. 18, the pre-incarnate Christ appears to Abraham with two angels. We could go on. As for the NT, I'd point you to Gal. 3:8 and Heb. 11. The one God they were looking to reveals himself most fully in the NT as one God in Three Persons--Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To reject either person is to reject the one God.

Grace and peace,

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know what religion you'd be classified as if you believe in God but not a Messiah?

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is a religion like that but the thought of it makes me marvel. This article basically says if you believe in God and follow the ten commandments but happen to be born in a part of the world that doesn't have the right messiah, you goto hell.

I can't picture God looking over everyone then saying "Ok, all of you lived decent lives, you helped your fellow man and asked for forgiveness when you did wrong. But I got some bad news, 2/3rds of you gotta goto hell, sorry - You had the messiah wrong.

Jews, Islam, Christian - we all believe in the same God but it's the choice of "VP" that'll get you damned.

Anonymous said...

Somebody posted, "I'd like to know what religion you'd be classified as if you believe in God but not a Messiah?"

Muslims have a single, indivisible God and prophets...

and Jewish belief has a God and an on-the-way Messiah...

so, maybe the closest of the big three (Christian, Jewish, and Islamic) faiths might actually be the Muslims.