17. Why Do People Refuse to Believe in God? Notes (A4)

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This is the 18th teaching in our series “Growing Deep in the Gospel” and is the second one dealing with defending the gospel. In this study we answered the question “Why Do People Refuse to Believe in God?”. To start we looked at Bible verses that showed us why people should believe in God and why people don’t. Then we looked at quotes from two books that showed us why people don’t believe from different perspectives and we finished by looking how we could help people to find God.

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17. Why Do People Refuse to Believe in God? Notes (A4)

  1. 1. Why Do People Refuse to Believe in God?Growing Deep in the Gospel - Defending the GospelLast Time - Why Defend the Gospel? 1. It is one of the ways we love others. 2. It goes hand-in-hand with evangelism. 3. To remove obstacles to belief. 4. It helps Christians to know their faith. 5. To protect the Church from heresy. 6. To follow the Biblical examples. 7. Because the Bible tells us to.What is Apologetics?It comes from a Greek word apologia which means to give a reason or defense.… always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is inyou…1 Peter 3:15 (NKJ)Apologetics is presenting reasonable defenses for the truth of the gospel and Christianity.Goal of Apologetics 1. To strengthen and to mature the faith of Christians. 2. To remove obstacles and clarify issues in order to bring unbelievers to a recognition of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and have them repent and put their faith in Him.Today - Why Do People Refuse to Believe in God?Why Believe?Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV 84)He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet theycannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.Romans 2:14-16 (NLT)Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when theyinstinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written intheir hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doingright. And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus,will judge everyone’s secret life.Psalm 19:1-2 (NLT)The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day theycontinue to speak; night after night they make him known.Romans 1:19-20 (NIV)...since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are withoutexcuse.
  2. 2. Why Unbelief?Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT)The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows howbad it is?Isaiah 5:20 (NIV)Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness,Quote by Ray ComfortThe atheist does the opposite of the regular idolater. He quote-mines the Scriptures and searchesout the harsher judgments of God, and builds an image of God he finds to be repulsive. Then,once he has made his idol, he flatly rejects it. And so he should. The image that he has made ofGod is evil. It is without love and mercy. And so the atheist has the same problem as the idolater.The image only exists in the atheist’s place of imagery...in his imagination.Psalm 14:1-3 (NIV)The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no onewho does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any whounderstand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no onewho does good, not even one.The Hebrew word rendered fool in verse 1 denotes one who is morally deficient.1 Corinthians 2:14 (NLT)But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish tothem and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spiritmeans.2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NIV)And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age hasblinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays theglory of Christ, who is the image of God.John 3:19-21 (NIV)This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of lightbecause their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into thelight for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light,so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.1 John 4:4-6 (NIV)You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you isgreater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from theviewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows Godlistens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spiritof truth and the spirit of falsehood.Ephesians 4:17-19 (NLT)With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelesslyconfused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because theyhave closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame.They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. 2
  3. 3. Romans 1:18-20 (NIV)The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness ofpeople, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plainto them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’sinvisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, beingunderstood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.Romans 1:21-23 (NIV)For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but theirthinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise,they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like amortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.Romans 1:24-25 (NIV)Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for thedegrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, andworshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.Romans 1:26-27 (NIV)Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged naturalsexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relationswith women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with othermen, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.Romans 1:28 (NIV)Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gavethem over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.Romans 1:29-31 (NIV)They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full ofenvy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,slanderers, God-haters, insolent,arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have nounderstanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.Romans 1:32 (NIV)Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they notonly continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.Summary of Why People Refuse to Believe in God 1. Their hearts are deceitful, wicked, darkened and hard. 2. They love sin and darkness; hate God and the light; want to be their own god. 3. They are alienated from God and His life. 4. Their minds are corrupt, they suppress the truth, their thinking is futile, they are ignorant and are enemies in their minds. 5. They are not thankful. 6. They are prideful and arrogant. 7. They are blinded by Satan.The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief by James. S. SpiegelJames is a professor of philosophy and religion at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. 3
  4. 4. Quotes from the BookHow do leading atheists account for their unbelief? As one reads Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, andHitchens, two principal lines of argument emerge: the problem of evil and the scientific irrelevancyof God.Problem of Evil...one cannot, whether by appeals to evil or anything else, eliminate the need to explain theexistence of the universe.At most, evil should prompt us to reconsider what kind of God exists, not whether God exists.Scientific IrrelevancyThe notion that science is sufficient to account for all of human knowledge and experiences.Naturalism can explain neither the existence of the cosmos nor its vast instances of design.Descent into Atheism 1. Precipitated by some personal rebellion. 2. Withdrawal from contact with fellow believers. 3. Growing doubts about their faith. 4. Continued indulgence in sin. 5. Conscious rejection of God.Added by William (not in the book)Because God failed to live up to their expectations or allowed something bad to happen.Books on Studies of Well-Known Atheists 1. Faith of the Fatherless by Paul C. Vitz, teaches psychology at New York University. (atheist who became Catholic). 2. Intellectuals by 20th century historian Paul Johnson. 3. Degenerate Moderns by E. Michael Jones, writer (raised Catholic but left the faith to join the hippie movement in the 1960’s then later he returned to the faith of his youth).Quotes and Observations from These BooksReflecting on his change of mind, Vitz observes that his “reasons” for becoming an atheist in thefirst place, during his college years, were not intellectual so much as social and psychological.Paul JohnsonThe philosophical systems and social ideals of many modern intellectuals were decided by theirwill to be immoral, not their quest for truth. They wrote the books they did to suit their personallives, not vice versa.E. Michael JonesThere are ultimately only two alternatives in the intellectual life: either one conforms desire to truthor one conforms truth to desire...Aldous Huxley - Writer from EnglandFor myself as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaningless wasessentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberationfrom a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. Weobjected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. 4
  5. 5. We don’t know because we don’t want to know. It is our will that decides how and upon whatsubjects we shall use our intelligence. Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do sobecause, for one reason or another, it suits their books that the world should be meaningless.Thomas Nagel - Atheist PhilosopherI want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent andwell-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God, and,naturally, hope that I’m right about my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there tobe a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.Descent into Atheism Summary - James S. SpiegelThe descent into atheism is caused by a complex of moral-psychological factors, not a perceivedlack of evidence for God’s existence. The atheist willfully rejects God, though this is precipitated byimmoral indulgences and typically a broken relationship with his or her father. Thus the choice ofthe atheistic paradigm is motivated by non-rational factors, some of which are psychological andsome of which are moral in nature.Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril by Margaret HaffernanMargaret is a former producer for BBC Radio and TV, and has CEO of several interactivemultimedia companies. She is also a writer and author of several books.Quotes from the BookThis is where our willful blindness originates: in the innate human desire for familiarity, forlikeness, that is fundamental to the ways our minds work.That we fight so hard to protect our self-esteem is a universal. It doesn’t matter how successful orwealthy people are. They all need to feel they’re good people, even, or especially, when they’rebad.It feels easier to be blind than to deal with uncomfortable feelings.If you maintain an illusion, you don’t have to make the hard choices. Life just goes on. But if youaccept reality, it forces a huge decision and many people want to avoid that.Nations, institutions, individuals can all be blinded by love, by the need to believe themselves goodand worthy and valued. We simply could not function if we believed ourselves to be otherwise. Butwhen we are blind to the flaws and failings of what we love, we aren’t effective either. As ColmO’Gorman said, we make ourselves powerless when we pretend we don’t know. That is theparadox of blindness: We think it will make us safe even as it puts us in danger.Much of our identity is defined by what we believe and we actively seek confirmation of thosebeliefs. Actually, we go even further: Our brains treat differently any information that mightchallenge our closely held beliefs.Fear of change and fear of conflict have the same effect. (causing willful blindness)As human beings, we are highly driven to find and to protect the relationships that make us feelgood about ourselves and that make us feel safe. That’s why we marry people like us, live inneighbourhoods full of people like us, and work with people like us. Each one of those mirrorsconfirms our sense of self-worth. 5
  6. 6. Why Willful Blindness Summary 1. To feel good about ourselves 2. To confirm our sense of self-worth 3. To protect our self-esteem, even if we’re bad 4. To avoid uncomfortable feelings 5. So you don’t have to make hard choices 6. To believe we are good, worthy and valued 7. To confirm what we already believe 8. To feel safe and avoid change and conflictWe laugh when we see images of ostriches sticking their heads in the sand but we, who shouldknow better, do the same thing over and over again.I saw a connection between what Margaret Heffernan wrote in her book and what Tim Keller wrotein his book “Counterfeit Gods”.Three Main Heart Idols 1. Comfort/Security 2. Affirmation/Approval 3. Power/ControlWhat Can We Do to Help People Find God?Address the Heart 1. Pray for God to open their hearts - Acts 16:14 2. Pray for wisdom and guidance 3. Love them and invite them into your life 4. Live out the gospel in front on them 5. Show them that no one comes to God in their own power or thinking 6. Encourage them to seek God 7. Ask Questions 8. Show them what is needed most to find GodShow ThemRomans 8:29-30 (NIV)For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that hemight be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called;those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.Ephesians 1:4-5 (NKJ)… just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy andwithout blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ toHimself, according to the good pleasure of His will,Encourage ThemDeuteronomy 4:29 (NIV)But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heartand with all your soul. 6
  7. 7. 1 Chronicles 28:9 (NLT)…For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will findhim. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.Jeremiah 29:13 (NKJ)And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.Acts 17:26-27 (NIV)From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he markedout their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that theywould seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one ofus.Romans 10:12-13 (NIV)For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richlyblesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believethat God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.Questions to Ask 1. What do you mean that you don’t believe in God? 2. Why do you believe there is no God? 3. If there is no God how did the universe come into existence? 4. If God was real would you want Him in your life? 5. Why are you so angry when I talk about God?What is Needed Most - A Humble and Sincere HeartJames 4:6, 10 (NKJ)…God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble...Humble yourselves in the sight of theLord, and He will lift you up.A Humble Prayer “God, if You are real, I want You in my life. I beg You, please open up my heart to You and give me understanding of You and the truth.”Reflection Questions  How would you summarize why people refuse to believe in God?  What are the best things we can do to help people believe in God?Grow Deep – Let the gospel go deep into your heart and out into your life. 1.Know what you believe and why you believe it! 2.Take time to read the “Why Believe” articles on despreisus.ro.Last WordTake a hold of the gospel so Jesus can take a hold of you!In Closing - 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patientwith you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 7
  8. 8. Review Questions 1. What stood out to you in the Bible verses on why people don’t believe? Explain why. 2. What did you find interesting from what was shared from the books “The Making of an Atheist” and “Willful Blindness”? 3. What connections do you see between what was written in “Willful Blindness” and the three main heart idols in Tim Keller’s book “Counterfeit Gods”? 4. What are your thoughts and observations from what was shared about how to help people find God? Is there anything you would add or change? 5. What are the main things that you learned from this teaching that you think will be helpful to you?To Learn More 1. Review the Bible verses on why people don’t believe then write out a summary of the key things in your own words. 2. Likewise, read the quotes from “The Making of an Atheist” and “Willful Blindness” and write up a summary of the main things you learn from these quotes. 3. Continue to read the “Why Believe” articles on despreisus.ro until you become familiar with what they say. 4. Go out into the real world and put to practice the things you learned in this teaching. 5. Review these notes regularly and write down what God is teaching you. 6. Discuss items 1-5 with someone or in a small group. 8

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