As I listened to a pastor this morning, I began looking at the many ways we can come to belief, taught through the Resurrection story. First, of course, is hearing the Gospel. Whether from angelic sources as Mary Magdalene (Matt. 28:1-8), or mortal (John 20:17-18, Luke 24:33-5), the point is hearing the Good News. Second, through knowledge of the Scriptures, as the disciples heading to Emmaus learned (Luke 24:13-32). If one is not too busy trying to find ways to nitpick and twist the Word of God, as the Pharisees and Saducees did, the truth can become apparent here too. Third, by "finding the empty tomb," as Peter and John did (John 20:1-10). This is the essence of belief without seeing; they came thinking to see a closed cave, a dead body, the signs of death. Instead, they saw the open tomb, the empty bier, the folded and arranged wrappings- in other words, the signs of life. They were able to see beyond their expectations. And fourth, by personal revelation, as in Thomas' case (John 20:26-9). Sometimes even those touched by God are too stubborn to submit to anything else.
On the other hand, we see in Matt. 28: 11-5 the guards being bribed to say that the body was stolen- to lie to accomplish disbelief. We can use this as a lesson about the reasons for disbelief, if we realize that the chief priests are symbolic of Satan and his motivations, which is no stretch considering John 8:33-4 ("You are of your father, the Devil..."). First let's consider why the guards would accept the bribe (why people accept the lie). While we can and will see other subordinate reasons, the two main ones are in the passage:
v. 12; When they had assembled with the soldiers and taken counsel, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers...
Which means they get their desires out of it. Rejecting God means not having to deal with a conscience beyond nuisance level. I can do what I want.
v. 14; "And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure."
In other words, no consequences. "Imagine there's no heaven/it's easy if you try/ no hell below us/above us only sky..."
Beyond these, there are as I said some important subpoints.
1. Belief in Christ "takes away freedom"; but it's a freedom to bondage. Some people think the definition of free thinking means removing God from all consideration. But look at John 11: 47-8:
"Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, "what shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will take away both our place and nation."
They were afraid that the belief in Christ would take away the freedom they had, even though that "freedom" was being ruled by the Romans. Just so, free thinkers wish to be free of the concept of God to think as they will, even though this "freedom" is actually bondage to sin.
2.There is a certain fear of believing in Christ; over and over, the Gospels say that the leaders wanted to kill Christ "for fear of the people". Why would they fear the people? Because the people's belief would expose the fraudulent "faith" that gave them their power. To learn about Christ is to strip from me my false beliefs; if I want to maintain them, I must avoid knowing Him.
3.Belief in Christ changes one's concept of reality. In Matt. 26:63-66, the priests ask Jesus if He is the Christ of God; He answers yes, and they reject the answer, accusing Him of blasphemy. They couldn't cope with His answer, for that would expose their sin before God. To maintain everything they believed, they had to reject Him. Just so, many who don't want to believe are just too comfortable in their personal world view to allow Him to change it.
4.Belief is a personal insult. In John 18: 19-23, we see the priests question Jesus on His doctrine; His answer, basically, was go to those who believe and ask them. The officer's response shows that the priests were insulted by this. Many free thinkers it would seem think that belief in God insults their intelligence. This goes back to pride, the original sin.
5. The passage in John 8 gives several more similar reasons. In vv 32-39, they throw up tradition, as if their Abrahamic heritage makes them better. In v. 41, they defend themselves with self-righteousness. and from v.52 to the end, they refuse to acknowledge that Jesus, as God, is greater than them. This is something I've seen in many conversations. They cannot conceive of a God with greater motivations and different moral codes than they themselves have. Therefore, they try to apply their standards to God's actions, and come to the conclusion that...
6. He's insane. In John 7:20, 8:48, and 8:52-3 they accuse Jesus of "having a demon", even though many of them had seen Him cast demons out, and Jesus Himself logically proved you can't cast demons out and have one as well (Matt. 12:22-30). But His ways are so"crazy", as Thomas Jefferson said:
"Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being."
To which Paul answers in 1 Cor. 1:23-4:
23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
7. It gives others a knowledge they don't have. In Luke 4:24-30, Jesus explains to the People of Nazareth their disbelief by telling the stories of non-Jews such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian. They became furious and tried to stone Him at the mention that somebody beyond themselves might be gifted with knowledge of God. It reminds me of the violent attack of evolutionist/big bang theorists against scientists who work from a Christian POV. Here's an example from the AP:
Scientist alleges religious discrimination in Ky.
Published December 17, 2010
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – An astronomer argues that his Christian faith and his peers' belief that he is an evolution skeptic kept him from getting a prestigious job as the director of a new student observatory at the University of Kentucky.
Martin Gaskell quickly rose to the top of a list of applicants being considered by the university's search committee. One member said he was "breathtakingly above the other applicants."
Others openly worried his Christian faith could conflict with his duties as a scientist, calling him "something close to a creationist" and "potentially evangelical."
Even though Gaskell says he is not a creationist, he claims he was passed over for the job at UK's MacAdam Student Observatory three years ago because of his religion and statements that were perceived to be critical of the theory of evolution.
Gaskell has sued the university, claiming lost income and emotional distress. Last month a judge rejected a motion from the university and allowed it to go to trial Feb. 8.
"There is no dispute that based on his application, Gaskell was a leading candidate for the position," U.S. District Judge Karl S. Forester wrote in the ruling.
Gaskell later learned that professors had discussed his purported religious views during the search process. Gaskell told the AP in an e-mail that he didn't grow frustrated, but felt "one should not allow universities to get away with religious discrimination."
University scientists wondered to each other in internal e-mails if Gaskell's faith would interfere with the job, which included public outreach, according to court records.
The topic became so heated behind the scenes that even university biologists, who believed Gaskell was a critic of evolution, weighed in by citing a controversial Bible-based museum in Kentucky that had just opened.
"We might as well have the Creation Museum set up an outreach office in biology," biology professor James Krupa wrote to a colleague in an October 2007 e-mail. The museum was making national headlines at the time for exhibits that assert the literal truth of the Bible's creation story.
Science professors cited a lecture Gaskell has given called "Modern Astronomy, the Bible and Creation," which he developed for "Christians and others interested in Bible and science questions...," according to an outline of the lecture. Gaskell told the AP he was invited to give the lecture at UK in 1997, and organizers had read his notes.
The wide-ranging lecture outlines historical scientific figures who discuss God and interpretations of the creation story in the biblical chapter Genesis. Also in the notes, Gaskell mentions evolution, saying the theory has "significant scientific problems" and includes "unwarranted atheistic assumptions and extrapolations," according to court records.
Gaskell was briefly asked about the lecture during his job interview in 2007 with the chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Michael Cavagnero, according to Gaskell's deposition. Gaskell said he felt that questions related to religion during the job interview were "inappropriate."
"I think that if I had a document like this and I was advocating atheism ... I don't think it would be an issue," he said of his lecture.
Science professors also expressed concern that hiring Gaskell would damage the university's image.
An astrophysics professor, Moshe Elitzur, told Cavagnero that the hire would be a "huge public relations mistake," according to an e-mail from Cavagnero in court records.
"Moshe predicts that he would not be here one month before the (Lexington) Herald-Leader headline would read: 'UK hires creationist to direct new student observatory.'"
University spokesman Jay Blanton declined to comment Monday because the litigation is pending.
Gaskell said he is not a "creationist" and his views on evolution are in line with other biological scientists. In his lecture notes, Gaskell also distances himself from Christians who believe the earth is a few thousand years old, saying their assertions are based on "mostly very poor science."
Gaskell was uniquely qualified for the new position at the University of Kentucky, according to court records, because he oversaw the design and construction of an observatory at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He also advised UK during the building of the MacAdam facility. He currently teaches at the University of Texas.
His attorney, Frank Manion, said scientists at UK were too quick to place Gaskell on one side of the creation-evolution debate.
"Unfortunately too many people get hung up on the idea that you have to be one extreme or the other," said Manion, who works for American Center for Law & Justice, which focuses on religious freedom cases. They say "you can't be a religious believer and somebody who accepts evolution, which is clearly not true. And Gaskell's a perfect example of that."
I think it's hilarious/ludicrous that I keep hearing how atheists are persecuted in the USA when every day you see examples of nativity scenes being removed, ten commandment plaques being taken down, school outreaches being shut down, public prayers banned, licence plates on private vehicles being denied,and lawsuits to remove In God We Trust from our money being filed. Atheists like to quote Thomas Jefferson in their attacks, but somehow always forget he also said this:
"But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. "
The attacks on Christianity in the public realm only go to prove what I have listed here. If there was just an honest unbelief involved, they would have the same view as Jefferson. To feel the need to attack Christianity, they are aligning themselves with those who Jesus spoke of in John 8:42-4:
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.