If you are not currently a follower of Jesus Christ there are only two possible reasons:
1) You have not heard the Gospel
(this includes those who think they have heard but what they have heard is not actually the gospel of Jesus. ie. social gospel, prosperity “health and wealth” gospel, man-centred gospel etc.)
2) You have heard the Gospel and rejected it
(this would include all who hear a faithful exposition/explanation of the gospel and yet reject it – both those who reject what they are actually hearing and those who ‘think’ they are rejecting what they are hearing but are actually rejecting something else ie. they have – willfully or not – misunderstood it.)
I would just like to address this second group for a moment. You see, if accepting or rejecting the Gospel was purely a matter or rational engagement with the Gospel then we would say that the cleverer you are, the more likely you are to grasp it and accept it. This is patently not the case, either in terms of what we see happening or what the Bible actually says about how people become Christians.
Of course, the gospel ‘does’ contain a rational set of arguments. The Christian faith is not a leap in the dark since it ‘is’ based on certain facts that are established through investigation of the evidence and following certain data to its logical conclusion. But to reduce the gospel down to this is not only misleading regarding its content, it is also misleading regarding its purpose. The aim of explaining the gospel is not to ‘test’ people’s intelligence, so that the rational people pass and those of less mental capabilities fail. The content of the gospel, while historical and factual, is particularly concerned with the divine nature of one man, Jesus of Nazareth and the work he accomplished which transcends history itself… while the purpose of the gospel, though entailing a rational appeal, is particularly to do with bringing people into a relationship with a real, living God. This means that Christianity must be engaged with concurrently on two levels – one rational and one metaphysical.
Such a separation has already been suggested in the form of NOMA (non-overlapping magesteria), posited by atheistic evolutionist, Dr Stephen Jay Gould. It is dismissed by Professor Richard Dawkins, however, who argues that certainly no supernational religion can be established without miracles violating the laws of physics. He then goes on to argue pointedly people of faith are either not rational or else schizophrenic.
This brings me us back to the issue of rejecting the gospel. If we are not satisfied with Dawkins’ explanation, that people who believe what the Bible says are either stupid or somehow separating their brain from their heart, then how are we to explain the fact that when presented with the gospel some people (both intelligent and less so) accept it and others (both intelligent and less so) reject it. Is there another parameter that we need to consider?
I believe that there is and we can see it in the words of this beautiful hymn written by Bob Kauflin (you can hear/buy the song by clicking here – iTunes link):
I was blinded by my sin
Had no ears to hear Your voice
Did not know Your love within
Had no taste for heaven’s joys
Then Your Spirit gave me life
Opened up Your Word to me
Through the gospel of Your Son
Gave me endless hope and peace
Here we see both aspects of someone’s engagement with the Gospel:
(1) We have listed for us such faculties as eyes and ears, taste and the Word – the rational aspect. These are not just metaphors here, we need to use all of these things in order to engage with the gospel and to determine its whys and wherefores
(2) We also have listed for us ideas such as spiritual blindness and deafness, distaste for the things of God and inability to comprehend spiritual truth – the metaphysical aspect.
If you are rejecting the gospel today, you need to understand that you are rejecting it on both of these levels.
In other words, you cannot rest assured in the knowledge that you have ‘really’ rejected Christianity if you have rejected it (apparently) on the basis of rationality alone. Until you have also ruled out the possibility that you are ‘wilfully’ rejecting it at the same time, you must at least curb your smugness. For the will is not just influenced by the mind but also by the affections. Therefore, it is irresponsible to be smug about having ‘worked out all the holes in Christianity’ if you are overlooking the fact that your heart just might have had more to do with it than your head. If this is the case then it could even be that you are misrepresenting the facts to yourself and wilfully misunderstanding what you are hearing (assuming that the misunderstanding doesn’t stem from a failure of the person explaining it).
One of the oft-repeated phrases of Jesus in the Gospels is the following:
“He who has ears to hear let him hear.”
What does this cryptic declaration mean? It means simply that you might be ‘hearing’ and engaging with Jesus’ words but it is possible to grasp the rationale and yet still be deaf to the true meaning. Anyone can hear the claim that Jesus died for their sins. They can even repeat it themselves as a mantra. But it is only someone who has truly heard it as for themselves who can then say it with conviction as applying to them.
Just imagine that you are in love. It is reported to you by a mutual friend that this other person requites this love. Yet you are bitter inside from past rejection and even though you repeat this fact back to others, you do not say it with conviction or any kind of excitement because you do not believe it, even though it has been reported back to you reliably by others. You do not believe it, that is, until you hear it yourself and understand that it truly is for you. This might even be after the second or third time that you hear it from the person yourself… the bottom line is that with such matters, it will never be the facts alone that lead you to believe. Your heart must be persuaded as well as your head; true truth must be impressed upon your affections… Then you will find the difference in your vision to be so stark that it were as if you had been blind before.