It is said that more and more people, when asked about their belief system or religious association, are resonating more with the category of “none” than anything else.
You can read for yourself the full definition and statistical analysis of what I’m referencing, but it’s clear: more and more people just don’t find a personal connection with any sort of religious tribe or a personal savior God.
And it’s in the face of this growing trend that I would like to submit what is, potentially, a radical idea…
I personally believe that every single person living on this planet has been given two things as testament to the reality of God:
- An innate understanding… I believe that God is naturally revealed inside us. I think that being created in the image of God suggests that a piece of his character, identity, DNA… his “stuff” is literally hardwired into every single human being.
- An external natural order… I believe that if you look at the natural world around you, the “heavens and the earth” you cannot help but see the wonderful and awe-inspiring, oft-times inexplicable, characteristics of his created order (this planet, the universe, nature, etc).
Therefore, and here’s the zinger, anyone who claims that they do not believe (e.g. atheist, irreligious, “nones,”) is in a denial with what’s naturally inside and outside themselves that I cannot fathom.
He. is. all. around. us.
He is from within and from without.
And yes-there are a few verses I would like to include here in support of this theory. One from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament…
First check out Deuteronomy 30…
11 “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach. 12 It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ 13 It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ 14 No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.
This scripture is pretty heavy and pretty wonderful. In the modern Bible it’s kept under the paragraph heading “THE CHOICE OF LIFE OR DEATH.”
It’s given to the people of Israel right as they are on the doorstep of inheriting their promised land. Moses, hand-picked by God and one of the most incredible leaders of all time, is about to die and Joshua is about to take over the reigns.
It’s that very last sentence-verse 14 that struck me. To me it’s just like, ‘yeah, we don’t have to pretend that God’s law, i.e. God’s way of living life as prescribed in the Bible, is some sort of inane outlandish concept.
If you really look at it, if you look at his “law,” again-the Bible, and take it as a whole contextual work-cover to cover-it makes insane sense as instruction for living your life.
In other words, ‘the message is very close at hand, its naturally on your lips and in your heart’… if you read it, you would see.
Though every human was born capable of doing tremendous harm and wrong. It is the paradox of life that we are also fully aware of what is good, right and just. It’s close at hand. So the question I want to probe very early on here is:
Why are we in denial of this reality?
The next passage comes from the New Testament Book of Romans
18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.[i] 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
Again, I get the potentially radical and even “off-putting” nature of this passage, especially how it starts out… I mean the title heading for this section, “GOD’S ANGER AT SIN”…seems like your classic ‘fire and brimstone’ picket-sign-preacher message, but that’s not my main takeaway from this scripture…
Paul is writing here to an audience of “nones” from thousands of years ago-sure, but an audience of “nones” nonetheless (hah). What’s so relevant about this Roman audience is that they were just as “secular,” this city just as “filled with new ideas,” as any of ours today.
So I think this fits for our conversation here on multiple levels:
- It’s the precise audience I’m talking about for today. The labels and categories have changed, just like modern language has changed, but other than this-all things remain the same. It’s one of my favorite adages when it comes to the Bible, “there’s nothing new under the sun.”
- It speaks to this concept that God is revealed all around us; He as a personal, relational and tangible messiah and He is present and revealed. Again I’ll say:
How can we deny this?
The first passage was written to believers. To religious insiders and God-fearers. So I will speak to those, here and now, for a minute:
Ask yourself: why have people so increasingly associated with the word “nones” rather than with the name of Jesus… is it because they find his innate character within and without themselves so repulsive that they can’t help themselves but say, ‘ew, gross, no thanks, pass’…?
I would argue that they have us-our tribe, our culture, our church and our practice of our beliefs-as the repulsing agent.
Instead of being this stunning and immaculate bride of Christ, instead of being this irresistible community (that Israel was meant to be; that the Church was meant to be!), we reek.
And we need to set to work figuring out how we rectify this situation-by better working in and through culture JUST as Christ did by the way.
The second passage speaks to those outside the church and it is therefore why I turn to you next. If you are reading this and you find yourself in line with these inclinations (would rather be classified a “none” than be classified a “christian” or God forbid an “evangelical”), I would challenge you with this:
Why is it really that you have opted out of this message that is ‘on your lips and in your hearts’? What is the reason, for real, that you have chosen to reject ‘his eternal nature and divine power’ daily that engulfs us on all sides in this natural world?
I ask these questions because I would argue that you arrived here not out of a casual default, a gradual slide or drift. But rather an intentional decision. And at the root of every decision is a very personal motivation. So I say again: what’s your motivation? Or what’s your influence?
And I don’t probe this way for my sake. I ask for your sake.
I’ll end with this story…
I can remember as a child, probably around 10-years old asking my mom while lying in bed one night, “what about all the people around the world who may never get a chance to read a Bible or meet a Christian… how will they come to know Jesus?”
My mom responded by saying something to this effect, “the Bible says, ‘that even if there were no people around, even the rocks would bow down and worship.'” Of course I never took the time to look up what she was talking about, obviously, I was only 10.
But later I did. And it looks like she was talking about this passage right here:
“Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”39 But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!” 40 He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”
My challenge is not to convert you through the internet. My challenge is, however, for you-those who are dechurched (left the faith) or those who are unchurched (have never believed anything)-what is the real and true cause of your disbelief?
And if you cite “logic” as your answer, I will just give you this one proviso: you have only done half the work of discerning belief because relationship with Jesus always has and always will be about the head-to-heart connection.
If you would be so kind (operative word here!), please leave questions you have, challenges you have, push back, reasoning you have in the comments section. Forward and post on friends sites who you think need to read this… lets start a conversation or continue one.