I could describe my life as one of faith seeking answers. I was blessed with a believing mother and grandparents. I was able to lead with faith. But I relate to the father of the demon possessed boy who was challenged by Jesus with these words: “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23, ESV). The father gives a wonderful reply, “I believe; help my unbelief.”
Faith is like that. It is difficult for humans to have faith completely unmixed with doubt. We are given the encouragement that even faith as small as a mustard seed can do great things. Faith can grow!
Jesus says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (John 7:17, ESV). Willingness to do God’s will is necessary. This kind of willingness can be instructed. It too can grow.
Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli provide an interesting analysis about psychological motives for unbelief in a footnote near the end of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics.
- The most powerful psychological motive for unbelief, as distinct from the most effective argument to undermine belief, is a different matter. The answer to that question is almost always moral rather than intellectual. That answer is addiction to sin and selfishness, usually in one or more of the following areas:
- Addiction to power in this world. How often have you heard about the value of detachment or otherworldliness lately? Yet all the saints extol this as indispensable.
- Addiction to lust, our society’s favorite pastime. A sex addict is hardly more capable of objectivity than a cocaine addict.
- Addiction to greed, the sin Christ spoke against the most frequently, and the one our consumerist society relies on for its very survival.
- Addiction to worldliness, that is, acceptance and popularity, not being distinctive, like the prophets or the martyrs.
- Addiction to freedom, defined as “doing your own thing,” “accepting yourself as you are,” “self-assertiveness,” “looking out for Number One”—in short, acting like a self-centered child and calling it the psychology of maturity.1
Unbelief is not just about intellectual problems. Moral issues can get in the way of coming to faith. My own observations in life would confirm Kreeft and Tacelli’s observations. Faith requires someone willing to do God’s will.
1Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 202–203.