The Danger of Godless Faith
In his book The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis presents a fictional tale of souls in search of Heaven. As he described each of the searching souls, most were shown to have shortcomings that prevented them from truly giving up earthly desire in order to find heavenly reality. In the story, the Solid Ones are characters who have found Heaven and later sent to provide guidance to those who have the choice between either Heaven or Hell; they are to explain that what is temporal must be given up in order to gain the eternal. At one point in the story, a Solid One known as Professor describes a situation that strikes hard toward those who profess to be People of the Book. He states, “There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself…as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.” Can it be that those who loudly profess belief in God and His word are far from Him? Sadly, the answer is yes!
During the Lord’s earthly ministry, He presented a picture of a group much like those about which Professor spoke. Jesus stated, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV). What a shock it was to find that, while believing they had given Christ everything, they had in reality given Him nothing. How is such a situation possible? The answer is found in their motivation. While they had spent much time working in His name, they had really been working to build their own name; they had enjoyed the notoriety that came with men thinking them to be “faithful servants of the Lord.” May those who seek to practice New Testament Christianity take heed!
Can practitioners of New Testament Christianity really fall into such a trap? Much of 21st century religion is agonizing for those who believe the Bible is the one and only standard. Amidst post-modern feelings-based “spirituality,” these Bible believers seek to find authority within the pages of the inspired word of God. The old cry of “book, chapter, and verse” rings loudly for this group, as well it should since the Bible makes the claim of its own all-sufficiency: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God[ may be complete, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17). The temptation posed to this group is in finding prestige in Bible knowledge. Rather than attaining knowledge in order to become more like God, knowledge becomes the god as it offers the opportunity to stand out in the crowd. This “standing out” can also involve “looking down” on those deemed to have inferior levels of knowledge. In this sad situation, the holy word of God becomes nothing more than the prideful means of self-exaltation. The road of history is strewn with once solid Christians who grew prideful in this type of knowledge and lost sight of what should have been most important.
Did Professor also correctly surmise that there can be a danger in seeking to prove the reality of God? Bible believers certainly accept the reality of God, having been convinced by the many evidences He has given. This group also believes it necessary to defend the reality of God as well as convince non-believers to accept the Creator before it’s too late. As a result, many believers have developed the skill of defending God’s existence when challenged by those who deny it. What, then, is the danger? How could one adept in God’s defense come to be on the wrong side of God? The danger is in the use of knowledge. While God certainly desires that all believe in Him, He also desires that this belief be translated into action; therefore, when one accepts His reality, one’s life should be transformed by this knowledge. The danger lies in having great ability to prove God’s existence while denying that this existence should have any consequence on everyday life. Though they seek to sway others toward belief in God through argument, persuasion through example is a far different story. Truly, these are ones whom God “never knew.”
How does one avoid the danger of knowing God’s word, yet never knowing God? How does one refrain from accepting the existence of God intellectually, only to deny it practically? It is in remembering who God is and what He desires. God has not placed mankind on earth for self-glorification; while He certainly wants belief in His name and diligent study of His word, He does not desire that this become the source of satisfaction separate from Him. Simply put, God wants loving children. He desires children who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” and to love Him with heart, soul, and strength. He wants humble spirits that submit to His will and trust that He has provided all the answers to life. In this, true glorification will come: “Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you” (James 4:10).
Concluding his discussion of the danger posed to Bible believers, Professor stated, “it is subtlest of all the snares.” In this, Lewis’ fictitious character speaks reality. May every faithful child of God maintain keen focus on the Lord and never lose sight of the real importance of His word. May no child of God ever seek glory from anyone but God alone and never find satisfaction in godless faith. When these truths are accepted, the promise of Heaven will become a reality as He glorifies those whom He truly knows.