What Constitutes Rejection of God?

Can a person reject something the Bible says about God—say, one of His attributes—without rejecting God?

Some people, for example, don’t believe that God is wrathful. They dismiss the Old Testament accounts of God bringing judgment on nations by wiping them out. Sodom and Gomorrah come to mind. Nineveh. The Amalekite nation. Or they don’t believe in Hell.

My question is whether or not a person who rejects this attribute of God (God is loving. He would NEVER kill a whole nation for no reason, he would NEVER send all those people to eternal punishment.) is in essence rejecting God.

Or is that person simply making a mistake because he doesn’t know enough. I mean, a study of Scripture will show that God had explicit reasons for bringing judgment upon the nations He destroyed. Just as He had reasons for giving Israel into the hands of the Assyrians and Judah into the hands of the Babylonians. But someone who doesn’t know Scripture well might not realize what God’s purposes are.

A friend of mine asked about whether or not a person needs to understand the trinity before he can become a Christian. I think that’s along the same line as my question today.

In essence he was asking, how much do we need to know before we become a Christian?

My question comes at the same issue from a different angle—when does our ignorance turn into rejection? Is rejection of an attribute of God, a rejection of Him?

How about His work? If someone denies that God created the heavens and the earth, have they rejected Him? If they deny He parted the waters of the Red Sea or sent plagues down on Egypt, if they deny that God closed the mouths of lions in the den Daniel was thrown into or that his three friends survived a furnace that killed the guards pushing them inside—if someone denies the miracles of the Bible, are they denying God?

I know more and more professing Christians are starting to believe in some form of intelligent design combined with evolution. Does rejection of the Genesis account of creation (and I’m not saying a strict six-day interpretation) and of Man’s fall, mean a person is rejecting God?

Just how many theological ducks must one get in a row before it’s clear he isn’t rejecting God, though he rejects some statement about God?

I have more questions today than answers. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Published in: on July 8, 2010 at 3:47 pm  Comments (7)  
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7 Comments

  1. I’m not sure we can know the answers. We all lack knowledge about God. We all have theological blind spots.

    A Christian must believe in a wrathful God to some extent–he must believe in hell–or he cannot be saved. If there is no wrath and no hell then there is no blood atonement–nothing to be atoned for–and no repentance and no gospel.

    I also think that a Christian might be saved without knowing about the Trinity but it seems to me that once he shown that truth in scripture it would be hard for him to reject it for very long. I think Modalists are not Christians.

    All your other questions seem to come from people who claim to be Christians but who reject the Bible as the authoritative, inerrant word of God. This has been the problem from the beginning of time. The serpent did it first. “Did God really say…?”

    If you reject God’s word you are rejecting God. There is room for wrong interpretations. We are not perfect. But to reject the word outright is a different matter. We have no other way to know God. We can only know a man by his word. We can’t read hearts. We have to rely on words to tell us what is in the heart. Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.

    Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth. (John 17:17) We are sanctified–set apart–by the word. If we reject the word we are belonging to some other club, not to Christianity.

    If we don’t live by God’s word, and if we can’t say with the Psalmist, “Oh how I love thy law, it is my meditation all of the day,” we are in trouble and we should ask God to save us instead of supposing we are saved.

    I think, anyway.

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  2. I agree Sally! If we reject God’s Word, we are rejecting God.

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  3. That is a tough question.

    Of course I would agree with the notion that the word of God is inerrant, but how do you go about convincing other people of that?

    For example, Catholics–some of them, anyway–believe that the authority of the church trumps the authority of Scripture. They’re not really rejecting God’s Word, but just putting it underneath two thousand years of non-canonical dogma.

    The Protestants (a category I happen to fall into by process of elimination) say that Scripture alone is the standard–it was one of the five Sola’s of the Reformation. Fair enough. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 gives support for that.

    But how did the Scriptures come about? Well, the New Testament was authored by the church, and the specific canon that we consider to be Scriptural. Certainly, there’s the doctrine of plenary inspiration, but on the surface our reasoning does appear circular.

    I know people who argue that all you need is the core of Christianity–the Atonement. A similar problem faces that suggestion, however. Who picks the necessary doctrines? To the best of my knowledge, Scripture offers no quick answer to the question you posed, either. Either the church does, or the person being saved does. The second option is nothing more than finding your own path to God, and the first is almost as difficult–even if, over centuries of future deliberation, our spiritual descendants arrive at a solution, how would they know it was correct? What if, up to this point, we have only gotten lucky with people like St. Augustine and C. S. Lewis who held on to what Lewis called ‘mere Christianity’, and in this new decision they should happen to go wrong again?

    I suppose I had more questions than answers as well. Oh, well. A single good question is worth many bad answers.

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  4. Salvation isn’t merely a ticket out of hell, it is a rebirth (we were dead), healing (of the sin inside of us), empowerment (we now have to power to say no to sin, we are no longer slaves to it), and a renewal (a new life inside of us). And I’m only touching on a few things that happen the moment of salvation.

    So I do not understand how one can choose to follow Jesus (accept his gift of salvation), then dismiss parts of the God they now follow. He’s the whole package and if we can’t take him at all of his Word, what part of his Word can we really trust then? Its hard to follow someone we do not trust.

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  5. The Bible has been under attack for so long I don’t think even Christians understand how so many of their ideas have been shaped.

    With the current mood, especially in America, towards Christianity, some Christians are trying to be “non-offensive” and “accommodate” a view that says you can have God without any number of things (belief in Jesus, virgin birth, God created the heavens and the earth, etc), just mix and match and, since we play into the whole “God is love” philosophy, He’ll be okay with it all. Plus, with all of the not so subtle “hints” that the Bible was “altered,” more people feel empowered to not accept the whole thing and pick and chose the parts they like.

    Mike Durant had a poll a little while ago where he asked what’s the hardest part of Scripture for people to accept? I voted and still hold to Jesus being the only way.

    Once you reject that central truth, you might as well through everything else out and believe what you want. Which is exactly what people are doing anyway.

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  6. Great discussion.

    I agree with you all that someone rejecting the Bible is rejecting God.

    However, I think there are instances that a person isn’t rejecting the Bible as much as he is operating from ignorance of the Bible. Sort of like Apollos when he didn’t know anything more than the baptism of John and “Priscilla and Aquila … took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26b).

    If a person rejects that more accurate explanation, then I think he is rejecting God.

    But I agree with A. J. in that I believe there is the central truth about Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin that MUST be accepted.

    Is understanding God’s wrath part of that as Sally suggests? (We need to know we’ve been saved from something.) Maybe. Probably. I think it’s essential to understand that, contrary to popular opinion, I’m not OK and you’re not OK. We need to understand that sin has wrecked what should have been—harmony with our world, the people in the world, within my own soul, and mostly with God.

    Do people have to identify this condition as a result of God’s wrath? Maybe not. Not at first, though they certainly might.

    We sang a hymn in church Sunday, one I grew up singing—”O Worship the King”—and in it there’s a line about God’s wrath. I’m sure there were lots of songs I grew up singing that included God’s wrath, so I don’t think I questioned it or even examined it until I was an adult and found out some people professing to be Christians didn’t believe in God’s wrath.

    It still knocks me for a loop to think that some suggest they might be nicer than God, as my guest some months ago said.

    Becky

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  7. […] Am I advocating, then, a union with churches like the one mainline denomination I just recently read about that has okayed practicing lesbians to serve as pastors? Well, no, I’m not. At this point I think we need to revisit the issues that surfaced in the discussion of the post “What Constitutes Rejection of God?” […]

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