March 2 – the Psychology of unbelief

March 2, 2021 Randy Bushey

~by Randy Bushey
…since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them (Romans 1:19).

In his book, If There’s a God, why are there Atheists?, Dr. RC Sproul asserts that every one of us has a natural allergy to believing in and submitting to God. This, he calls, “the psychology of unbelief”.

The Scripture asserts that unbelief is not so much an intellectual problem, or lack-of-evidence problem, but a moral or psychological issue constructed of mental, emotional, and attitudinal factors.

This is built on the foundational principle, that since the fall of man, we have a built-in hostility to the God of the Bible. That’s part of what it means to be human.

We’ve all heard the criticism that believers refuse to think carefully or progressively, placing faith in Christ as a flimsy, irrational substitute.

The Bible says exactly the opposite: the unbeliever ignores compelling evidence.

But it’s worse than that, because the Word of God’s indictment is that in your natural state, you suppress the truth that keeps getting in your face! That’s the claim of the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 1.

Notice his lucid – yet damning – step-by-step arraignment:

v.18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

Paul’s accusation: our natural inclination is to suppress – or the more clinical term: repress – what we know to be true. God and His Word should be declared, embraced, loved; but all around we witness the repression of biblical truth because it is contrary to desired patterns of life and expressions of independence.

v.19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

The evidence is obvious to all. It is God’s intention to be plainly evident, visible, understood, manifest.

When people don’t get it – fail to recognize the clear signature of His Person and His work – it is never because the Teacher is not instructing; rather the pupil not learning.

v.20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Paul’s powerful proclamation is this: creation itself demonstrates God in its order, design, beauty, and purpose.

Antony Flew was a British philosopher who died in 2010 at the age of 87. For much of his life, he was known to be an avowed atheist – one of the most well-known in the world. It was a faith position he had decided upon as a teenager.

However, he made a fundamental U-turn in his thinking during the final decade of his long life, conceding the existence of “three dimensions of nature that point to God”:
1) the fact that nature obeys laws.
2) the fact of intelligently organized and purpose-driven beings.
3) the very existence of nature

Flew then posed 3 questions that require answers, the most logical of which to his mind was a self-existent, eternal Creator:
1) how did the laws of nature come to be?
2) how did life as a phenomenon originate from nonlife?
3) how did the universe come into existence?

Back to Paul’s argument in Romans 1: no rational person can plead that the knowledge of God was outside of their field of view, beyond their capacity to apprehend.

His wording in verse 20 sounds oxymoronic – even contradictory – at first glance: God’s invisible qualities…have been clearly seen.

How can anything invisible, be clearly visible?

The Apostle is explaining that God and His characteristics are not visible to the human eye; but the evidence that is observable tells us that He is, and something of what He is.

Takeaway: It is not that finely-honed detection skills of theology or science or philosophy are required to discover concealed clues of God’s existence and work.

He has chosen to pass before our eyes every day – as witnessed in creation in general, and humanity in particular – the majestic nature of His Being, observable in design, beauty, purpose, predictability and objective moral absolutes.

But as Sproul makes apparent, there is a stubborn psychology to atheism.

There exists a reason “why atheists believe in unbelief”.

         *graphic from