Vol. 7, No. 1
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David Pharr makes an astute observation in his book, Thy Kingdom Come, on p. 148. "Ungodly living fosters unbelieving hearts. At the same time unbelieving hearts encourage ungodly living." Evidence of the truth of this doubled edged statement is available on many fronts.
Take the first half first. "Ungodly living fosters unbelieving hearts." Any observer of human conduct can quickly come to the conclusion that many people likely do not believe in God because they realize the consequences. If they believed, they would have to change their lifestyles. Somewhere down deep, they know that admittance of the existence of the Divine would also be admittance of the existence of a Judge to whom they would someday answer. They don't want to change their habits; they don't want any unseen God dictating their lifestyles, so they simply deny he exists.
These are but modern embodiments of the ancient principle set down in 2 Peter 3:3-5. Notice the passage: "Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.' For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water."
Those who want to "walk according to their own lusts" are fond of dismissing Christianity and the attendant notion of the Second Coming of Christ for judgment. They echo, "Where is the promise of His coming?" They believe that since they have never seen major changes in the pattern of days and nights, that none will ever happen. "Since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." Peter identifies their motivation interestingly. He says they "willfully forget" the evidence concerning creation and a flood of judgment in the history of man. Willful forgetting is inspiration's way of saying that "ungodly living fosters unbelieving hearts."
Now consider the second half of the statement. "Unbelieving hearts encourage ungodly living." People who don't believe in God really have no reason to live honorably. If there is no standard of right and wrong, and no penalty for wrong, why not do the wrong? Those who deny God fall into this trap in varying degrees. The logical extreme of an atheistic belief is "looking out for number one" without any heed to the needs, rights or concerns of others. There is, in short, no reason to behave. Paul, in arguing the importance of believing in the resurrection, even made mention of this fact. He stated that those who would not believe would essentially give their lives over to the hedonistic philosophy of "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (1 Corinthians 15:32).
It is a vicious cycle. If someone does not believe in God, he is led into all sorts of harmful, sinful behavior. If he comes to like that behavior, he will likely persist in a denial of God. A change of belief pattern would be most inconvenient for him. The old statement rings true: If God does not exist, nothing matters; if God does exist, nothing else matters.