I grew up all too closely to the terms “gullible” and “naive,” when my people at school would speak disparagingly in my direction. Even my siblings seemed to tower over me at times with what seemed to be such an experience beyond that of my own. In hindsight, I understand now that I hadn’t lived my own life in such a challenging environment where my character and soul could find its greatest match. As an adult, however, I have come to see what matters in life by living far beyond that of my comfort zones and familiarity; not just on the subjective scale of what matters most to me, but from watching the news from others’ (if political) perspective of importance, from witnessing the political and spiritual altercations of social media (users denigrating others for their beliefs rather than trying to understand the source of another’s perspective), gleaning from research-based books regarding the psychology of the mind and spirit from a global standpoint; reading the Word of God, living in several places over the last eight years, and experiencing friendship after friendship—gaining an understanding of humanity through the way people live and think over the course of many years, discovering the soul behind their decisions, actions, and belief systems. One of the many things I have learned through these experiences has taught me what procures gullibility, what reinstates naivety, and what has the power to motivate us beyond them both.
THE PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE
What I want to do is take the concepts of gullibility and naivety and help clarify to others what it means to be gullible and naive with regards to faith in Jesus. The reason why I want to write this is because I believe there is an association made in error towards those of faith; that faith itself is a naive approach to life, and that gullibility is the approach of a person who might consider something like faith. My hope is that when we are finished, we will have a new, or hopefully refreshed perspective on what we believe makes a person naive or gullible with regards to the value which they place in faith.
THE DETRIMENTS OF PRESUMPTION
Being easily persuaded to believe something is synonymous with the unwillingness to slow down enough to understand the belief behind the persuasion. That is gullibility. Gullibility is not synonymous with stupidity, but with the laziness in choosing not to understand the source merit of a promise, accepting instead a false promise on the basis of its own uncredited merit.
Gullibility is the consummation of an unmerited promise with the unknown. When we are gullible, we take our presumptions to a level where we expect our beliefs to explain the complexities by which the entire world operates. For instance, we may expect certain people to be nice, others to be trustworthy, and yet others to be dangerous and hostile. While there are many ways we construct these lists in our minds, the core problem is centered on the way we are presuming our beliefs based on limited information and expecting the digestion and retention of that limited information to form a complete picture. Gullibility is like preparing a gourmet meal made of cheese, bread, and crackers, and surprised when it refuses to satisfy our craving for flavor.
GOD’S EXISTENCE: TWO VIEWS THAT EXPLAIN ITS RATIONALITY
The secular argument against Christianity hits a scabrous dry wall when it claims believers cannot prove the Biblical God’s existence as a rational belief. I have two points I would like to propose in this article which contend with the secular view that God’s existence is irrational. My first point can be made in Timothy Keller’s book, Making Sense Of God, where he writes six compelling reasons why, rationally speaking, it makes more sense to believe God exists than to believe He doesn’t.
#1 – THE UNOBVIOUS
The six ways which he lists (although he admits there are more) are cosmic wonder (something cannot come from nothing, so where did everything come from that has come to exist?), perceived design (“In terms of probability, the chances that all of the dials ((speed of light, gravitational constant, and strength of the strong and weak nuclear forces)) would be turned to sustain life-permitting settings all at once are about 10 to the 100th power”), moral realism (most everyone can agree that there are certain deeds that are simply “wrong,” no matter how ones feels about it. But without God, this sense of moral obligation has no basis), consciousness (the fact that we are “conscious, idea-making” individuals points more rationally to a conscious, idea-making God—rather than the empty notion that our consciousness is “no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules”), beauty and reason (our aesthetic senses tell us there is a difference between the hormonal response to a woman’s voluptuous shape, and our awe in capturing a beautiful landscape; although they both derive from our admiration of beauty, only one can be traced back as an evolutionary advantage used in ancient times for survival ((man’s attraction to the female body as a sign of the woman’s fertility, and reproduction was a means for survival)), the other cannot—making it a more viable explanation that beauty is a God-given gift unassociated with anything survival-related. Our sense of reason cannot break this down because there is no scientific breakthrough or explanation for it, but belief in a personal God of reason certainly can).
#2 – TESTIMONY
My second point regards the power of personal testimony. My testimony, as well as everyone who has been born again—has a story. Each story has a tragedy and a rebirth. The tragedy appears to be death itself to the person while they are still living the life of disbelief, viewing pain as a curse from the universe and tragedy as a reason to declare as obsolete the idea of a loving God. Trauma coerces the unbelieving heart, causing it to be subjected to the detriments of presumption; imagining if there is a God, the only God that must exist is evil because He allows evil to happen to “good people.” But who defines what is good or bad?
The response to this comes in the form of Timothy Keller’s point on moral reasoning (a phenomenal chapter in Making Sense Of God), which states that if people believe there are certain moral absolutes–certain deeds which are strictly “good” or “bad” regardless of people’s feelings about the aforementioned deeds—that we are bereft of an argument claiming there is no God from which our moral sense derives from to claim a person is either good or bad. If we cannot route our sense of morality back to ancient times for the purpose of survival, nor associate the origin of morality to the theory of evolution (neither of which could adequately explain the way humans view morality, let alone moral absolutes today), then we are without a reason to claim that our sense of morality isn’t in itself a compelling reason to believe in the existence of a personal, moral God by which to define whether a person is good or bad.
HOW THE RATIONALITY OF GOD’S EXISTENCE EXPLAINS OUR PURPOSE
Many times, unbelievers (like myself, many years ago) fall prey to the detriment of presumption without understanding their reason for blaming or denying certain ideologies and their foundations. Without first explicating theology or the origins of such dichotomous concepts such as morality, our presumptions that our disbelief is rooted in anything firm or auspicious cannot lead to a life where what we do, how we think, or what we believe has any transformational impact on the way we live our lives. And why would we need anything to act as a transformational impact? Because each and every person desires purpose for their lives, whether they can acknowledge it, recognize it, perceive it or not—and the only way we can explain our intrinsic need for purpose is to understand where we come from so that we can understand more clearly where we’re going—which in itself is the substance of the journey we are on called life, where we constantly ask ourselves why we are still here.
So you can see, the main difference between a believer and an unbeliever when altercating over God’s existence is that the unbeliever demands empirical proof, while the believer understands that the only way for an unbeliever to find the rational explanation he is searching for is to surrender their unknowns to faith, acknowledging that the questions without answers are actually answerable with the belief in a personal, loving, moral, omnipresent God who created us to be in relationship with Him above all else.
TESTIMONY PAINTS A PICTURE RATIONALITY WANTS TO BELIEVE
Through testimony, the transformation that occurs within a person is unmatched with any other experience because the transformation triggers so deep within a person that their entire character is made new; the way they speak is inspired with new words of hope and faith, their thoughts are reformed with optimism and joy; their actions are made new with the decision to love others in noticeable, impactful ways because they are first loved by a personal God named Jesus who died in their place and rose again. This kind of testimony is unmatched, and rationality cannot explain it; but it wants to believe that this transformation is possible because to be able to understand it is to transform how rationality itself functions altogether. If rationality could understand the way transformation on a soul-level works, it would not contradict faith because it would understand that the basis for faith does not require ratiocination, but simply an open mind, a receptive heart, and a willing soul.
NAIVETY CANNOT EXPLAIN MARTYRDOM
To claim a Christian is naive for believing in Jesus as Lord is in itself irrational because to claim that the transformation of an atheist into a Christian is naive is to say that their transformation is an illusion, or that they’re really just faking it. Can we really claim someone would be so naive as to die for their faith? When we consider how many Christians are killed for their faith in Christ, we must argue that these people are not naive, but rather that they are committed, loyal, and faithful to a belief something beyond that of rationality and logic. They are not committed to numbers, formulas, rituals, or religion, and they aren’t committed to the idea that everything exists “just because,” no, they claim that their loving God died for them in the flesh and that His resurrection is their saving grace from a life spent believing that their every deed done in His name goes unnoticed and without any meaning.
Naivety declares that a person lacks wisdom, experience, or judgment, and yet, as we have seen from both Timothy Keller’s argument in his rational thesis for God’s existence—as well as personal testimony of any and all Christians—naivety cannot explain someone whose life has been transformed so deeply within that their entire experience is made new in both perspective (mindset) and in lifestyle (action).
THE REFLECTION OF GULLIBILITY
To claim believers are gullible is a weak argument targeted for those who never read the Word, never attend a Bible study, who do not enter a church building and spend time worshipping with community, and who preach the gospel but who live hypocritical lives full of adultery, substance abuse, vulgarity, laziness, narcissism, and ostentatious pride. People who claim they know Jesus but are quick to judge others have yet to see the log in their own eye, as much as they have yet to fully receive and accept the love and forgiveness from Christ in their hearts.
A FAITH THAT ANSWERS THE QUESTIONS OF RATIONALITY AND RESCINDS NAIVETY
Gullibility is a believer who agrees with the words being spoken but doesn’t understand their purpose; who consequently isn’t transformed, and therefore cannot put on display how Jesus has impacted him on an intrinsic level. Gullibility is a man (or woman) who hears the Word of God but who only hears its words, rather than receiving the promise it declares. The Word of God is meant to inspire us, to teach us, to challenge us, and to transform us—and when it doesn’t, what’s happened is that the reader has rejected the free gift of life promised through Jesus, given us by God Himself. The Bible is the story of the redemption of humanity through Jesus, and when a believer is called naive for believing that, the only viable argument is that the person initiating the claim has not received the promise that is the purpose of the Bible. Without receiving the promise as a life-changing transformation, rationality remains to be its own explanation of faith, condemning “belief in the unknown” to be proactive gullibility; when in truth, faith in God fills in the blanks which rationality leaves behind by not dismissing the unknowns with excuses rooted in detrimental presumptions, and answering the questions of rationality with the empirical truth of testimony.
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