God Allows People to Disbelieve
The title of this article suggests that God provides a way out of faith. It may seem strange to some that God provides an exit, or escape, for people who don’t want to believe in the Bible. However, this is simply another way of saying that God doesn’t force people to believe nor preclude them from taking what they think is an alternative to faith. Instead, He allows any who prefer to disbelieve to do so and even provides occasions for them to disbelieve.
Evidences of This Back Door
That God opens a back door to unbelief is shown, first of all, by the fact that not all believe. This, in turn, infers that God allows people to disbelieve. Additionally, we might be inclined to think that God could do more to cause people to believe by, for instance, making His Son appear to them from the dead (cf. Acts 10:40-41; 1 Corinthians 15:6). However, such an opportunity would not necessarily produce faith on the part of the eyewitnesses.
The Written Word Is Enough
The rich man in Hades complained that he and his brothers would have repented if more had been done (Luke 16:27-31). He asked that Lazarus be raised from the dead and be sent to warn his five living brothers not to behave so as to go to his place of torment. Abraham’s response was that Moses and the Prophets (i.e., the written word of God through them) was adequate for the purpose of inducing repentance. However, the rich man objected and argued that an absolutely effective way to induce his brothers to repent would be to send Lazarus to them from the dead. Abraham responded that the word of God was no less effective for this than one raised from the dead.
John also indicated that the written record of Jesus’ miracles is capable of effecting faith in Him just as was the actual observance of the miracles (John 20:30-31). Therefore, those who, like the rich man in Hades, clamor for miraculous manifestations from God are implying that they think the written word of God is inadequate.
God Does Not Force People to Believe
All this is to say that God doesn’t force people to believe by directly and miraculously infusing faith into them (as some argue), nor by precluding consideration of all other alternatives to faith by visual manifestations of Himself. It is the very nature of faith that it is a conclusion reached by inference from the evidence presented and not by direct observation of the object of faith (2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:1). This kind of evidence allows disbelief on the part of those who are not disposed to believe. Hence, the Scriptures explicitly speak of God not only allowing people to disbelieve but actually providing them with the opportunity to disbelieve if that is what they really prefer to do (2 Chronicles 18:18-22; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12).
Why God Leaves a Back Door to Unbelief
The Bible does assert that God desires all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9), for He loves all people and has made abundant provision for their salvation by sending His Son to die for them and giving them the Bible (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). However, God wants in heaven only those who believe. He does not want the programmed homage of mindless robots or the drudgery of those who know that they have no other choice. This is what makes the way of faith so valuable, since it allows people to express their desire and love for God.
Some might think that God could get people to obey Him by giving them a direct preview, or even actual, though temporary, experience, of hell or heaven. Of course, this would probably be enough to cause anyone to obey Him. However, they would obey Him, not because they want to do so or because they love Him, but because they essentially have no other choice.
The problem of unbelief is not due to a lack of evidence. The evidence of the written word is adequate. Faithlessness is due to a lack of desire to believe. Hence, this lesson is a warning to those who are inclined to disbelieve because they really don’t want to believe. God will accommodate those who don’t want to believe!