Josh McDowell, a well-known Christian apologist, states on page 3 of his book entitled Evidence That Demands a Verdict that he believes most people reject Jesus Christ because of one or more of the following reasons: ignorance, pride, and immorality. We would add a fourth reason: Unwillingness to believe in the supernatural.
Ignorance is not a satisfactory excuse for rejecting Jesus Christ, according to Romans 1:18-20, which states,
[T]he wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. . . .
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible.]
Ravi Zacharias, D.D., LL.D, on page 162 of Lee Strobel’s book entitled The Case for Faith states,
Every human being will know enough truth so that if they respond to that known truth, God will reveal more to them.
I believe that if a person genuinely and sincerely seeks after him, there will be some way God makes available for that person to hear of him. . . . [A]ll people know enough to condemn them. . . . They are lost because they’ve already rejected what God has spoken to them through creation, their conscience, and other ways.
What about people who are trusting in a non-Christian religion? Well, consider this: For a religion to be valid, what a person believes must be true. The earth is essentially round and always has been, but this fact was not accepted by many people as recently as a few hundred years ago. Those people may have been sincere in their belief, but they were wrong.
Paul Little, on page 97 of his book entitled Know Why You Believe, declares. “On the question of who and what God is, the nature of salvation and how it is obtained, it is clear that Christianity differs radically from other world religions.” Although Christians should be tolerant of other people’s beliefs, it is important for Christians to lovingly share the gospel with those who are not Christians and to inform them that the Bible makes it clear that there is only one way for a person to be certain of his eternal destiny.
The New Testament of the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is mankind’s only way to God and the only way for a person to be assured of salvation from sin. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And, in Acts 4:12b, Peter states with regard to Jesus Christ, “[T]here is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
[For an explanation of how a person can be confident that they have eternal salvation, click on “What Must a Person Do to Be Assured of Eternal Salvation?”]
A second unsatisfactory excuse for rejecting Jesus Christ is personal pride. On page 10 of Evidence That Demands a Verdict, McDowell says, “The rejection of Christ is often not so much of the ‘mind,’ but of the ‘will’; not so much ‘I can’t,’ but ‘I won’t.’”
Similarly, on page 141 of Strobel’s book, The Case for Faith, Norman Geisler, Ph.D., states, “It’s not for a lack of evidence that people turn from God; it’s from their pride or their will.”
Likewise, Paul Little, on page 4 of his book entitled Know Why You Believe, says,
The question is often asked, “If Christianity is rational and true, why is it that most educated people don’t believe it?” The answer is simple. They don’t believe it for the very same reason that most uneducated people don’t believe it. They don’t want to believe it. It’s not a matter of brain power, for there are outstanding Christians in every field of the arts and sciences. It is primarily a matter of the will.
According to Ravi Zacharias, people reject Jesus Christ because He asks us to die to ourselves. On page 163 of The Case For Faith, Zacharias says, “Any time truth involves a total commitment in which you bring yourself to complete humility, to the surrender of the will, you will always have resistance.”
Unwillingness to give up immoral practices also causes people to reject Jesus Christ. Many people refuse to commit their life to Him because, if they did, not only would they have to admit that they are sinners, but also they would have to acknowledge Him as their Lord and be accountable to Him for their future actions.
Josh McDowell and Don Stewart state on page 145 of their book entitled Answers to Tough Questions,
[One] reason some refuse to accept Jesus is because of some specific sin in their life. They realize that if they become a believer, they will have to stop committing that certain sin, and they do not want to stop. Jesus said, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19, KJV).
To become a Christian, a person must repent (change his heart and mind) of his sins, and this many people are not willing to do even though Jesus said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, KJV).
In his book entitled Basic Christianity, John Stott says on page 18,
We know that to find God and to accept Jesus Christ would be a very inconvenient experience. It would involve rethinking of our whole outlook on life and the readjustment of our whole manner of life. And it is a combination of intellectual and moral cowardice which makes us hesitate. We do not find because we do not seek. We do not seek because we do not want to find, and we know that the way to be certain of not finding is not to seek.
Unwillingness to Believe in the Supernatural
Unwillingness to believe in the supernatural is a fourth reason that people do not trust in Jesus Christ. Many people assume that everything that happens is in accord with their own experiences, which usually do not include the supernatural. Therefore, they reject miracles and all other supernatural experiences, including those mentioned in the Bible. By ruling out the supernatural, they rule out much of what the Bible says about Jesus Christ.
For a person to accept Jesus Christ, there must be a willingness to believe. On page 226 of Evidence That Demands a Verdict, McDowell says, “The Romans and Jews could not produce Christ’s body or explain where it went, but nonetheless, they refused to believe. Not because of the insufficiency of evidence but in spite of its sufficiency do men still reject the resurrection.”
John Anderson, on page 11 of his book entitled Christianity: The Witness of History, presents the following partially paraphrased assessment by Dr. Carnegie Simpson:
[H]ow many of those who assume an agnostic attitude to religion have honestly brought their minds and hearts and consciences face to face with the fact of Christ, and candidly considered if it means anything to them for religion. “It is impossible to say that no one has the right to be an agnostic. But no one has the right to be an agnostic till he has thus dealt with the question,” and faced this fact with an open mind. After that, he may be an agnostic – if he can.
McDowell and Stewart state on page 150 of their previously-mentioned book,
We are sure that in the long run it will take more faith not to believe, if one will give an adequate hearing to the facts. The evidence speaks loudly and clearly to anyone willing to be intellectually honest about the issue of who Jesus Christ truly is. If anyone gives a fair hearing, it will be “blind faith” to reject the claims that are testified to “by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3, KJV).
And Lynn Anderson, D. Min., on pages 238-239 of Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ, offers the following comments:
[S]ome people say they want to believe when they really don’t. . . . [T]hey raise intellectual issues when they’re just trying to deflect attention away from why they really don’t want to believe.
If they have intellectual doubts, that’s fine, but don’t stop there. They need to go deeper into what really may be driving them to back away from God.
With regard to doubts, Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler note on page 113 of their book entitled Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door,
Gordon and William Brown, writing in their book, Romans: Gospel of Freedom and Grace, observed, “Faith grows through seeking truth, and the seeker must ask questions, and questioning implies ‘honest doubt.’”
Kenneth N. Taylor states on page 26 of a publication entitled Is Christianity Credible?,
The Christian belief is based upon the presupposition that there is a God, and upon evidence that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for sinners and then raised Him from the dead. However, our belief is not based on a presupposition alone; there is validating evidence which can be carefully and critically examined.
Untrained thinkers who have decided to disbelieve rather than to discover whether or not the matter is true, attempt to brush aside the written records concerning Christ and His resurrection. They say that there is no positive proof that the Gospels are accurate reports, and as a result there is no way to know even that Christ actually lived, to say nothing of His death or resurrection. And yet these same people accept without question the historicity of Plato, Socrates, Caesar, and innumerable other ancients concerning whom there are fewer written records.
On pages 29-30 of the same book, Taylor goes on to say,
Since Christianity is theoretically possible, the central theme of Scripture – salvation and forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ – must be faced. Because man has sinned and gone his own way, he is unable to be in fellowship with God unless his sin is forgiven.
The Basic Beliefs of Christianity Can Be Proven to Be Valid
Through both reasoning and evidence, even a person who is not a Christian can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the basic beliefs of Christianity are valid, including the belief that Jesus Christ was Who He claimed to be. Therefore, a non-Christian is not justified in refusing to accept Christian beliefs because they are based on faith, since Christian beliefs are also supported by facts.
On page 20 of his book entitled God: The Evidence, Patrick Glynn, a former atheist who became a Christian, declares, “[I]t seems to me, there is no good reason for an intelligent person to embrace the illusion of atheism or agnosticism, to make the same intellectual mistakes I made. . . .”
Jesus Christ declares in John 7:17, “If a man chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” In reference to this verse of Scripture, Lynn Anderson, on page 237 of Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ, says, “So, somehow, if we have the will to believe, God then confirms that Jesus is from God.”
In both Matthew 7:7 and Luke 11:9, Jesus promised, “[S]eek, and you will find.” And Deuteronomy 4:29 states, “[S]eek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Therefore, if a person is diligent, humble, and honest in his attempt to determine the validity of the message of the Bible regarding Jesus Christ, God will surely reveal the truth to him.
Strobel, in summarizing the comments of William Craig, Ph.D. on page 256 of The Case for Christ, says,
If God does not exist, then life is futile. If God of the Bible does exist, then life is meaningful. Only the second of these two alternatives enables us to live happily and consistently. Therefore, it seems to me that even if the evidence for these two options were absolutely equal, a rational person ought to choose biblical Christianity. It seems to me positively irrational to prefer death, futility, and destruction to life, meaningfulness, and happiness. As [Blaise] Pascal said, we have nothing to lose and infinity to gain.
[To see additional support for the basic beliefs of Christianity, click on “Is the Bible Reliable?”]
There are a number of reasons why people reject Jesus Christ as their Savior. However, if a person is willing to give fair consideration to both reasoning and evidence, they can prove to themselves that the basic beliefs of Christianity are valid, including the belief that Jesus was Who He claimed to be. [For a discussion of the reasons to believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, click on “Was Jesus Christ More than a Prophet?”]