The Difference Between Belief and Existentialism

by | Jan 18, 2023

The most important transition we make as we are translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear son is the transition from unbelief to belief. And it is here that we have sufficient language – in depth and frequency in our literature – to integrate all of the transitions we think about associated with becoming and growing as a Christian – growing in knowledge and in grace and making the transition to full spiritual maturity generally. But in all discussions concerning our progressive transformation, which the Reformers called sanctification, whether it be in maturity or in power, or in virtue, or in commitment or in submission – is that it is directly driven by the status of belief in our soul.

And though the New Testament speaks of belief being not a matter of degree; i.e., we either believe or we do not believe – the fact that the human psychology is both wide and deep, this means that belief progressively conquers the soul, which gives the appearance of degree. If there is any degree, it is the degree of integration of our psyche and thus the degree of integration of our belief within the psyche. Regardless of Peter’s initial boldness and preaching success, his career reflects the same psychosis-like behavior as in the courtyard; he enters believing; he exits unbelieving. He loses the primacy in the Church to James, a non-apostle. He has a catastrophic moral failure at Antioch, repudiating the Christians there, for fear of James. And his leadership remains silent – from his speech at the Jerusalem council – to his first epistle, written perhaps in 67AD, which is a bland compilation of Paulinisms, a quotation of Psalm 34, and the rewarmed theology of James.

In fact, Peter seems not to have achieved final “conversion” until the writing of 2nd Peter. Here we see a man completely transformed by an integrated belief system and psychology. And we see Mark, who was, in some sense, the “interpreter” of Peter, giving us a paradigm of how, perhaps, he made this arduous and catastrophic transition – from unbelief – to belief: It is a paradigm that has more pathos than Paul’s dichotomy between the mind and the flesh (Ro 7:35) and James’ merciless double-souled man (Ja 1:8). Mark does this in the drama concerning the father of the epileptic boy: “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Here we clearly see the Petrine psychosis, in which belief and unbelief exist in the soul at the same time.

In the end, the damned are not judged because they failed to apprehend God; they are judged because they refused to be apprehended by God. The consistent language that the New Testament employs in describing our apprehension of God and his apprehension of us is to describe our on-going, transformational relationship to truth – through the passive surrender of belief. We submit to the truth that we have been created for joy, honor, peace, righteousness and life eternal. This is not an existential “choice,” per se. If it is a choice, it is a choice not to choose – but to let God choose – just as we labor to be un-laborious (Heb 4:11a)

Belief is bowing in passive acknowledgement of the intrinsic worthiness and honor of truth. Belief is the refusal to erect a barrier against being inseminated with truth. And as we allow ourselves to be inseminated with the sperm of God; i.e., the word of truth (see for example the parable of the man who sowed good seed for this language) we have no reproductive rights; we only have reproductive honors; the honor to bear Christ himself in us, eventually to deliver the new man growing inside the womb of our souls.

This pregnancy; this Gospel; this honor is a radical thing. If we fully believed it, it would radicalize every aspect of our lives. We produce withered, dysfunctional fruit because contrary to our marriage vows to truth; that is to Christ, we are having a heated affair with idiomatic truth; that is, falsehood. (The devil is a liar because he speaks of his own. (John 8:44) When we go to the brothel of falsehood, we return to the mud of deceit and ignorance; we return to our own vomit – to the very thing that was making us horribly ill. And to be ill with a sexually transmitted disease from the devil is a horrible illness.

Our intercourse with the devil is really lesbian in nature since he too is a feminine, created thing, merely masquerading as a true man. Just as the Children of Israel forgot the wonderful works of God’s deliverance and returned to their Egyptian idols, so do we. But then misery ensues. And in our misery God hears us again and delivers us again from the bondage of our illicit, destructive affairs. And here too there is no virtue in acknowledging our misery (like the Prodigal Son). There is no virtue in acknowledging our guilt and shame. And there is certainly no virtue in surrendering to the merciful pardon of God for our infidelities of belief.

Hell is filled with religious existentialists – both conservative and liberal – who “choose” their own truth. But both the conservative and the liberal existentialist have rejected the rational courtroom testimony of God concerning the truth of his innocency and goodness, whether because it was deemed insufficient, or contradictory or even false (or only provisionally true, what we call a “white lie”). Thus they choose to give God the “benefit of doubt;” they choose to believe that there is good in him and that he can be rehabilitated of his ineptitude and guilt and responsibility for the pain and suffering and evil in this world (in our judgment) to serve as the god of our own choosing. And this, in their thought-world, is construed as an existential act of virtue.

If our words are true, and if a man has passively removed his prophylactic defenses to the impregnation of truth, this man’s soul (which is feminine) will become impregnated with this truth. And our dialogue, our intercourse, will have co-fathered it (1 Co 4:15). There will be no logical argument if this submission is true and complete. The Copernican revolution swept aside the objections of men. No logical argument could stand before his paradigm. To bow to the the truth of Copernicus, was not an act of existentialism; it was an act of surrender. Mary did not say: ‘not tonight Lord, I have a headache.’ She immediately said: ‘let it be done unto me according to your word.’

Furthermore, if we are servants of the word; of truth, then we must be servants of all forms of God’s word – not only his special revelation that we call the New Testament, but also his general revelations in the creation of the world. Thus the study of the grammar of his universe as scientists (if it is for this purpose) is being a ‘servant of his word.’ We must study not only the book of Scripture, but also the book of nature (including mathematics and music), the book of history and the book of psychology (which should be the Socratic science of knowing oneself).

Remember that it was Cicero’s Hortensius that turned Augustine to the love of wisdom and truth. He was consumed – not by the Holy Spirit, but by truth. The Spirit overshadowed Mary’s conception, but she became impregnated with truth. Alfred North Whitehead said that modern science could not have been born except in a Christian milieu. History supports this. Many of the early scientists that gave their lives to the study of God’s “natural words” were priests or other churchman.

Evolution is not wrong because it is not scientific; it is wrong because it refuses to acknowledge the source of its own grammar, attributing it to one of the mute gods of this creation (Romans 1) – to the god of nature or to the god of chance or to the god of probability or to the god of chaos, etc. – however unconscious these gods might be. Natural selection – instead of Divine selection. Evolution is currently wrong because it chooses to believe that nature created itself and that unconsciousness created consciousness, which is clearly absurd.

May our surrender to the truth be true – not because we choose to accept it, but because we rightfully surrender to it – in every area of our life. May our surrender be complete and may it be continuously faithful until our dying day.