No, Dr. Janssen, Human Beings Are Not Trying to Find God

Author Tim Barnett Published on 12/21/2016

During a long drive home from a recent speaking event, I decided to listen to an episode of the Unbelievable podcast. This episode featured Fuz Rana, biochemist with Reasons to Believe, and Luke Janssen, professor at McMaster University. The question under discussion was, “Should modern biology make us rethink theology?”

Early on in the conversation, Janssen said something that caught my attention. Here’s what he said:

One of the things that I often hear Christians say is that all humans have rebelled against God. They’ll emphasize this is true for all humans. But if we look at our collective human history, we see tons of evidence of humans trying to find God. I mentioned all those different religions and religious features of the human species in every chapter of human history trying to find and understand the great Being. It’s one of the strange things that defines what it means to be human. We are a religious species.

We’ve been actively and desperately trying to figure out the great Being and doing this largely on the flimsiest of data. And by that, I mean things like our life experiences, and discussions with our neighbors, chats around the campfire, some private mediation, and even the few glimpses that a few rare individuals will claim to have had of God...

My point being, we haven’t rebelled against God. We’ve actually been trying desperately to find God. And even today, now that we have the Scriptures and Jesus has appeared on Earth, I really don’t see outright active rebellion against God.

The reason Janssen hears Christians say that all human beings, apart from Christ, are in active rebellion against God is because that’s exactly what the New Testament teaches. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18). The active suppression of the truth about God is active rebellion against Him.

But this is hardly an isolated verse. Paul goes on to write, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10). Later in the same letter, Paul writes, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom. 8:7). Scripture is clear on this point. Apart from Christ, human beings are enemies of God. They are rebels who are hostile to God.

But what about all of this evidence that human beings are trying to find God? Janssen wants us to consider “all those different religions and religious features of the human species in every chapter of human history trying to find and understand the great Being.” Here Janssen makes a terrible mistake.

Janssen takes the fact of many different religions throughout human history and concludes that this means human beings are trying to find God. However, the apostle Paul tells us the reason why there have been so many different religions throughout human history.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Rom. 1:21–23)

Verses 22–23 explain the history of religious invention. Human beings, who know the true God, exchange that truth for a lie. Rather than honor and give thanks to the true God, they invent a god in their own image to worship. God isn’t just rejected. He is replaced. Human beings cannot live without expressing religious devotion. It’s the way our Creator made us. But that does not mean evidence of religious devotion is evidence of people seeking after the true God. On the contrary, Paul says that religious devotion to false gods is evidence of darkened hearts that are in rebellion against God.

Janssen says, “We have been actively and desperately trying to figure out the great Being and doing this largely on the flimsiest of data.” Again, this is exactly the opposite of what Paul tells us. He says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19–20).

What Janssen calls the “flimsiest of data,” Paul calls the clearest of data. In fact, Paul goes even further. He says that the knowledge of God is clear enough from the created world that all men are without excuse. No one will be able to stand before God on the Day of Judgment and tell God that He didn’t provide enough evidence, or that the evidence He did provide was too flimsy. What can be known about God is plain to everyone because God has shown it to everyone through all that God has made. This knowledge of God holds mankind accountable.

Janssen makes it sound like the reason people haven’t found God is that they haven’t got enough information about Him. Paul says that everyone is given enough knowledge of God, but they choose to suppress it. This rejection of God leads to the invention of various false religions.

Janssen tries to tell us that all these different religions exist because honest seekers are desperately trying to find God. But Paul tells us that these religions exist because rebellious people are desperately trying to escape God.