Would some non-theists just form an improper relationship with God if they became theists in their current state?

“Yes, after all…
  • Bad relationship: does not recognize God as Good

      Appropriate relationship with God involves recognizing God as the ultimate good.1 This is relevant because, for some individuals, if they believed in God currently or at any time, they would lack belief in God's goodness (i.e. they would be dystheists).

      1. One cannot be in relationship with God while attributing evil to God.
        Matthew 12:24-32 -- “This man [Jesus] casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.” And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, … He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come."
      2. Even if God testified to being all-good, there seems to be no observation God could produce which would persuade a skeptic. Relatedly, consider one philosopher making a similar note regarding some of God's other properties.
        Peter van Inwagen: “We can imagine no sign that would have to be the work of a necessary, omnipresent, omnipotent being. Any sign you might imagine you could also imagine to be the production of a contingent, locally present being whose powers, though vastly greater than ours, are finite.” [“What Is the Problem of the Hiddenness of God?” in Divine Hiddenness: New Essays (eds) Moser & Howard-Snyder (Cambridge, 2002), 29.]
  • Bad relationship: lacks right desire for God

      Appropriate relationship with God involves genuine reverence and desire for God as God (i.e. not treating God merely as a means to an end, behaving in relationship-like ways, worshipping, praying, etc., just for things like…

      • …for gifts,
      • …for religious experiences,
      • …for escaping punishment.)
      This is relevant because, for some individuals, if they believed in God currently or at any time, they behave in relationship-like ways just to use God for instrumental value.1, 2

      1. This could result in a depressingly half-hearted, unfortunate, and begrudging relationship. Consider the relationship the following philosopher would have to God, if God ensured he became a theist, and he consequently started worshipping and praying:
        Thomas Nagel (Philosophy professor at New York University): “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. … it isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want a universe like that.” [The Last Word (Oxford, 1997), 130.]
      2. In fact, the traditional ways God is allegedly obligated to reveal himself are especially susceptible to undermining desire. Flaunting of sufficiently shocking divine fireworks or sufficiently moving religious experiences could more forcefully lead people to form relationship with God for the wrong reasons (e.g. to avoid judgment, for religious experience), forming an inappropriate relationship.
  • Bad relationship: rejects moral transformation

      Appropriate relationship with God involves moral transformation on the human's part (loving and worshipping God, rather than the enemy: sin). improperThis is relevant because, for some individuals, if they believed in God currently or at any time, they would not accept moral transformation, continuing instead to put sin first.1

      Revelation 3:16 -- because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
      1. Relatedly: it is common in Christian theology to believe that “the Fall” (the origination of sin in mankind) has pervasively influenced all aspects of all men, affecting our nature and plausibly our cognitive faculties, notably our ability to detect God or to naturally form belief in God in appropriate circumstances. If individuals are unwilling to be morally transformed, it may be that God allows them to remain in their defective cognitive state. (see here)
      2. Similiarly, the emphasis in Matthew 7 is on individuals who may claim to be followers of Christ, but who Christ will say on judgment day “I never knew you.” In following his illustration (quoted above) are individuals who were not genuine fruit trees, not really connected to the vine of Christ, the vine of moral transformation.

        Matthew 7:16-19; 21-23 -- A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. … So then, you will know them by their fruits … “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, …,’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

  • Bad relationship: jealous of God's power (“Should share!”)
  • Bad relationship: judges God for allowing suffering

      Appropriate relationship with God trusts God's decisions in allowing suffering (perhaps for greater goods). This is relevant because some theists might forever struggle with agreeing to God's permission of suffering.

  • Bad relationship: places human as authority in its formation

      Apropriate relationship with God is formed in a way reflecting God's authority and sacred-relational nature. This is relevant because, for some individuals, if they came to belief in God, they would only do so having condescendingly sent God through impersonal hoops of their own making, like a circus animal. Making God submit and cow to their demands could permanently affect the divine-human relationship.

  • SHOW/HIDE MENU