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Lord, help my unbelief

June 2, 2010

Charles Hodge nabbed me and subjected me to a spiritual patdown search, shaking out a secreted cache I scarcely remember stowing. I probably found this passage from Anthropology arresting because my reading of it converged with thoughts and recent sermons my pastor has preached; but the passage drove home the notion that the covert sin of unbelief is (1) the true original sin from which all other sin flows; (2) my least detected and most hideous remaining sin; (3) my least examined and most hideous remaining sin; (4) nonetheless a sin, like all others, against which I may pray for Help.

The first address of the tempter to Eve was designed to awaken distrust in the goodness of God, and doubt as to the truth of the prohibition. ‘Hath God indeed said, ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden?’ Or, rather, as the words probably mean, ‘Has God said, ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’ The next address was a direct assault upon her faith. ‘Ye shall not surely die;’ but on the contrary, become as God himself in knowledge. To this temptation she yielded, and Adam joined in the transgression. From this account it appears that doubt, unbelief, and pride were the principles which lead to this fatal act of disobedience. Eve doubted God’s goodness; she disbelieved his threatening; she aspired after forbidden knowledge (p. 128).

It was disbelief that caused Eve to doubt God’s goodness, and disbelief that caused her not to fear his righteous judgment. And pride is a corruption of the belief that God is God and we are not. I routinely attempt to mince my belief; but belief is not amenable to partitioning. I can’t believe “sufficiently,” or tend to kind of somewhat disbelieve. Either I believe, or I do not believe. There are surely times when I do not believe God will come through with his promises, or that he would ever really have punished me for my sins. If I do not believe in God’s promises or his holy righteousness, then I do not really believe in the living and true God. But before I tender my resignation from the cohort from which it is not possible to resign due to the blessing of irresistible grace, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end, there is something else to remember.

I am a member of the fallen race of Adam, and as such, I am susceptible to failure in the face of temptation. The devil tempts with devices designed to undermine our belief all the time. And these failures, too, are covered by the blood of Christ. But continuing to sin is not an appropriate response to forgiveness (1 John 2).

Temptation to disbelieve is the common plight of man. This does not excuse my disbelief; but I do note that the child’s father who asked for Jesus’ help, saying, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24), is identified as “one of the multitude” (v. 17).

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