Pastor Mark's Short Papers

My Will be Done

by Mark Koonz with reference to Robert Passantino on April 2, 2014
My life is richer for having known Bob Passantino.*  He understood people as well as arguments. When a woman became a Christian her husband mocked her and said she was stupid because “God cannot exist.”  Instead of arguing with him, she asked him to visit with Bob.
Bob listened to his arguments for atheism, and realized that the man was poorly read.  He said, “There are better ways to argue for atheism.  Let me help you improve your arguments.”  He had the man’s attention at that point and they discussed a long time.  Then Bob said, “Would you be willing to read if I gave you a short list?  I think these books would really help you with your arguments.”
The man agreed to read whatever Bob recommended.  I would have started him out with William Lane Craig’s “Reasonable Faith” or John Lennox’s “God’s Undertaker:  Has Science Buried God?”  I would have included something by the scientist Gerald Schroeder.  Antony Flew, the world’s leading philosophical atheist, returned to belief in God’s existence after reading Schroeder.
But that is the difference between me and Bob.  Bob didn’t put any books on his reading list that were by Christian or Jewish believers.  Instead, he recommended only atheist and skeptical writers.  Bob said, “These writers can help you improve your arguments against belief in God.  You need to read and study more before we continue.”
The man went home and read the atheists.  Then he was more confident than ever that he had the best arguments.
Even though his arguments improved, Bob still argued a better case for atheism than the man had ever heard.  In amazement he asked Bob, “But if you can argue like that, why aren’t you an atheist?”
Bob’s answer was, “Because there are answers to these arguments.  Good answers to every objection.”  What were they?  Bob talked a few more hours and gave a reasoned argument from a Christian perspective.  Then what happened?
The man said, “Stop.  You have arguments I cannot answer, but I don’t want to believe.  I will never believe no matter what you say.”  The key word here is “will.”  The problem was not with his intellect but with his will.  He intended to disregard God’s existence or God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ.  In the end he just did not want to believe.
The problem of the will is a problem with Christian people as well as atheists, though the focus is different.  Here are some examples. 
Some people want to believe in God, or believe in forgiveness and heaven after they die, but they do not want to answer the Lord’s call to enter into fellowship with other believers.  They just want their own private faith, so to speak, without any hassles or churches or Sunday worship services or teaching.  They do not want commitment to a community.
Jesus never calls anyone to a private faith alone, but to communal faith.  You are invited to belong to a community, to a world-wide family, to a heavenly host. You are called not only to receive blessings but to give them, to encourage others.
Some people take part in congregational life, but seek personal control and power.  It is not a question of “Thy will be done” but “my will be done.”  This is a destructive attitude.  People are hurt when churches are full of power games and manipulation.
Some people will not forgive.  They choose anger instead of God’s help.
God gave us free will.  It is a blessing but also a curse.  Our misuse of free will is very dangerous. 
As Christians we can neglect duty or opportunity to encourage others.  We can abuse others even in churches.
As atheists we can play games and pretend to be wise while we exclude every rational argument that takes us in the direction of God, or exclude every historical argument that affirms Jesus Christ. 
So often the human will is like the neck that turns the head. A problem with our will may turn our intellect and attention only in the direction we choose. If you have a stiff neck you cannot turn very easily.
As a Christian I have to examine my will, intentions, desires and plans, and ask whether they are conformed to God’s will.  It is hard to pray like Jesus before his arrest and death:  “Thy will be done, not mine.” 
Jesus is the only one who perfectly trusted God enough to conform his will to God’s will.  He did this as our representative.  His obedience atones for my lack of obedience and lack of trust.  He atones for you too. 
He makes it possible for us to know God in grace and peace. His Spirit helps us conform our wills to God’s will, giving fresh starts each day.

*Robert Passantino co-authored several books with his wife Gretchen, including "Answers to the Cultist at Your Door" and "When the Devil Dares Your Kids."  Together he and Gretchen operated the apologetic and evangelism ministry called "Answers In Action."  In the early years of their ministry they worked closely with Walter Martin, founder of Christian Research Institute.  After Bob's untimely death his wife Gretchen remarried to Pat Coburn, and she still manages Answers In Action and ministers through writing and speaking in the southern California area.