“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that was in them because of the hardness of their hearts” (Ephesians 4:17-18).
When we consider the points of difference between Christians and unbelievers it is interesting to note that Paul zeroes in on matters relating to heart and mind. Here in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he refers to the unbeliever’s ‘mind’ and ‘understanding,’ which he claims are darkened because of “ignorance.” It is clear, therefore, that one major point of difference between Christians and unbelievers is the way in which we think.
God calls His people to an intellectual revolution. While the world likes to represent Christians as intellectual lightweights who live on their feelings, the truth is otherwise. Christ’s command to ‘love the Lord your God ‘with all your….mind’ reminds us that the Christians are called to intellectual rigour.
However, there’s another area of difference between Christians and unbelievers which is of even greater importance. It’s in the area of the will. Paul says that the reason why there is such a vast difference between Christian and non-Christian thinking is due to our wills. Unbelievers, according to Paul, are “darkened in their understanding… because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts.”
Have you ever considered why non-Christians think so differently to believers? Why do so many of them, for example, approve of abortion or same-sex marriage? Why do they condone sexual immorality and promiscuity? Well, says Paul, it comes down to their wills. It’s not primarily an intellectual thing; it’s “because of the hardness of their hearts”.
Now this is interesting. Non-Christians like to think of themselves as “free thinkers”. They consider they are perfectly rational and unbiased in the way they process information. However, Paul disagrees. Interestingly, we sometimes find atheists admitting their bias. Aldus Huxley, the famous English humanist, confessed in his autobiography that the reason why he supported Darwinian evolution was that it allowed him to support political movements which endorsed a ruthless use of power, as well as enabling him to pursue a lifestyle of sexual freedom.
We ought to be grateful to Huxley for his frank admission because it reminds us that unbelievers are never disinterested when they claim that they are seeking the truth. Huxley embraced a particular worldview – essentially secularism grounded in an evolutionary worldview – because such a position allowed him to fulfill his heart’s desires. In other words, his personal beliefs had more to do with his will than his reason. Paul’s point is clear: he says unbelievers choose a certain way of life, and then seek to justify it intellectually. There’s no such thing as “intellectual neutrality”; people think out of their wills.
Elsewhere, Paul says that Christians ‘cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth’ ((2 Cor 13:8). This implies, of course, that our hearts have been renewed by God’s Spirit. So again, we need to ask ourselves: “Have I trusted Christ as my Saviour and been born again by the Spirit?” We need to do this before we can really pursue the truth.