Quantum Theology: Unbelief

excerpt from Os Guinness’ Fool’s Talk, Chapter Five—The Anatomy of Unbelief


There are four strands of unbelief — suppression, exploitation, inversion, and self-deception.

The common metaphors that view unbelief from one angle or another are — hardening, blindness, deafness, unnaturalness, rebellion, lies, deception, folly, and madness.

One way of summarizing the effect of the four features of unbelief is to focus on the inescapable tension and dynamic conflict inherent in unbelief. At the core of unbelief is ceaseless, unremitting and inescapable tension and conflict. Unbelief suppresses the truth in unrighteousness, but it is still always the truth, so it can never completely get away from it.

Many implications for Christian thinking flow from this tension and conflict. It explains why our arguments can and must always appeal to reason, for the Lord of truth created his human creatures with the capacity to reason, and reason is God’s instrument to be used in the service of truth. For humans made in the image of God, reasoning is as natural as breathing, walking or smiling. Yet we always need to be ready to go beyond purely rational arguments, for the human will is in play, so our arguments are never dealing with purely neutral or disinterested minds.

It explains why humans construct worldviews and why there are so many—they are philosophical and social fictions, or worlds within the world that provide a world of meaning apart from God and against God. Since none are finally true, none are finally adequate, so the search for a more adequate explanation multiplies the inadequate options.

It explains why false religion is so false and bad religion so bad—religion becomes the supreme fiction and alibi that sanctions all other evasions of God.

It explains why there are both Promethean and Procrustean elements in the greatest human thinking. (On the one hand, “I am and who but I.” And on the other hand, “If the truth doesn’t fit life, it can always be stretched or cut down to my desired size.”)

It explains the realism underlying the philosophy of Christian realism—there is and will always be a moral defect in all human thinking. This means that no human thinking is ever truly disinterested and at some point it always goes wrong, and at its extremes it will become foolish and even dark and mad. Also, there will always be the phenomenon of “unintended consequences,” because the element of the unforeseen in the best human knowledge will always upset the best of human foresight. Conversely, it explains why no one is ever complete wrong—there is always a mixture of truth in even the falsest and most dangerous worldviews.

It explains why non-Christian can be “better people” than Christians, and why there are always redeeming features in the worst of people—whether they know God or not, and whatever they say about God, they are still made in the image of God and capable of humanity.

And of course it explains why all humans desires, longings, and aspirations point beyond themselves and toward God. The full range and depth of of our desires are simply not fully covered by our unbelieving faiths and philosophies; and therefore they are not fully satisfied by what our unbelieving minds insist is true. Only Jesus and his fuller, final truth can fulfill the desires for the “something more” that cries out in all genuine human desires, longings, and aspirations.


quantum – a discrete quantity of energy proportional in magnitude to the frequency of the radiation it represents
theology – the study of the nature of God along with spiritual and religious beliefs
quantum theology – a small, yet significant, portion of theological writing with broad implications

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