Belief and Unbelief

by Mike Ratliff

Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; his anger rose against Israel, because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power. (Psalms 78:21-22 ESV)

Dealing with Emergents and others who insist that they are Christians while what they say and do is marked as distinctly the fruit of unbelief, can be a very trying experience. I suppose that is why our enemy will never stop his attacks on those who are called by the name of Christ to discourage and confuse them. I read part of an article today written by Doug Pagitt, an Emergent, about a dialogue or conversation he had had with Chris Rosebrough, a fellow blogger of mine in the Christian Research Network. The consensus Pagitt and his fellow Emergents came up with that they felt described those of us who would be considered Orthodox Christians was that we are so because we are driven by fear. However, the one thing that struck a chord with me in this was Pagitt’s description of the differences in our faith and his was that they are nothing more than different “streams of faith.” In case you are interested in that “article,” here is the link

However, as I said, that phrase, “stream of faith” struck a chord with me and I have learned, as I have gotten deeper and deeper into the Truth War, to stop and listen to the Lord when that happens. The following is the product of that, at least, so far.

There are only two groups of people in the world. There are Christians, the elect, and everyone else, the non-elect. What separates them? What is the difference? It is not that different streams of faith, which are all equal and going to the same place, color people. No, that is what the Emergents are selling, but that is most definitely not what God’s Word explicitly says. No, the difference between those in Christ and everyone else is that the former are possessors of faith, which is the Greek word πιστις, which is transliterated as “pistis” It and it’s many grammatical forms are translated as “assurance,” “faith,” ”belief,” et cetera throughout the New Testament. Before we define “unbelief,” let us define biblical faith, πιστις, so that we can see very clearly what marks the true believer from the false professor.

Carefully read the following passage my brethren.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.'” Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:7-19 ESV)

What do those who have πιστις that those with unbelief, απιστιας, “apistias,” do not and visa versa? The Greek word translated throughout the Bible as belief or faith, πιστις, is actually a technical rhetorical term for forensic proof. That’s right, the faith that Christians have that brings Him glory and is exhibited by those who believe God and obey Him is rooted in believing the proof He has given. As we can see in this passage, those with πιστις obey God because they have not hardened their hearts and rebelled, which is exactly what those with απιστιας instead do. In this passage, those who died off in the wilderness before reaching the Promised Land died in their απιστιας, their unbelief. On the other hand, those who did enter in did so because of their obedience, which was the fruit of their πιστις.

πιστις is not a feeling. It is not something that we have based on faith in ourselves in any way. No, our Lord said it well in the discourse He gave to the Eleven the night before His crucifixion.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 ESV)

No, the faith of those who walk in obedience to God is based in and focused entirely on Christ. It is never based in or focused on ourselves. When we make that huge mistake, we are setting ourselves up for a nasty fall. Faith that produces a godly life that brings God glory is an assurance and belief in our awesome God and what He has done on our behalf already and what He has promised to do for us in the future.

Therefore, when we see the Emergents attempting to blend together their different steams of faith we see people who are exhibiting nothing more than απιστιας, which is defined as faithlessness or uncertainty, distrust, and unbelief. In the New Testament, it is shown to be what marks those who do not acknowledge Christ as Lord and Saviour. These doubt Christ’s power and do not trust in the God of promise. Oh, some have a religion built around a Jesus of their own construction, but this is not Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord, and Saviour. No, their Jesus is their buddy and has no problem with “sins” and participating in the blending of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity because, hey, these are just different streams of faith, right?

Therefore, we must examine ourselves. Are we walking before the face of God in πιστις, in obedience to His revealed will in the Word of God, or are we walking our own way in απιστιας. The former is the walk of obedience of the children of God. The latter is the walk of rebellion and with faith in self with the elevation of uncertainty to the status of a virtue.

We teach that all those in Christ are so because of what God has done.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)

Here are the bold verses in Greek:

8τη γαρ χαριτι εστε σεσωσμενοι δια πιστεως και τουτο ουκ εξ υμων θεου το δωρον  9ουκ εξ εργων ινα μη τις καυχησηται (Ephesians 2:8-9 WHNU)

In the (τη) for (γαρ) grace (χαριτι) you are (εστε) being delivered (σεσωσμενοι) through (δια) faith (πιστεως); and (και) this (τουτο) not (ουκ) from (εξ) you (υμων),  of God (θεου) the (το) gift (δωρον); not (ουκ) from (εξ) works (εργων), that (ινα) not (μη) any (τις) might brag (καυχησηται). (Ephesians 2:8-9 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

The faith that believes God is a part of this gift. Without this, no one believes. The best we can do without it is works, εργων. We are being delivered as we walk through our life down the narrow path of obedience, which is a product of this faith πιστεως, trust, or belief becoming manifest in us according to God’s grace, χαριτι. Those truly saved all go through this and these are the ones who cross over into God’s eternal rest, only them.

Now, is our faith, our πιστις, built on fear as these Emergents are saying or is it a product of God’s good work in our hearts that enable us to see the truth, believe the truth, and walk accordingly?

Soli Deo Gloria!




14 thoughts on “Belief and Unbelief

  1. Mike, I think that you would have found, had you read the post and not just part of it, that I was suggesting the reason your stream talks the way you do about other people, is from fear.
    Not, that you believe the way you do is from fear. I think there are far less honorable reasons for that.
    I was trying to help others understand that we are scary to you and to have some empathy for the fact that fear is created.
    I can tell by your post that you desire to be thorough, so, I think it would be in your character to actually read the entire posts you are referencing.
    Peace, Doug


  2. Doug,

    You missed the point of my article. I was addressing the fallacy you hold of there being different “streams of faith.” There is faith (belief) and unbelief. That’s it. You either believe God and obey Him or you don’t. Funny thing about that Doug. God does not ever contradict Himself. He is not the author of confusion. Therefore, He is not going to have these “different” ways of serving Him or believing Him.

    On the parts of your article that I did read I saw an attempt to explain why Chris, Ken Silva, and the rest of us at CRN say what we say about you and your friends and why it sounds the way it does. You attributed that to fear. However, that is misplaced. Yes, I am motivated by fear, but not of you or any other person. I am motivated by the fear of God that is most certainly Biblical. I know and believe the God of the Bible and He is not to be trifled with. You and your friends don’t seem to understand that hence you continually say and do things that are most certainly out of bounds in terms of Orthodoxy.

    Consider this a gentle rebuke and an exhortation to repent while there is still time.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  3. [There are only two groups of people in the world. There are Christians, the elect, and everyone else, the non-elect.]

    There are also only two ways. NOT streams.

    We must be 100% sure we are on the right one for they both claim you go to heaven.

    Mat 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

    [I was trying to help others understand that we are scary to you]


    The fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING of wisdom.

    It is useless to fear man!

    Psa 118:6 The LORD [is] on my side; I will not fear. What can MAN do to me?

    Hbr 13:6 So we may boldly say: “The LORD [is] my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

    Thank you once again Mike.



  4. Hi Mike,
    It’s obvious that when one accuses another of something, like fear, that accusation stems from one’s own fear itself. That is sometimes referred to as Freudian Projection or simply projecting. “In classical psychology, projection is always seen as
    a defense mechanism that occurs when a person’s own unacceptable or threatened feelings are repressed and then attributed to someone else.” (Wikipedia definition)

    “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
    Matthew 10:28 (wow, red letters and a mention of hell!)

    Mike, you have it right. We fear the One “who is not to be trifled with” as you wrote.
    God bless you today.


  5. The issue isn’t fear… it is discernment. The person who adheres to biblical doctrine will and should call out false teachers and/or false doctrine. Sounds like another post-modern redefinition… “Fighting the good fight and always being ready to give a defense” = fear. Next, preaching will be redefined as “relating” or “exchanging” and disciples will mean “audience members”.


  6. Mike, may I point people to John chapter 5, verses 16-30. Here Jesus very clearly tells the Jews and us, if we are willing to believe, Who He is. It is so clear, that only those who are spiritually dead will miss what Jesus is teaching us. And then, starting in John 5:32 through to the end of the chapter, Jesus Christ tells us who His witnesses are, besides Himself. Again, no one can possibly miss this unless they are spiritually dead. Here are just two verses from the passage that are amazing. Jesus is speaking: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:22-23)

    In the end it is not what you or I or Doug or anybody thinks. Here we have the very words of the Lord Jesus, plus witnesses. Will we argue with God Himself, in the Person of Jesus Christ? Do we refuse to believe His witnesses? He is our Judge, He deserves our honor.


  7. Thank you Julie and Amen! As you know, I am a student of the Protestant Reformation. The battles that Luther and Tyndale and Calvin fought were the very same as ours, but with different opponents. Theirs was with the RC who had hidden the truth away while promoting a religion of superstition and allegory. Tyndale wrote a book titled: The Obedience of a Christian Man. There is chapter towards the end of it called: “The Four Senses of Scripture,” which drives a stake in the heart of all who will deny the literal sense of scripture as the only way to read God’s Word, which is exactly where you got what you shared in your comment. Genuine Christian faith is belief in what God has done and said. We believe the proof He has given to us. Those who would argue against this are in unbelief and darkness. This darkness is growing all across the world as the lies of unbelief are being woven together to usher in the last antichrist who will preside over the one-world religion being created by these fools. However, as long as God gives us the time and opportunity to do so, let us withstand them with His Truth and prepare to meet our Saviour Face-to-face very soon.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  8. Why in the world do people like Pagitt care what people think? And when he tethers “fear” to motives he is actually exercising a subtle form of self righteousness. We do not address Pagitt’s teachings because we are afraid of anything, but because they are confusing and nebulous and antithetical to even a generous reading of the New Testament.

    The human language can be leveraged to teach almost anything and claim you gleaned it from Scripture. The teachings of Pagitt, Bell, Rollins, and many of the others used to be unclear and confusing to me as I strove to give them the benefit of the gospel doubt. That horse has long since left the barn. Their teachings cannot be considered Biblical Christianity and the sad part is that some of them seem to have a more mainstream evangelical past.

    When it comes to your posts on the emergent church, Mike, I say amen and amen.


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