Unbelief is rooted in neutralist thinking

by Mike Ratliff

17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; Ephesians 4:17-18 (NASB) 

Genuine Christianity is that which is within the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Christians are commanded to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) within that Lordship. We are to obey our Lord as branches abiding in the True Vine (John 15). How do we practically do this? We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling presuppositionally, that is, with every thought, intent, and action taken captive to the will of God. We do this by approaching and living life with God at the center of all things instead of ourselves. In the passage above, (Ephesians 4:17-18) we see the opposite way to walk and the outcome of that. Unfortunately, that is how most professing believers approach this life, that is, in functional unbelief.

Unbelief is rooted in neutralist thinking.

The plea for Christians to surrender to neutrality in their thinking is not an uncommon one. Nevertheless it strikes at the very heart of our faith and of our faithfulness to the Lord.1

Whatever some people may say with respect to the demand for neutrality in the Christian’s thought—the demand that believers not be set apart from other men by their adherence to God’s truth—the fact is that Scripture sharply differs with this demand. Contrary to neutrality’s demand, God’s word demands unreserved allegiance to God and His truth in all our thought and scholarly endeavors. It does so for good reason.2

3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. 5 For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.
6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. Colossians 2:3-8 (NASB) 

The demand for neutrality in our scholarly, apologetically, or educational endeavors actually robs one of all the treasure of knowledge that there is. The actual act of taking a neutral approach to knowledge has been demonstrated to be immoral in character. Some may protest that, but it has been shown repeatedly that those who slide into this allow their Christian distinctives to be muffled and finally integrated into the rebellious ways of an unbelieving mind-set. It is impossible for the genuine Christian to be neutral in his or her intellectual life. Why? This neutrality in a Christian would call for dual commitment: one to secular agnosticism, one to saving faith. It is would be what our Lord called “serving two masters.”

Those who are outside of a saving relationship to God, when they follow the intellectual methods mired in unbelief, are actually doing so in the futility of their minds and are darkened in their understanding. Neutralist thinking is, therefore, characterized by intellectual futility and ignorance. Contrast that with Psalm 36:9.

9 For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light. Psalms 36:9 (NASB)

True Christians in God’s light are able to see light. There a boatloads of highly educated people with a many letters after their names who can call themselves scholars, but if they have turned away from intellectual dependence upon the light of God, the truth about and from God, they have actually turned away from knowledge to the darkness of ignorance. I am sure we could come up with many lists of names to fit this category. Those professing Christians who desire to begin their scholarly endeavors from a position of neutrality are thus willing to begin their thinking in the dark. They would not allow God’s Word to be a light unto their path (cf. Psalm 119:105). To walk on in neutrality would be stumbling along in darkness.

The Christian who strives for neutrality in the world of thought is (1) not neutral, and thus (2) in danger of unwittingly endorsing assumptions that are hostile to the Christian faith. The pressure to be neutral causes professing Christians to actually compromise while they never actually realize they are doing so. They may believe that their intellectual neutrality is compatible with a Christian profession, but actually, they are operating in terms of unbelief. Why is this so? If the believer caught in this trap refuses to presuppose the truth of Christ, he or she invariably ends up presupposing the outlook of the world instead. Remember, our Lord made it clear that we cannot serve two masters. No one is truly neutral. All have their presuppositions. Shall your presuppositions be the teachings of Christ or the opposite, which are nothing more than vain deceptions?

Choose this day whom you will serve!

Soli Deo Gloria!

1Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready, (Nacogdoches: Covenant Media Press, 1996), p.3.

2Ibid, p4.

3 thoughts on “Unbelief is rooted in neutralist thinking

  1. It would be very helpful here (to me, at least) to include a concise definition of “neutralist thinking.” I can’t honestly say I know exactly what “neutralist thinking” consists of.


  2. This a quote from Greg Bahnsen’s book Always Ready. “Paul tells us in Ephesians 4 that to follow the methods dictated by the intellectual outlook of those who are outside of a saving relationship to God is to have a vain mind and darkened understanding (vv. 17-18). Neutralist thinking, then, is characterized by intellectual futility and ignorance. In God’s light, we are able to see light (cf. Ps. 36:9). To turn away from intellectual dependence upon the light of God, the truth about and from God, is to turn away from knowledge to the darkness of ignorance. Thus, if a Christian wishes to begin his scholarly endeavors from a position of neutrality he would, in actuality, be willing to begin his thinking in the dark. He would not allow God’s word to be a light unto his path (cf. Ps. 119:105). To walk on in neutrality, he would be stumbling along in darkness. God is certainly not honored by such thought as he should be, and consequently God makes such reasoning vain (Rom. 1:21b). Neutrality amounts to vanity in God’s sight.”

    Those we contend with who are in darkness demand that we abandon our Biblically bound presuppositions and go neutral. If you have done any contention with these people then you know what I am talking about. In any case, we cannot do this. We must never go neutral, but contend for the faith by remaining firmly entrenched in God’s Truth, always ready to give an account of the hope that is within us, which is the exact opposite of “neutralist thinking.” Now I know that you and all of us are continually under pressure to go neutral, but we cannot do it. Does that help Dan?


  3. I have never yet run into this admonition to “neutral thinking,” but it did get me to think about that phrase. As I consider the teaching of Our Lord, He never gave that option of “neutrality.” He said, “he who is not with me, is against me.” All the teaching of scripture says “either/or.” Either you hear and obey or not. Either you are in (God’s kingdom) or you are not! Either you are being transformed (undergoing sanctification) or you are not! Either you are being conformed to the image of Christ or you are not!
    This “neutralist thinking” seems to me like a sneaky, subtle, attempt at trying to dissuade Faith in the truths of scripture by not stating outright rejection of God’s Truth, but a kind of end run around that.


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