When I was young I thought that believing in God was something separate from reality as I knew it. I thought that you understood things as they were and then one day POOF! people believed in God through some religious experience they had.
Why did I believe this? Because this is what I saw growing up in Church and I am sad to say that I don’t remember being taught any better. I heard that it was about stepping out in faith, and nobody ever explained much about why they believed the way they did but for their experience. It always seemed like blind faith to me and I thought that is was silly. I was not going to blindly believe in something until I understood what that something was.
Now I am not saying that people are not regenerated supernaturally by God without this, in fact I am quite sure that they are, however that wasn’t going to work for me. Thankfully, God has seen to it that he will reach certain people in specific ways for different purposes.
You see my faith in a God was going to have to be reasonable. Nothing hocus pocus about it, no wonderful experience (Although those came even without me wanting them to). I was going to wade through the enlightened halls of reason and find answers myself in an attempt to make this faith leap as small as possible.
One of the many reasons that I was able to do that was the theological explanation of something called the Noetic effects of sin. I have only known the proper term for a short time now and I seem to bump into it all the time now that I know it, in fact it seems to have grown popular recently with various books being published on the subject. However even though I have only recently become familiar with the term, I have known the idea for quite some time and would probably credit Van Til with the explanation although I am sure others explained similar things before him and I just didn’t recognize it.
The idea comes from Romans as many theological concepts do and specifically Romans 1:18-23 which in part says “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. This teaches us that God has revealed himself to everyone through nature, a lesser revealing that is twisted by the effects of sin. This revealing can be confused or flat-out rejected when God does not reveal himself further to us.
This explains many things such as how the unregenerate man can do good things, become intellectual, and talk about and even “know” of God without having a true understanding of the things of God resulting in a relationship with him. Our minds were not destroyed by sin, and we are still looking to fill voids in our life before regeneration begins. We rationalize about things and long for pure joy because we were created to do so, however sin breaks this ability down and if not removed we end up irrational and grabbing for things to fill the void of happiness in our lives.
So sin has hampered us, and the doctrine of total depravity teaches that we can’t lift these effects on our own. As much as we try, and as much good we can do for ourselves and society without being regenerated, we are still spiritually dysfunctional.
This is the reason that we should not feel that we have to “dumb down” Christianity so that people can understand it especially in our Churches. We don’t have to throw away reason and blindly jump across a huge chasm from our reasoning to our faith. God has created us in such a way that although we can’t reason our way to salvation, we can follow logic and reason and see God’s revealing even while not being regenerated, and this can lead to a small hop to belief and much more firm landing on the other side.