Man without God lives in denial. He chooses to believe and delight in lies because he is running from the God of meaning.
Unredeemed man runs from God because he believes in Satan’s great lie, that man can “be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). He believes that he has made good on that evil desire and that he has achieved autonomy from God. When man believes in so fundamental a delusion, his life and thought will be a total disconnect from reality. Estranged from the God of meaning, his life, thought, and relations will be controlled by a series of fictional presuppositions.
Paul associated such thinking with philosophies, deceits, and traditions that were not based on Jesus Christ (Col. 2:8). Paul found man’s problem as stemming from a rejection of Jesus Christ because He is the One who can fix our sin problem. Any thought structure that is not based on repentance for sin and faith in Christ as man’s only means of restoration is one based on the fiction of human autonomy, the fantasy that Adam’s rebellion was, and is, legitimate.
When Paul said that in Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3), he was not speaking of any type of mystical or secret knowledge. Rather he meant that we understand all of reality when we see Christ as the Mediator between man and the God from whom he was estranged by sin. Christ reconciles us to reality when He reconciles us to God. Man outside of God is living Satan’s lie, which is a disconnect from God’s reality. It is only in Jesus Christ that man has access to God’s world and the sanity of living in terms of it.
In the same vein John could say that believers in Christ know all things (1 John 2:20), not exhaustively but conceptually. We have a system of thought and knowledge that fits together. We have a universe, not a multiverse.
Paul described men as having “itching ears” that turn away from truth and “heap to themselves teachers” (2 Tim. 4:3–4). The result is not greater understanding, but “fables.” “Itching ears” are ears eager to hear what they want to hear. There is no end to those who will accommodate this lust for fiction, and such men can “heap to themselves” such teachers. Their numbers are used to claim proper scholarship, in this, the academia of man’s pretend autonomy.
Unredeemed men not only believe lies but they “hold [or suppress] the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18). Their lack of reconciliation to God makes them actively resist truth. When men embrace their separation from God, they regard it as normative, and they think and live in that precarious imagination. Thus, as with the pre-flood generation, every imagination of their heart is continually evil (Gen. 6:5).
The ultimate denial is man’s rejection of his accountability to God. Men who live in such denial live in a world of fiction. Fiction thus plays a major part of our world. It dominates our entertainment. Marx built an economic system around an historical fiction, and his followers continue to try to bend the world to fit their decree of how things ought to be. Our legal precedents are increasingly built on fictitious claims of what the Constitution says. Our histories are increasingly rewritten so they can be used to propagandize for modern sociological goals.
Churches are very prone to turn to fiction. The most heretical and blasphemous positions are declared “true Christianity” or “what Jesus taught.”
John told us that those who make and love lies are outside the Kingdom of God (Rev. 22:15). Our regeneration gives us a right relationship with God; we are empowered to think like the people of our Creator and Redeemer. We have a grasp on who we are and what we are here for. Our lives have meaning, purpose, and hope. We have a grasp on reality.
Confidence in sin, man’s rebellion, and his pretense to autonomy is faith in a fiction, a lie.