Natural religion contains just enough truth to make it deceptive

Published 9:12 am Thursday, October 19, 2023

From the writings of the Rev. Billy Graham

Dear Rev. Graham: What does the Bible say about natural religion, sometimes called false religion? – N.R.


Dear N.R.: From the very beginning of time, “natural” religion was introduced onto the human stage as a substitute for God’s plan. The Apostle Paul describes this in his letter to the Romans, using references of images resembling birds, animals, and serpents to illustrate man-made religion. But this doesn’t describe all its forms. Today there are many new and more sophisticated religious expressions — especially at some universities — but they are really from the same root: man seeking God consciously or unconsciously.

Paul describes man’s corruption of God’s revelation: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools … . For they exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Romans 1:20–25, NASB).

Paul was simply saying that all men everywhere possess at least a primitive knowledge of God. God created all of us in His image; everyone is answerable to the light that He revealed to them. God’s nature will bear witness of His divine power to whom everyone will answer. God calls out to mankind to receive Him.

Natural religion contains just enough truth to make it deceptive. It may contain elements of truth, or high ethical standards. Some of its followers at times use terms that sound like the language of the Bible. Religion of man may have a very pleasant sound, but true faith in God is knowing Him and the power of His resurrection (see Philippians 3:10).


(This column is based on the words and writings of the late Rev. Billy Graham.)