"The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God, they have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Psalm 14:1-3)
The story is told of the Atheist who accosted a preacher. "Do you believe in eternal life?" The preacher has no time to reply. "Well its a load of rubbish!" shouted the Atheist. "I believe in science, evolution, survival of the fittest, and when we die, that's it! No eternal life, no great judgement, and no God!" The Atheist continues his assault against the preacher repetitiously and tirelessly. "Eternal life! Eternal life! Ha! "Its all pie in the sky when you die." When I die that's it, the end, no eternal life, no nothing. He continues, until he reaches his climax, "I will be buried six feet under when I die and that's it! Nothing! Caput! When I die I am utterly convinced that that will be the end of me!" "Thank God for that" replies the preacher! And of course the story is told to humorously introduce and illustrate the on going debate between Christians and Atheists, the question of God's existence. "Yes, He exists" claims the Christian. "No, He does not exist" claims the Atheist.
Denial of God is Foolishness (14:1).
It is interesting to know that the Bible never addresses the question of whether or not God exists, but simply assumes that His existence is a fact. It does not first begin by philosophizing as to whether such a Being is actually a reality or not, but begins by saying "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen.1:1). And not only that, but as can be seen from Psalm 14:1-3, it is absolutely scathing of anyone who could even consider that He does not exist, "The fool says in his heart there is no God."
Interestingly, the Bible also makes reference to the unbeliever calling the Christian a fool, but for the opposite reason. The book of 1 Corinthians (1:18 ff.) speaks of the message that Christians preach as being foolishness to those who do not believe in it. And this has continued to the present day. Many people reject the Christian message as being foolish and those who proclaim it as fools, believing that anyone who believes in such a thing has committed intellectual suicide. However, there are, in fact, some good reasons for a belief in God, not merely on the basis of 'blind faith' but on the basis of intelligent observation and good old common sense!
The Hebrew word for "fool" in Psalm 14:1-3 (nabal) is to be taken as describing a type of person who is not necessarily a simpleton, or an uneducated person, but rather one who has deliberately closed their minds to God and to all instruction. Such a person may even be an academic individual, but the greater his academic ability, the greater his or her foolishness. And it must be observed that the Psalmist is making a universal statement here. He is not saying that some of the people who are saying this are fools, or that while there are fools who say this sort of thing there are also well educated and learned people who say it as well. No. He is saying that everyone of them who say it, well educated and poorly educated alike are simply fools.
Now I know that some people will take great offense at this and are not going to stand for it. After all, who likes to be called a fool? So why does the Bible make this statement? Why is this denial of God a foolish thing to do? There are a number of reasons. Firstly, people who are saying there is no God are listening to the desire of their own hearts rather than that sense of God that is in each one of us. Of course people may try and suppress this awareness of God and stifle it, but the truth is that it is there in each one of us. In the New Testament, the book of Romans describes that "that which is known about God is evident within them..." (Rom. 1:19). And wherever you may go in the world you will find that people have this sense of God. Even among the most primitive people this can be seen. It may be confused and somewhat distorted in that they may be worshipping things like stones, trees, or animals (animism), due to the effects of our sinful fallen nature, but this sense of a higher Being is there within them, and it is trying to express itself in worship. This natural in built awareness is therefore an innate element within us all and to go against this is foolishness.
Even Atheists themselves, whether they will admit it or not, have this sense of God and will cry out to Him in times of trouble. The Bible teacher, Roger Price, tells of a story where a group of men, one of whom was minister, are traveling together in the same carriage on a train, on a long journey. Eventually a conversation begins whereby the men ask the minister "What do you do for a living?" to which he replies "I am a minister of the Gospel." After saying this each of the men say such things as "I am an atheist" etc. to which the minister replied "Well can you please tell me then, if you don't believe, why is it that you all pray?" to which every one of them shuffled about nervously in their seats! The point is, of course, that when people are in desperate need, many turn to God in prayer, even those who publicly affirm atheism.
One also has to ask where does the human conscience come from? I am sure if any normal person were to be approached with the question "Would it be right for a person to go into a children's play area, in a park, with a gun and shoot at innocent children. Most people would be absolutely horrified at the mere thought of it, and rightly so, it would be a terrible thing to do. But we have to ask where does this basic moral sense of right and wrong come from? I would suggest that God, being a moral Being put it in each one of us.
Another reason why it is foolishness to deny God's existence is the creation that we see all around us. Psalm 19:1 declares "The heavens are telling of the glory of God" and Romans 1:20 states that the existence of God is clearly known by what He has created. Are we really to believe that everything that we see around us has come about by pure chance? To believe such a thing is like saying that a computer, for example, just came about by accident. Of course that is ridiculous. Anyone would object "Oh come on, someone designed that." That is true, someone did, so why should anyone suppose that the world and the universe in which we exist, and which is far, far more complex than anything made by man should come about by chance?
Many of those who say "There is no God" will also say "If God exists then why does He hide Himself away?" "Is He shy?" "Why doesn't He reveal Himself?" But the fact is that He has revealed Himself 2000 years ago when God became incarnated in the historical Person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Not only do the historical accounts of the Gospels declare His existence, but secular historical records also make mention of Him as well. In fact, so great was the effect that He had on the world that we even measure time by Him; B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, Latin for 'the year of our Lord'). We base our whole calendar on His life; and every time that we write the date we pay an unconscious tribute to His birth. There is only one way to adequately explain the existence of Jesus, and that is the existence of God.
Denial of God in Order to Deify Humanity (14:1, 3).
The one who denies the existence of God is actually attempting to set him or herself up as a god themselves, with their own goodness, knowledge, and in the general way in which they conduct themselves. Humanists and Atheists would argue that anything that is wrong with humanity can be put right with further knowledge and by education in "seeking the good" as Plato suggested. But this idea has been disproved throughout the centuries since Plato's day. People may be able to attain to a high degree of academic achievement and remember vast amounts of information but they may well act like fools in their own lives because they are led by their desires. There are some educated people whom you would probably not hesitate to take the advice of in their given field of expertise, but some of these same people can be guilty of acting like total fools in their own personal lives. They drink too much, they may be guilty of adultery etc. Although such people may indeed have great brains they are governed by their lusts and desires. "There is no one who does good" (vv.1, 3) says the Psalmist "They are corrupt..." The prophet Jeremiah summed up the condition of man well with the words "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?" (Jer. 19:9). According to the Psalmist, a denial of God's existence naturally leads to such corruption and abominable behavior whereby the persons whole judgement and lifestyle is effected.
Some would object that people of Bible times only believed in God because they did not have access to the knowledge that we have at our disposal today. But now, in our modern high tech world, with our understanding of science and psychology, belief in God is no longer necessary because we are better educated. However, firstly, the denial of God's existence has not now come because we are less gullible than the ancient people. As Psalm 14 declares, people were saying exactly the same thing back then, nearly three thousand years ago! And secondly, what should also be observed is that although many simple and uneducated people do believe in God, some of the greatest thinkers in history have also believed in Him. For example, people are very familiar with Isaac Newton because of his famous scientific discoveries, but most people do not realize that he spent most of his time searching the Bible and writing books about Bible prophecy. Blaise Pascal, the brilliant mathematician, and Albert Einstein also believed in God.
To declare such a universal negative as "There is no God" is actually to say something that is philosophically and logically absurd. No human being on the face of the planet can say that they have explored every corner of the universe and have experienced everything within it, and have perfect knowledge. But to say "There is no God" one would have to have simultaneously experienced all things, have been to all places, and have perfect and complete knowledge. In short, one would have to be omnipresent, and omniscient, God yourself.
Denial of God is the Attempt of Humanity to Escape their Responsibility Before Him
In verse 2 the Psalmist describes God as looking down from heaven to see if there is anyone who seeks after God. The answer comes in verse 3 "They have all turned aside...", and what can be more of a turning aside from God than denying His very existence? Roger Price pointed out that Sigmund Freud believed that man invented God to provide security for himself. He arrived at this conclusion with three observations:
Obviously, this short examination of the subjects of the existence of God and atheism, through the lens of Psalm 14, does not answer every issue that could be raised. But if you are someone who is seeking God, but is still unsure of God's existence, I would ask that you at least consider some of the things that have been pointed out here and be open in your heart. I would also suggest that you seek God by coming to Him in prayer, offered in Jesus name. God not only wants you to know the reality of His existence in your mind, but He also wants you to actually know Him in a personal and loving relationship through the Lord Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews 11:6 promises us that God is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. I would therefore invite you to seek Him today and you can know that He is a reality, in your mind as well as your heart.
Anderson, A.A. The Book of Psalms Vol. 1 (1-72). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983.
Calver, C. and Meadows, P. Living on the Edge. East Sussex: Spring Harvest, 1996.
Chapman, C. Christianity on Trial, Book 2. London: Lion Publishing, 1974.
Crabtree, T.T. The Zondervan 1993 Pastor's Annual. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993.
Knight, G.A.F. The Daily Study Bible, Psalms Volume 1. Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1982.
Lloyd-Jones, M. Enjoying the Presence of God, Studies in the Psalms. Eastbourne: Crossway Books, 1991.
Morey, D. "Debate with an Atheist", Awareness. Autumn No. 41, 1992.
Price, R. "Does God Exist?" Chichester: Chichester Christian Fellowship, Audio cassette, n.d.
Watts, M. Rolling in the Aisles. Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications, 1994.
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