I’m sure you’ve noticed the crop of new books aimed at addressing another crop of new books. Christians have produced an enormous arsenal of literature to counter the claims of the new atheists that say God is not good, a delusion, or the cause of everything bad in the world. Just one example, and an excellent one at that, is Greg Ganssle’s A Reasonable God: Engaging the New Face of Atheism.
For the most part, these books are written by philosophers or those with a philosophical frame of reference. But how would this debate take shape from a more theological (especially Christian) vantage point?
Psalm 14 would serve as a valuable starting point for that discussion. It famously begins, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ and then elaborates that the problem spreads beyond the intellect – “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile…”
If the Psalm continued to talk about those fools, we’d probably quote and memorize the whole thing. But, almost shockingly, David’s inspired poem of praise turns its attention to a wider audience – one that includes everyone. The second half of the second verse universalizes the problem of sin, “there is no one who does good.” And for the next 5 verses, the condemnation of all people who “turn aside,” “have become corrupt,” live unjust lives, and “do not call on the LORD” never lets up.
On the first two verses of the psalm, commentator Derek Kidner writes, “The point of these two verses is that the arrogant materialist of verse 1 is but an example, even though an extreme one, of man in general….Not everyone is an aggressive fool…but no-one is found to act wisely.”
So before we pull out the frequent tools of condemnation of atheists (sarcasm, marveling at their stupidity, pointing out their contradictions or faulty logic, etc.), we would do well to pause and reflect on God’s mercy to deliver us and open our eyes and hearts to the gospel.
David concludes his psalm with a yearning for salvation and a call to rejoice when that day dawns. “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!” he cries.
What joy and wonder we now have because indeed salvation HAS come to all who trust in Jesus, the Messiah who set us free from our foolishness – and worse.