Calvary Road Baptist Church

“CONFRONTING THE ATHEIST”

Psalm 14.1

 

Though he would hate to admit it, Vic actually started going to church because of a pretty girl. He worked part time with a guy who pressured him into going to church, but once he got there he was so impressed by the young women there that he started attending regularly.

After he had asked one or two women for a date, he quickly figured out that the young women at the church just didn’t date guys visiting their church, though they did enjoy going out together in groups. Since he couldn’t beat them, he decided to join them.

A very strange thing happened to Vic after he’d attended the church for about six months. He got under serious conviction and was converted. So, in pretty short order he became a Christian, graduated from college, and got his first career job.

One day, while taking stock of his life over the last 12 to 18 months, it dawned on Vic that he had never succeeded in getting any of his classmates or co-workers to church. That bothered him, so he began to think about his responsibilities as a Christian. Surely, he could get somebody to come to church. After all, how hard could it be? Christians should get people into the church house. Right?

Reading his Bible, Vic noticed that in Mark’s gospel was a version of the Great Commission in which the Lord Jesus Christ said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”[1] Continuing his study of the problem, Vic noticed that a clear declaration of the means by which our great task is to be accomplished is found in Luke 14.23, where the Master declared, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” “Our church does that,” he thought to himself, “but I would still like to get a neighbor or co-worker to church. After all, that’s how I got to church the first time.”

Vic set about the task of getting someone from work, of getting a member of his family, of getting someone in his apartment building, of getting anyone, to come to church with him. However, he was finding that what he thought was easy for other people to do was quite difficult for him to accomplish. This matter of getting people to church was proving to be hard.

Before long, Vic began to think of evangelism in different terms than he ever had before. It was quite clear to him after reading the Bible that the Lord Jesus Christ assigned us a task that is so big, so incredible in its scope that it can only be accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit of God, because the task assigned to us is quite simply beyond human resources.

Vic came to see that, coupled with the enormity of the task assigned to us is our realization of the hopelessness of the situation without us. Men and women, boys and girls, simply have no hope apart from the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Wrecked lives, wrecked families, confused and abandoned children, and nothing awaiting them but an eternity of Hellfire, Vic could see all around him the great need.

Therefore, on one hand we have our marching orders, reinforced by the terrible tragedies we see before us each day that cry out for God’s intervention, but on the other hand, we face tremendous resistance to the truth when we try to get people under the sound of the gospel. Evangelism, at least that part of it that gets people into the church house, involves persuading people to do what they do not want to do.

It didn’t take Vic long to see things much more clearly than he had before. Almost no one wants to be saved from their sins, that almost no one wants to be set free to really live and to truly love, and that almost no one wants to own up to the fact that there is a God with whom we have to do, Who will someday demand an accounting from us.

Vic wondered, “What’s a guy to do?” Vic, you do the best you can. In addition, to help you do the best you can, realize that God’s Word provides insight to understand the resistance to the truth that we see in the people we deal with.

Turn in your Bible to Psalm 14.1: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Each of us here today is, to a greater or lesser extent, just like this guy named Vic. You have learned from your own experiences how difficult it is to get sinners under the sound of the gospel, to persuade the lost to do something that is very good for them, but which they typically do not want to do.

Notice again, what we have just read. From the italicized words we can see that the psalmist has actually and literally written, “The fool hath said in his heart, no God,” meaning that the fool says “No” to God in his heart, or the fool says “There is no God” in his heart.

Whatever the case may be, anyone with this type of attitude toward God identifies himself as a fool. The fact that the psalmist attributed this thinking to the fool’s heart suggests that what is stated here is what the fool wants to believe, what the fool would like to be true. In addition, since we easily believe what we wish to believe, what we have here is the sentiment of someone who hates the control, who dislikes the character, and who dreads the inspection, judgment, and wrath of his Maker.

My friends, those who deny the existence of God, or who challenge the relevancy of God, are people who do not deal with reality. Such a fool has constructed a facade of reason and pretended intellect to justify his wishful thinking, so he can pass his time living in an imaginary universe. Of course, what this means is that such a person is quite difficult to deal with about the things of God and the certainty of future judgment. His family can fly apart in all directions, his children can fall to this sin or that, yet such a foolish person remains hidden in the comfort of his dream world, all the while denying the God who made him. This is the type of person Vic has to learn to deal with in his attempts to evangelize.

If I have painted a bleak picture, it is intentional, because the picture I paint for you is real. Though the atheist frequently criticizes and ridicules Christians for needing a Savior as a crutch (something we freely admit to), the great advantage we have over the atheist is that we live in the real world, we address real issues and real life problems, and we proclaim a gospel that provides real solutions to every man’s greatest need.

Yes, it is difficult to deal with atheists. And to be sure, it is unlikely that you will see many turn about and embrace your savior over the course of your Christian life. But that does not mean we are not compelled to try to reach them. To that end, I would like to discuss three of the objections atheists think are the reasons they embrace their no-god-for-me outlook on life:

 

First, SOME ATHEISTS HAVE MAGNITUDE OBJECTIONS TO THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

When I use the word magnitude, I am referring to the enormity of the universe, the complexity of the universe, the bigness of it all.

If you go all the way back to the time of Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher whose most well known student was Alexander the Great, you might be surprised to learn that when Aristotle was a young man he thought the universe was too big a job for God to create. Therefore, he concluded, it must be that the physical universe existed from eternity past.[2] How modern Aristotle sounds to us today.

However, we have recently considered this notion of the eternity of the physical universe, when I dealt with the issues of cause and effect. My friends, the physical universe in which we live is an effect. In fact, it is a monstrously large and complex effect. If the smallest and simplest of all effects must have a cause, then surely the largest and most complex of all effects must have a cause.

Therefore, when some atheist argues that the universe is too big and far too complicated to have been created by a god, here is what you say: Point out that nowhere in human experience or observation has there ever been even one effect, which did not have a cause. Not only that, but reason alone requires that if the simplest and smallest of effects require causes, then surely the largest and most complex of effects would require a cause.

So, it not only defies every observation and experiment that every scientist has ever made to insist that you can have something exist without it being made, but it also defies every bit of human logic and reason besides. So, the argument that the universe is simply too big and too complex to have been created by any god, is wrong. The fact is the universe is too big and too complex not to have been created by God. Every effect must have a cause, and God is the First Cause.

 

Next, SOME ATHEISTS HAVE ETHICAL OBJECTIONS TO THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

I am quite sure you have heard this argument: “I don’t believe in God, because if there is a God then how could He permit all of this suffering and disease, all of the illness and poor starving babies.” This argument is essentially a conjured up justification for refusing to believe in God, because any god who permitted this world being the way it presently is must be a hypocrite.

Let me speak to the person who makes such statements before I speak to the statements themselves. This guy who complains about the disease and famine, the illnesses and deformities, the injustices and unfairness that exists all around us . . . what does he do to remedy the problems he complains about? Does he take in the homeless? Does he feed hungry children? Does he donate to charities? What you typically see from a guy who makes these kinds of arguments is nothing more than the arguments themselves. As for appropriate action, he typically takes none himself, though he will frequently vote for politicians who are quite eager to take your money for the supposed benefit of other people.

Now let us turn to the complaint about the kind of world God permits us to live in. What do you say to a guy who complains about God allowing sickness and famine, disease and deformity? I would suggest that you point out that a distinction must be made between God and His creation, and between creation as God originally formed it and creation as it currently exists.

When God formed this world in which we live, He pronounced it to be “very good,” Genesis 1.31. No disease or hardship, no sickness or death. Furthermore, He told our first parents what to do and what not to do in this very good world God placed them in. But, what happened? Our first parents sinned against God and plunged the world into the darkness of depravity and its accompanying curse. Now everything is affected by the sins of our first parents, and by the sins of each succeeding generation, down to this present day.

So, when some fellow says that he doesn’t like the kind of world he observes, and tries to blame all the problems on God, point out to him that when God made everything it was perfect and good, with no problems; then man ruined it for everyone. Thus the fault lies, not with God, but with people. In addition, since each one of us is a member of the human race, each one of us is partly responsible for the mess this world is in.

Does God have a solution to the problems both you and your unsaved friend agree plagues mankind? Yes, He most certainly does. But the solution to the problems that plague us are problems that are best solved one person at a time. Such solutions are the topics of our pastor’s sermons.

 

Finally, SOME ATHEISTS HAVE MORAL OBJECTIONS TO THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

If the first two objections to the existence of God are excuses tossed around by most atheists, and people who may not be atheists but who live just like atheists, then this final objection is oftentimes the real underlying reason why so many people deny the existence of God, or the real reason why so many people don’t want there to be a God. They have sin in their lives that they do not want to be held accountable for, do not want to be made to answer for, and have no intentions of giving up any time soon.

Romans 1.18 is where I find the justification for making such a claim: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”

There are two things we see in this verse: First, we see that God’s punishment for sin has been revealed to everyone. People have some knowledge that God will someday punish them for their sins. But what do people do with that knowledge of God’s future punishment? They “hold the truth in unrighteousness,” according to the final phrase of Romans 1.18.

What does it mean to “hold the truth in unrighteousness”? Albert Barnes observes that this phrase refers to keeping back and restraining the truth.[3] A. T. Robertson writes, “Truth (alętheia, alęthęs, from a privative and lęthô or lanthanô, to conceal) is out in the open, but wicked men, so to speak, put it in a box and sit on the lid and ‘hold it down in unrighteousness.’ Their evil deeds conceal the open truth of God from men.”[4]

Think about a practical application of this truth. To be sure, you will likely know someone who is an atheist or who has a no-god-for-me view of the world who does not cheat on his wife or look at pornography. But far and away the most likely candidate for this philosophy of life, keeping in mind that people tend to believe what they really want to believe, is someone involved in really wicked sins who deplores the idea that he will someday stand before God to given an accounting of his sins.

This is something Paul Johnson pointed out in his great book, The Intellectuals. He observes that such notorious figures as Karl Marx, Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Lillian Hellman, Jean-Paul Sartre, and many others, did not commit wicked sins because they held liberal anti-god beliefs, they held liberal anti-god beliefs so they could justify their wickedness and deny the wrongness of their wrongdoing.

How profoundly has this wicked approach to guilt and sinning infiltrated our American culture by means of Freudian thought. When a fellow does wrong and feels guilty about it, the solution is no longer to repent of the sinning and stop the sinful behavior. The solution advanced now is to convince yourself there is nothing wrong with the behavior and, thus, nothing to feel guilty about.

 

Thank God, not everyone is a fool. There are people out there who have not made a conscious decision to exclude God from their lives, and who do not cling to sins so tenaciously that they will convince themselves there is no God just so they will not have to deal with the guilt and shame associated with their behavior. But from time to time you will come across the fool.

He will not look or act stupidly. As a matter of fact, it has been observed that spiritual folly is frequently a defect in the lives of many who are otherwise intelligent and well educated. But a sinner is foolish who denies the existence of God or who denies the relevance of God to his life and destiny. After all, everyone will someday die, and everyone will some day give an accounting of his life on this earth to God.

Just as no fact is altered by a person’s denial of that fact, so too can it be said that denying the existence of God does absolutely nothing to remove Him as the Creator of all things and the final Judge of every man. Only now, maybe someone like Vic will be a bit better-prepared, somewhat more confident, to deal with the atheist next door, the atheist cousin or brother, or the no-god-in-my-life co-worker in the next office.

No one knows but God, but perhaps God will answer your prayers and honor your preparation and efforts, and see fit to use you to bring someone to church who was once a fool. There are a number of us here at Calvary Road Baptist Church, so don’t give up on people just because they are hard to deal with.



[1] Mark 16.15-16

[2] Timothy Dwight, Theology Explained and Defended, Volume 1, (Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2005), page 88.

[3] Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[4] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol VI, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1930), page 328.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org