Online Text Sermon - The Folly of Atheism, Psalm 14 v.1
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||The Folly of Atheism|
|Text||Psalm 14 v.1|
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"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good" (Psalm 14, 1).
You would expect that when God gave us the Bible He would spend a long time proving His own existence because there are many people in the world who do not believe in God. So, you would think that when God gave us a Book about Himself and His ways that a large part of that Book would consist in proofs, evidences and arguments to demonstrate His own existence so that people who read the Book would have answers to their doubts. As a matter of fact the Bible does not do that. The Bible doesn't give us arguments in any formal way to show and prove the existence of God.
What the Bible does do is it assumes that everybody knows deep down that there is a God. It takes it for granted that all men know instinctively that there is a God. Why does the Bible make that assumption? It is because of the nature of the world in which we live and because God has made the mind of man in a certain way - we call this rationality: man is a thinking being. You can't be a normal human being without thinking about all sorts of things relating to God. All over the world in all languages people know about God even though they may not themselves be either Christians or believers in any God of their own yet, they all know what you mean when you use the word 'God'. This shows that there is an instinct in every human being to realise what we are talking about when we are speaking of God.
While the Bible does not give us formal arguments to prove the existence of God, what it does do is tell us what God has done. That is why I read to you from the first book of the Bible - Genesis 1. There we are simply told, "In the beginning God created the heaven and earth." It then goes on to give some detail about how it was done in six days, out of nothing, simply by the pure power and Word of God. Because God made our mind in a certain way He knows and understands very well that we ought, all of us, to be able to draw conclusions from the things that are round about us. Even many persons who are not Christians at all but are atheists and agnostics have come to confess about this universe in which we live, that it is a marvellous machine. Even some of the most anti-Christian people who have ever lived have had, on occasion, to admit, that this world is a marvellous machine. Indeed, it is a whole series of marvellous machines. Because that is so the Christian says, "If this world is the marvellous machine that you say it is, then where did it come from?" Those who do not believe in God have no answer to that. They have many theories and ideas that come out of their own brains which they spin out of their own imaginations but they don't have a satisfactory answer. Every effect requires an adequate cause; nothing comes of nothing.
Let me put that in to a way that young people can understand. If you are walking across a field and your foot kicked against a stone, you might bend down, and if you were in a thinking mood you could say to yourself, "Where did this stone come from?" It might have been there for ever as far as anyone knows! You would walk on your way and not think too much about it because a stone after all, is not that very complicated. Supposing you were walking across the same field a few days later and your foot kicked something and, bending down, you saw it was a watch. You say to yourself that perhaps that watch was always there too, like the stone. Maybe all over the world there are watches just like that one lying on the ground - they just happen to be there. If you said that to another human being they would wonder if there was something wrong with your brain because watches don't just come from nowhere. You can't really be a rational person walking across a field kicking a watch, picking it up and saying that it must always have been there. No, there is an instinct in every one of us which says when we open the back of this little machine that it has lots of wheels, all able to turn. Someone has designed it, someone has made it. It works in a special manner. Who made the watch? That is a very good argument in connection with the world. The world in which we live is a far more complicated machine than any watch, yet, in a sense, it is like a wonderful clock. Every day the sun rises and sets, every day we get twenty four hours. We get some hours of daylight and some hours of darkness - varying according to the time of year - but always the same length of day, always. Everything is wonderfully regulated. So, if you can't really accept that a watch cannot come from nowhere but must be explained by somebody who made it, how much more must that be true of the whole world.
Why is it that we have so many hours of daylight and so many hours of darkness? The Bible makes it very clear. God made the daylight so that we would have plenty of light to see to do our work. Why do we get hours of darkness? Because God has made us in such a way says the Bible that we need to go to bed and go to sleep. We don't need daylight when we are asleep. Indeed, in a sense, it is a disadvantage because it might keep you awake. So, says the Bible, God has regulated day time and night time, morning and evening, in a very clever way. That evidence of design, says the Bible, is in everything you look at. Take your own hand. We are so used to seeing our own hands that we don't pay much attention to them but it is the most wonderful machine in the world. There is machine in existence half so versatile and brilliant as the human hand. As children we don't think about it but not many created beings in this world have what we call a 'thumb'. That thumb is all important. Without a thumb you can't pick things up properly. You try it. Cruel kings in the Old Testament days when they captured people, used to cut there thumbs off so they couldn't hold on to anything properly. The thumb was put there so we could grasp things. Our hand, when it is properly taught, can write letters, type on keyboards and play pianos and violins. It does all the work in the world. You say that that is not true, that we have JCB's, tractors, earth-moving equipment and cranes etc. Yes, we do, but who made these things? It was human beings who did it with these hands. Everything that is done in the world in the last resort is either made by hands or made by something which was made by hands. The Bible says it is absurd that all the wonderful powers of our bodies and of the world came about by accident.
Many years ago now there was a doctor - Dr. Beattie. He wanted to teach his little boy an important lesson so he did something which has always struck me as rather clever. Dr. Beattie went in to the garden with a packet of flower seeds. With his thumb he scratched the initials of his little boy in the soil. As I remember it his son's initials were DB. Then he poured a packed of seeds in to the grooves made by his finger. He then flattened out the earth. The little boy knew nothing of this until the spring when the seeds began to grow. One day as the little fellow was going about the garden he looked down and saw his own initials growing out of the ground - DB. He came rushing to his father and said, "Daddy, my name is growing in the garden. "Nonsense," said the father, "it must be a sheer accident." "Not at all," said the little boy dragging his father by the hand. "Come and see!" So, of course, the father came, knowing the answer to the child's questions. "How did this get here, father?" he said. "It was probably an accident," said the father, "just an accident my son." "Nonsense," said the boy, "letters don't grow in the garden by accident." He was only a little fellow but he had a great deal of sense. He knew very well that flowers don't suddenly order themselves into that kind of arrangement. Then the father smiled and said, "I did this myself with my finger to teach you that nothing in this world happens by accident. If you know that these grow in the garden by someone's design then how much more do you know that the world in which you live is by someone's design." The little boy never forgot that lesson for the rest of his life. Whenever he looked at the sun, moon and stars he would remember this astonishing lesson - God is the Maker; if there is a Creation, there must be a Creator.
That is exactly the view the Bible takes. It goes further than that and tells us that when people are atheists and refuse to believe in God, it is a sin. That might sound surprising because many people claim they don't see any evidence for God. You young people at school you sometimes hear other children say something to you like this: "You prove to me that there is a God!" What are you going to say? What is the answer to that? Supposing you are in the classroom with friends at school and they know you go to church - and these days not an awful lot of people in this country do go to church. They tell you to prove to them that there is a God. I'll tell you what you say. You smile at them and say, "You prove to me that there isn't." That's the end of it because, in a scientific sense, you can no more disprove God than you can prove Him. It is all a matter of using our reason to explain how we all got here. You could if you wanted to go on to say something like this. "Do you think that this marvellous universe in which we live - so marvellous that even the most brilliant minds in the world marvel and wonder at the minute particles, sub-particles, atoms, molecules, the wonderful configuration of the sun, moon and stars, galaxies, and the workings of my human body with all its extraordinary complexities - do you think all that happened by accident? You must be a fool!"
That is exactly what the Bible says: when people refuse to believe in God they are fools. G. K. Chesterton - a twentieth century Roman Catholic writer - once said something worth repeating along this line. He said, "When people cease to believe in God, it's not that they believe in nothing, but they will believe in anything." That is very good and very true. Many people today don't believe in the Bible - thank God some wise ones do. However, there are many who don't, as you know. They don't believe in the Bible or in God. They think all we say about God, angels, Creation etc. is all nonsense. What do they believe in? They are reading all about little green men in Mars. Any book shop in the land is full of books called Science Fiction. People will believe in the weirdest ideas imaginable. There are books full of magic, witches and extra-terrestrial things. People are reading these things - not only children but grown ups. You see that what G. K. Chesterton said was absolutely true: if people stop believing in God that is the explanation for everything. It's not that they believe in nothing, it's that they will believe in anything, and they do. You have heard of Harry Potter, not that you read it any more than I do, but we know the kinds of things its talking about - weird, strange, unearthly things, pret-natural things, things that belong to a realm and dimension of thought which is not normal, it's paranormal. That is what fascinates people and what they are interested in. The reason is that they have given up believing in God.
You see what is said here, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works" (text). Isn't that interesting? Why does it tell us that? Why does it say that they have these "abominable works"? Because what we believe has a tremendous effect upon how we live. Of course it does! If we believe there is no God, nothing after death, no moral laws of any kind, then what does it matter how I live. What don't I get drunk, why don't I take drugs, why don't I become a criminal, why don't I kill people, why don't I steal their cars, why should I have to work when I can steal instead? That is the way people think when there is no God in their minds. But as soon as you believe in God looking down upon you, you can't steal someone else's car without remembering that the God Who is looking is going to pursue you and punish you. It makes all the difference. So, if people are foolish enough not to believe in God, immediately they become corrupt. How are we going to solve the crime problem in this country? The politicians tell us that the prisons are full to capacity. You could do it by having more police. You cold have police with machine guns on street corners. I'm not sure that that would be a very desirable thing but you could do it. You could have police in every classroom in the country. You could increase the penalties for crime which might do a bit of good in some ways but what a society that would be.
What's the real answer to crime? You can't solve it by Acts of Parliament. It is a religious problem. What people need to get back to is belief in God. As soon as people believe in God their lives immediately change for the better. It is bound to do. I quote an eighteenth century Frenchman called Voltaire, who was notorious for his hatred of Christianity. He spent his whole life attacking Christianity for all he was worth. In his day he did a lot of harm. He was a very clever man and he had a house in France - Paris, if I remember. He would invite very learned and clever people to his house. They were like himself - scoffers, doubters, atheists and agnostics etc. They would sit round the table - eating, drinking and making merry - when their conversation would always be against God and against the Christian faith - scoffing at the Bible, deriding believers and Christians and calling religion as a whole, a waste of time. This is a true story to which I can give references if you would so want. One day as his servants were putting the plates and cutlery in position on the table where Voltaire was entertaining his guests, his guests began to scoff at Christianity in the hearing of the servants. Voltaire immediately rose up from his seat. He pushed all the servants out of the room and locked the door. "He said, "If you let these people hear that, they will become as savage as lions. Shhh! Quiet," he said. "It's all very well for us to say these things among one another but if these people hear us scoffing at their religion, they won't obey a word I tell them because religion is what makes them good." Wasn't that a confession from a man who spent his whole life scoffing at Christianity! But it's true, it's absolutely true: believing in God makes all the difference to the way people live.
I want to say something that may stick in the minds of younger people. The older ones will forgive me. There are young people present who are very precious to us. I want to give you a true story that illustrates that very thing I have just said, that when you believe in God it makes all the difference to the way you live.
Years ago there was an Englishman went down to one of the countries on the west coast of Africa. This African country consisted of villages full of black people. This Englishman was being shown round one of these villages by a black man who was a Christian. The Englishman wasn't, he was a scoffer; he had no time for the Bible or for God. The black man was a very devout Christian. They came to one of the round houses with a thatched roof. The white man said, "What's this?" "Sir, this is one of our houses where our people live." They came to a bigger building. "What's this?" said the white man. "That, sir, is a school where our children learn to read the Bible." "Stuff and nonsense," said the white man, "- reading the Bible!" Then they came to a larger building. "What's that?" said the white man. "That, sir, is our church where we worship God." "Terrible!" said the white man. Then they came to a book and the Englishman said, "What book is that?" "That, sir, is the Bible - the Word of the Living God." "Is that the superstition you people are taught by your missionaries?" said the Englishman. "That's the Word of God, sir," he said. Then they came to a big black pot. The sort of pot they used to use for their meals - now not used for many years. The Englishman said, "What is that big black pot?" The African said, "That, sir, is the pot where we would be roasting you alive if it were not for that Book." That is how they used to treat their enemies. They used to throw them in pots of water and boil them alive, and then they would eat them. They were cannibals. I imagine after that the conversation came to quite an abrupt end. But, you see, boys, girls and others, that is exactly the point - people may scoff at Bibles, at churches and Christians and at God and at Christ BUT the Bible and the Christian faith change peoples lives for the better.
The Word of God here tells us that, ""The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" (text) - the fool! Because the fool knows very well there is a God. Every atheist knows very well there is a God. The way the Bible puts it is this: "The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). That's true, isn't it? Look at the lights in the ceiling here. How did they get there? You say that's easy, an electrician climbed up on a ladder and screwed them in. They are wired up to the switches, press the switch, on goes the light. All right if it's that easy, who put the stars in the sky outside? Have a look at them when you are outside. Who was the Electrician? Who wired it up? You see at once we are filled with awe. What a God filling heaven and earth. What a great Being He must be. How wise, powerful and full of Godhood He must be. That is why the Bible says it is foolish to deny the existence of God. Atheism is folly and it is a wilful suppression in the mind of what every normal human being knows to be the truth.
Let me ask you, do you believe in God? When God is spoken about in your family circle, at school, college or work, do you speak up for God; do you argue for the existence of God? We must be ready to give an answer to those who question us about our faith says the Bible. Is that what you do? Or, are you really secretly ashamed when reference to God is brought in to the conversation? Do you simply blush and quietly change the subject to something else? It is a great pity if we do that. We should be ready to speak for God. We are to be His witnesses. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" (text).
Supposing someone was sincere, supposing someone didn't really answer against God and really wanted to know. Maybe you yourself, or someone else here, are really like that. You don't argue against God but you just don't know. You say you would like to know but how can you know if there is a God or not? Let me first of all congratulate you! That is the best question in the world - How can I know God? You can know God by seeking Him. That is the answer. That is the one and only way you can know God, by seeking Him. Listen to what God Himself said. He said, "Seek, and ye shall find" (Luke 11, 9). If you want to know God for yourself, then, says God, "thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul" (Deuteronomy 4, 29). If you really want to know, you will know - that is His promise. I'll give it to you in different words in another part of the Bible. Jesus said this: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine" (John 7, 17). If you really want to know God's will for your life then you will know.
That is exactly what happened to me if I may be personal for just a moment. Not to draw any attention to myself but trying to help those of you who are seeking the Lord here. I believed in God all my life. I can't ever remember a time when I didn't believe in God, but I didn't know Him until I was eighteen. If ever we had arguments or school about God I always stood up for God but as yet I didn't know Him. When I was eighteen I came to know God. This is how it happened. I realised as I had never realised before that I was a lost sinner. I began to seek God and plead with Him in prayer that He would have mercy upon me. I began to read the Bible - not just as a daily duty turning the page - but reading with a craving desire to know God for myself. I didn't have to wait all that long before I found Him. You know, when you are seeking God with all your heart, you get Him! The Christian faith is easy; all you need to get God is to want Him. But as long as you don't want Him you will never get Him. That is the law of the Christian faith. If you don't want God you will never find Him; you will remain an atheist or agnostic all your life. This is the folly of the atheist; it is not that he doesn't believe in God, it is that he doesn't want to believe in God, he doesn't like God; he doesn't like anything about God. That is really the problem when it is accurately defined; he wouldn't want God to be in control of his life: he wouldn't want God to dictate to him how he ought to live. So you see the atheist's problem is not a problem of ignorance or sincere doubt, it is a problem of wilful refusal to acknowledge the authority of the one Who made him. This is a capital sin; it is a crime in the sight of heaven because God made man in His own image. Sheep and cattle have no idea about God, none at all. They don't pray, they don't thank God for the grass they eat - even the very thought is absurd. They don't bow the knee before God but man does.
All over the world in all countries, in all cultures, in all ages mankind has been aware of God and in a right or wrong way has worshipped. Why? The answer is right there in the Bible - man is made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1, 27). In other words, man has a God consciousness, man is aware of the existence of God. When people say they don't believe there is a God what they are really doing is suppressing that knowledge. That is what you would do with a beach ball in a swimming pool perhaps. If you are playing with a ball that is lighter than the water you can push it under the water but, of course, as soon as you take your hand away it floats on the top again because it is so light. That is what the atheist is doing with the knowledge he has of God, he is suppressing it, and he is submerging it beneath the conscious thinking of his mind. He wants to live without God.
My dear friend, this is folly. It is sheer madness and lunacy to refuse to know God. Why? Because those who do this are living in ignorance of all that is most important in life. Those who are wilfully ignorant of God cannot really explain any of the great things in their own lives. They don't know where they came from, why they are here or what happens after death. They don't know anything about the future or where they are going and that is their own foolish fault. If only they would humble themselves before God and pray for mercy they would receive it and they would know these things. The folly is they prefer to believe the lie. They pretend that we have no light at all on these things: "We don't know where we came from - monkeys of some kind I suppose! Billions of years ago some great cosmic accident happened - a bang or explosion - and that is why we are all here" - with highly developed brains and wonderfully shaped bodies, male and female? You see the folly, the criminality, the lie behind it. There must be a Creator if there is a Creation, there must be an Orderer if there is an Order.
Somebody once said a stupid thing. "If fifty million monkeys banged on fifty million typewriters for fifty million years, they are bound to have written all the works of Shakespeare." Do you really believe that? You ask a mathematician of the mathematical probability of that happening and he would say the probability is ten to the power of improbability - absolutely impossible! Or, supposing I have a big box here of letters of the alphabet cut out in cardboard - A B C...Z. Supposing I were to get a handful of these letters and throw them over the floor. How many times do you think I would have to do that before all the letters would accidentally form to make John 3, 16? - "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life". You say to me that I would have to throw a great many times before all those words would form in the right order. Of course! It would never happen - never, never, never. You know that. How then could your body be so wonderfully framed unless there is a designing mind? How could there be such a wonderful world - water to drink, food to eat, clothes to wear, animals to do service for us, skills of the human mind - how could we live in such a world if there were no Designer behind it? Unthinkable! "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" (text).
If some of this foolishness relates to you and your way of thinking, let me beg you, urge you and plead with you not to go on living the lie. O, turn your back upon this lie of atheism. Bend you knee in secret in your own quiet place at home before God. If you are not convinced by anything I've said then go to God Himself and say, "O Lord if you are there, reveal yourself to me. I want to know. Leave me not in darkness." I can promise you, if you are sincere, you will find God for yourself. There are many people here who would say Amen to that. They and I found Him years ago. We can tell you on the authority of God Himself, you will seek him and you will find Him when you search for Him with all your heart. May God help you so to do.
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