close up shot of a statue on the street
close up shot of a statue on the street

You and I are atheists.  It’s true.  Let me explain.  We often think of atheism in terms of people who deny the existence of God, usually with their words and usually with some kind of intellectual reason to support their denial.  So how can I say I’m an atheist and so are you?  I mean, surely we believe he exists. I know I do and since you’re reading a Christian blog, it’s likely you do too. 

Here’s the thing:  atheism is more than a denial of God with our words.  It can also be a denial of God with our lives – with our thoughts, deeds, and words.  Atheism can also be a denial of God with what we do and what we leave undone.  Each time we sin, we actually deny God and his claims over our lives – effectively denying his existence.  All of us still have the remnants of the old nature, and we have to admit that those remnants stink with the rot of atheism. 

What we see in our lives is what we call practical atheism.  It’s not the intellectual atheism that has all sorts of arguments to refute Christian claims.  It’s a practical atheism which makes all sorts of rationalizations to excuse a life which fails to meet God’s standards.  This sort of atheism infects even Christians and it’s this sort of atheism that’s revealed by God as foolishness in Psalm 14:1, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”

The word ‘fool’ in this passage isn’t an insult.  It’s an objective description of a certain kind of person.  In the Old Testament, a fool is someone who acts foolishly in a moral sense.  The foolish are those who reproach the righteous and blaspheme God.  Strikingly, the foolish are also usually part of God’s covenant people.  They know better.

David observes how a certain kind of person (a fool) makes a claim that there is no God.  Notice how this claim is made in his heart.  He doesn’t necessarily say it out loud.  It probably wouldn’t be prudent to say such things out loud in Israel.  You can imagine what would happen if all of us were to say out loud what we were really thinking in our hearts last week when we did this or said that.  All our good appearances would be gone.  We’d be revealed for the sinners we really are.  So it is here too.  The fool only makes his atheistic claims in his heart because to do otherwise would be risky.

It’s out of the heart that the lifestyle emerges.  Our Lord Jesus said in Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”  Then it only makes sense that David moves from what’s going on in the heart to what’s going on in the life.  Foolish people have corrupted themselves and they do vile, rotten things.  The fool says in his heart that there is no God.  The psalmist observes that there are no good works among such people.  This serves to emphasize how this practical atheism isn’t an intellectual problem, but a moral one.  Humanity’s problem isn’t a lack of information, but a twisted, degenerate heart that results in reprehensible behaviour.  Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick…”  Jeremiah goes on to say that this condition of the heart incurs God’s judgment.  Therefore, our greatest need is a Saviour.  We don’t need a therapist or a life-coach or a manager, but one who can save us from our hearts and the wrath of God that our hearts provoke. 

This disturbing observation of David is meant to drive us to find that Saviour in Jesus Christ.  Because the reality is that verse 1 is a description of my life and yours.  We might not deny God with our words, but more often then we care to admit we’re like the folks described in Titus 1:16.  We profess to know God, but we deny him with our works.  We need a Saviour who can deliver us from the curse of sin – who can render us righteous before God.  We also need a Saviour who can deliver us from the power of sin – who can transform and sanctify our lives so the lies of practical atheism lose their allure.  Praise God we have such a Saviour in Jesus Christ!  With his Holy Spirit, Jesus is the one who makes us into believers with both our lips and our lives.