The Atheism In Us All

We pray the Psalms to open all of my theology classes at Cedarville University. I read through a Psalm at the beginning of class and encourage my students to reflect on the words and grab on to a particular verse or idea in the Psalm and frame it as a prayer to God.  I end my reading with, “This is the Word of the Lord.” Students respond, “Thanks be to God.”

Today we prayed through Psalm 53. It begins with the oft quoted line, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” I’ve heard preachers use this line as a pointed response to some irritating comment or writing from a skeptic. The only problem is that the verse doesn’t end there.

We could take some pride in our own self-righteousness were it not for the latter part of the verse, “. . . there is none who does good.” That seems to be pretty universal. I guess apart from the grace of God we are all fools. We are all prone to raise our volitional fists to the heavens when some small sector of our personal liberty is divinely transgressed.

In this way, we’re all atheists in one way or another.

I was reminded of this recently reading Jeff Vanderstelt’s helpful new book Gospel Fluency. He begins the book with the notion that we are all unbelievers. We all have areas of our lives, our hearts, where we refuse to believe God.

It can be easy to point to others, like some angry atheist on the news, and call to mind the biblical pronouncement of fool. We can be too slow to turn our gaze inward and challenge our own unbelief. May God give us eyes to see past the failures of others, which we cannot change, to our own areas of faithlessness.

Sin is so deceptive. Our hearts are easily hardened. May God give us the grace to despise the foolishness in our own hearts as much as, better yet, more, than we despise it in others.