Monday, January 30, 2017

When Baptists are Atheists

I've always struggled to comprehend the sheer audacity of philosophical atheism. The confident assertion that no God exists is, in itself, a logical absurdity. To assert that anything definitely does not exist requires exhaustive knowledge of the universe, which only a God could have. How can a mere human say that he knows all about the universe beyond his own observation, or has plumbed the depths of all dimensions or scanned every moment of history into prehistory and before? It is a position that requires some knowledge of the object (God) in order to reject Him.

Yet there is another kind of atheism that is much more powerful. I was reminded of it in my devotions today, from Psalm 14:1--
"The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile, there is no one who does good."
This is the atheism of foolishness, that weighs actions without consideration of God's existence and God's will. When people eliminate God from their judgments and considerations, their choices and actions quickly descend into self-interest and, inevitably, sin.

Of course we can see this in the lives of non-believers around us. We note and mourn their words, choices, and actions. We look at the carnage of our world and can only explain it as the result of people refusing to acknowledge and honor God. And such evils are often done by those who claim religion or God, but demonstrate by their corruption that they do not truly know or follow Him.

But there is something more disconcerting about this idea. It would seem that any time we who know and love Jesus still choose sin, we have made a decision, however temporary, to look away from Him and to pretend He just is not there. How else could those of us who have understood that our sins are the cause of Jesus' suffering and the source of His pain, nevertheless choose once again to indulge ourselves as if it doesn't matter? Every time a believer embraces sin without thought of offense to God or consequence, he is living as what many have called a "practical atheist." And the more often this takes place, the more "atheistic" our lives will look.

Believers can live as though God isn't there to see, to warn, or to judge. And a person whose life gives evidence of such practical atheism has landed himself in the company of fools, biblically. How do we avoid such a state?

I would suggest that the issue is not intellectual. After all, we know and believe the Scriptures, and we confess Jesus as Lord. The issue is primarily one of vision or focus. What do we fix our minds upon--or more precisely, who?

If our eyes are on others and their thoughts of us, they become our gods and we are not just atheists when it comes to the true God, but idolators as well. If our gaze is turned inward on our own desires and wants, we become our own gods, choosing our own passions and desires and refusing to consider the authority of the very Savior we have embraced.

Practical atheism results when we take our eyes off Jesus, and fail to cultivate our love for Him and His promises of superior joys to those our hearts might choose. Turning away from Him is an attempt, however momentary, to pretend that all He is doesn't need to be "in the picture" right now. And any picture from which we exclude Him becomes the scene of disaster and ruin.

Before we go down another sinful path or another selfish excursion into evil thoughts, we must ask ourselves, "Am I seeing Jesus in this? Is He, who has promised to be my good shepherd, leading me this way? Can I discern His encouragement to pursue this? Or am I listening to His voice of warning, urging us to:
"Say 'no' to ungodliness and worldly lusts!"
"Resist the devil, and he will flee from you!"
"Watch and pray, that you do not enter into temptation!"
"Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life!"

Speaking to you all, and to myself, I encourage us all to be careful of the dangers of not taking Jesus into account always; let's not be Baptist atheists!