As I was shaking hands with one of the speakers at the conference in Kentucky, he asked for my mailing address, telling me that he wanted to send some books. He apparently saw how shallow my message had been and that I was in need of instruction. A week or ten days later I had a bundle of material in my mail box. There were study outlines of Genesis and Exodus and about six booklets on various aspects of theology. There was also Stephen Charnock’s “Discourse upon the Existence and Attributes of God,” edited by Daniel Chamberlin of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. I have heard about Charnock’s book for years but never read it, so I was looking forward to getting into it. As I began the first chapter on “The existence of God,” I kept marking paragraphs, thinking “this will be perfect for the bulletin.” When I got done, I found that I had marked about a quarter of the chapter. Then it occurred to me that if this so blessed me, perhaps it might bless you as well. This outline is more Charnock’s and Chamberline’s than it is mine, but I trust it is also of the Holy Spirit.
As we have just read, David tells us, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” The Apostle Paul refers to this Psalm in Romans 3 to prove that we are all sinners. In fact at our heart of hearts, every one of us is in some sense an atheist. The Hebrew term “God” in Psalm 14:1 is not “Jehovah,” which speaks of His being and existence. Rather, it is “Elohim,” which among other things refers to His office as Judge. This is what natural man finds offensive – that God should stand over him, calling him into account. Many people are willing to acknowledge a deity, as long as it is not the “Elohim” of Scripture. But honesty requires we believe not only that God exists, but also that He exists with the character which Scripture reveals – sovereign Judge. In the words of Hebrews 11:6, we must believe that “God is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” and conversely, “a rewarder of them who perversely reject Him.”
Atheism is ubiquitous – existing in three forms. “Absolute atheism” denies altogether that there is a God. “Providential atheism” confines God to heaven and keeps Him away from us. Deism falls into this category. But then there is “natural atheism” which denies the nature and perfections attributed to God in the Scripture. This kind of atheism is the most common and the most subtle. There are thousands of church-members who are practical atheists, refusing to let God be God. It doesn’t matter which one, all three varieties of atheism are foolishness. All of these go against reason and ultimately deny reality. The atheist’s conscience tells him there is a God, but he insists on suppressing and denying what his heart says is true. This morning, let’s consider some arguments which show the foolishness of atheism.
That various forms of religion exist throughout the world, give evidence for the existence of God.
Throughout history every human society has been permeated with religion of some kind. To deny the existence of God is to deny what all men have always known. The fact that many societies believed in a multiplicity of gods does not weaken the fact – God exists. It simply confirms the religious nature of man. Man was originally made a worshiper. In Adam’s fall, his concept of God was marred, yet he continues to worship, but usually it’s of false gods.
Of all the great disputes in human history, the existence of God has not been one of them. The details of religion have been hotly disputed, but everyone agreed that there is a God. The few individual exceptions to this rule do not negate the principle. Just because some people are physically blind does not prove that eyesight is not natural to man. Nor do the few atheists prove that man is not by nature a worshiper.
Men would have gotten rid of this God-consciousness if they could; but it remains. Acknowledging a deity is a part of our very being. When tempting Eve, Satan didn’t deny God, he only distorted the Word and character of God. Religion is innate to the nature of all men, even as it was to Eve. The law of God is written in our hearts, and our conscience bears a witness to it. This is not something received by mere tradition. Traditions come and go over time, but this God-consciousness remains in everyone.
Some people argue that social engineers invented religion to keep the people “in line” under subjection. But who were these engineers of society? How did they all come to agree? How could they have accomplished their purpose so universally in every age? How have they managed to keep their manipulation a secret?
Other atheists say that fear first introduced religion. “Feelings of guilt made man come up with the idea of God.” They are actually thinking backwards. It is the knowledge of God that brings fear and guilt to sinful man.
Of course, creation proves the existence of God.
Romans 1:19-20 says, “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For 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.” Everyone knows that every effect or result must have a cause. For example, every building has its architect and builder. Everything came from somewhere. To deny this truth indeed leaves us “without excuse! “ Ultimately, we are left with only two possibilities: either God is eternal, or matter is eternal. Since it is inconceivable that intelligent personality should come lifeless matter, the only rational position is to say that matter and life sprang from an intelligent Being (God) – who made all things out of nothing.
No creature can create another, or the first would be a creator and not a creature. Inventors may make things, but they do not truly “create” because they do not start with nothing! Parents may reproduce children, but they begin with their own lives. Conception or giving birth should properly be called “creating.”
But Elohim created all things out of nothing. He is the first cause of every subsequent effect. He did not create Himself, but is eternally and independently existent. He self-exists. There must be one original uncaused cause. Genesis chapters 1-3 alone satisfy our highest intellect with regard to the question of origins.
All things point to God in their harmony. My tongue, lips, lungs and air do not accidentally clash to make the words you are hearing. When you hear a symphony, you know that some composer designed the whole in all its parts, and there may be as many as a hundred instruments combing their voices to make the music. Water, a liquid, is composed of two gases, hydrogen and oxygen. A wise Creator ordered such an arrangement. All creation, in its harmony, shows intelligent design behind it all.
And God ordered that some created objects serve other created objects in special ways. For example, the sun is positioned precisely in relationship to the earth to give the right amount of heat so that we neither burn to death nor freeze to death. This regularity and uniformity in all the world must have an Orderer. Furthermore, the order and subservience in creation is constant and predictable. It is not accidental, but reflects the immutability of the Creator Himself. The variety and diversity of things in the world point to the wisdom and goodness of the Designer. He could have made everything colorless or the same color, but He gave us a whole spectrum of colors. He could have made our food tasteless or tasting like potatoes, but He gave a wide variety of flavors.
All things point to God because they do the things for which they were made. God pointed Job to various animals and their instincts in order to show him something of the glory of God. The Lord Jesus said, “Consider the lilies.” The plants and animals do not know their own end – they have no understanding of their own. Yet each carries out its part in the overall scheme of life Therefore there is something or Someone superior to them which makes them act. When you see an arrow hit the bulls-eye of a target you know that somewhere there is a skilled archer. But when you see thousands of arrows hit the bull’s-eye, and not one misses, there can be no doubt about the existence and skill of the archer.
The existence of man proves the existence of God.
You need look no further than the mirror to see a powerful argument for the existence of God! Your body “is fearfully and wonderfully made” – Psalm 139:15. There is order, fitness, and usefulness in every part. Consider any organ in detail to see how perfectly built it is for its purpose, as it aids the rest of the body. Like a fine-tuned machine, every part of us testifies to the skill of a master craftsman.
Yet, even though we all have the same basic parts, there is wonderful difference and variety. Think of the individuality of fingerprints. Or think of how many combinations of eyes, nose and mouth that we find on the earth. Without this variation, we could not distinguish one person from another.
Your soul has a vast capacity to apprehend and talk about things far superior to itself – out of this world. It has great faculties of reason and for a while, even memory. For its first decades, it has quickness of motion, and is capable of running through the world in a day.
There is a union of both soul and body in man, in which he is a sort of compound. If we were only spirit, we would be a kind of angel. If we were only body, we would be a kind of brute beast. We are an amazing combination of soul and clay. Dare we say that all this came of itself? Who but the all-wise God could devise such a scheme? A man must be ignorant of himself before he can be ignorant of the existence of God!
Consider the operations of your conscience. Through it we sense a higher judge than ourselves. All men have this “reflecting principle” in them by which they look at themselves and their neighbors. We are constantly making assessments, either accusing or excusing one another. Every man has this inward awareness good and evil in him. And wherever there is a law there must be a lawgiver. That lawgiver is God.
Fears arise within a man when he commits evil. The closer he comes to death, the more troubled he becomes. He knows there is a higher Judge than himself, and he dreads to meet him. The more secret the sin, the more the conscience convicts. Obviously, this is not due to the fact that others know, but that a Higher Being knows everything. Men would escape this guilt if they possibly could.
A person may quiet his conscience, defile it, and even sear it; but God can awaken it at any time He pleases. We have less control over our conscience than over any other faculty. “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest” – Isaiah 57:20. He must cease to be a man who ceases to have a conscience, and the man who beats down his conscience is less than a man. On the other hand, well doing gives a person a good conscience.
Unusual occurrences in the world prove the existence of God. Things such as extraordinary judgments following extraordinary sins, demonstrate God’s justice. “The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth” – Psalm 9:16. Think of Lot’s wife who became a heap of salt, or of Herod who was eaten by worms.
Miracles also manifest a power greater than nature itself. Nature cannot rise above itself and produce miracles. Miracles are nothing less than the finger of God. Nothing but a living God can account for such events as the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
And fulfilled prophecies bear witness to God’s being. Only God in heaven, who knows all things and possesses all power, could tell beforehand what He ill do, and then accomplish it in exactly that way. Scripture is full of examples of this divine arranging.
What should we learn from this?
We should learn that atheism is a destructive doctrine. The very foundations of an ordered society rest upon the knowledge and fear of God. Without God there can be no absolute standard of right and wrong. Man’s conscience becomes deadened. Without God, man pursues his selfish sinful desires unchecked. Man becomes a monster. Society becomes a jungle of anarchy or tyranny.
Atheism destroys the atheist himself. By removing the threat of punishment and promise of reward, he is reduced to the level of a mere animal. In such a case hope is forfeited, and all possibility of true happiness is lost. The only remaining purpose in living is momentary gratification, regardless of how unlawfully it may be achieved. On the other hand, the more conscious of God a man is, the more innocent, harmless and useful he becomes.
Atheism is a folly which reduces man to nothing. It removes meaning and purpose from life, and leaves us with nothing but blind chance. It leaves man no longer a man at all. How sad to see educated, intelligent minds fall for the lie! But make no mistake, the Devil is no atheist. Likewise, souls suffering in hell under God’s judgment have not doubt concerning the existence of God.
No one can prove that there is no God. To attempt it is absurd. Someone may object, “But I cannot see God.” If we could see Him, He would no longer be infinite, and thus no longer God at all. We cannot see the wind, but through other means we know it exists. We still do not understand much about light, but only a fool would question its existence. Every living thing and all of creation testifies against the atheist. Literally billions of arguments can be marshaled to refute his nonsense. God sends special providences from time to time to act as messengers to man’s conscience to keep alive the inborn notion of God.
Men try to be atheists because they have some secret guilt, springing from a knowledge of their sin. They want to engage freely in their sin without any restraint from the tsunamis of conscience. They pretend to throw off the yoke of slavery to God to find new freedom; but they only become slaves to sin. The only liberty the atheist gains is a liberty to defile himself. How beguiling is sin!
If the atheist is wrong, he has lost everything. If he is right, he has gained nothing. Thus, even from a merely human perspective, atheism is unreasonable. Atheism is dishonest and makes a man an enemy to his own soul. Christians need great charity not to despise a man who despises his own soul. Though atheists are not worthy of our care, let us care for them and pity them! Because we were all once among them.
If it is FOLLY to deny God’s existence, then it is WISDOM to acknowledge Him. This knowledge is necessary to rightly worship Him. Our worship will rise only as high as our concept of God. You cannot worship one whose existence you doubt. Without this knowledge, we cannot order our lives rightly. We will descend into every conceivable sin. Without this knowledge, we cannot have any comfort in our lives. How could we keep our sanity in this evil world without Him!
If we profess to believe in God’s existence, yet deny him our worship, we are in the same folly as the atheist. The one who professes to believe in God, yet does not worship Him, is an atheist to His honor, if not to His being. “Since we live and move IN Him, we should live and move TO Him and FOR Him. “ It stands to reason that our noblest faculty should be engaged in Him. God should be in all our thoughts – Psalm 10:4. Therefore, remember Him always and meditate much upon Him. “A God forgotten is as good as no God at all. “