They are Without Excuse

by BJ Rudge, Ph. D.

I have met many atheists, such as my college professor who vehemently denied the existence of anything outside the natural world. He spent the whole semester trying to demonstrate the foolishness of believing in the existence of the God of the Bible. From his perspective, belief in God was devoid of any sound reasoning, and was the product of wishful thinking. Although I earned his respect and we had some profitable discussions, he died several years later as a lonely alcoholic.

It is interesting when I talk to many self-professed atheists who claim they have come to their conclusion through rational thinking and by thoroughly examining all the evidence. Despite not having the ability to know everything and be everywhere at the same time, they are CERTAIN God does not exist. They often portray themselves as being enlightened and intellectually superior, while those who believe in the existence of God are, in their estimation, delusional and in need of a spiritual crutch. Beyond claiming they are the real fools for denying God's existence (see Psalm 14:1), the Bible also asserts that denying His existence is not the result of intellectual aptitude.

Consider the insightful words of the apostle Paul,

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." (Romans 1:18-20).

In other words, Paul is saying that on the Day of Judgment, people will be "without excuse," or anapologetous in the Greek ("without a defense") for rejecting God because of a supposed lack of evidence for His existence. As Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says, not only has God built within each individual a conscience that bears witness to His existence, He has also revealed His reality through His creation. There is more than sufficient proof that He exists.

While I have encountered many arguments against the existence of God, what I have found is that most deny God's existence not because of rational reasons, but because of personal reasons such as unanswered prayer(s), suffering and pain in this life, or unwillingness to change immoral behavior. For instance, when I was at a soccer clinic I met a man named John. Every time someone would bring up the subject of God, John would get very agitated and start yelling that God did not exist and all religions were false.

After a few days of his continual ranting against God, I had a chance to talk with John alone. During our conversation, I came to find out why he was so hostile. He had family members who were survivors of the Holocaust, and he could never understand why God allowed this atrocious event to happen to the Jewish people. Thus, behind all of his arguments and hostile feelings, John had denied God's existence because of the pain and suffering his family endured.

Dr. Robert Morey, who has written extensively on apologetics (defense of the faith), asserts the following in his book The New Atheism and the Erosion of Freedom, "Given the many atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, and other assorted infidels I have known through the years, in every single instance where I have been able to develop a friendship, the person always admitted that his initial reasons for rejecting God were of a personal nature." The apostle Paul goes on to talk about the second step people take after rejecting God. This step is where they substitute the worship of the true God to worship something within creation.

"For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever" (Romans 1:25).

This has been the pattern of history all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Man refuses to acknowledge the true God, and, in turn, sets himself above God. As his own "deity," man then begins to seek things in this world that will bring him pleasure and power. Thus, while it may not be common to see people kneeling before a little statue, we do find other idols people worship in our culture (money, career, relationships, etc.). All of these things begin to take center stage in the lives of many as they value things in creation, more than the One who created them. In essence, atheism leads to self-centered worship, where man, not God, becomes the center of the universe.

This is the way John lived his life. By rejecting a belief in God, he became in his mind accountable only to himself. Thus, like the prodigal son, he lived a life of self-indulgence as he pursued all forms of temporal pleasures seeking to find lasting fulfillment. Despite all of his attempts, he admitted he still felt a void in his life and a yearning to find purpose and meaning to his existence.

As John and I continued in our conversation, I was able to share with him why I had placed my faith in Jesus Christ. I demonstrated to him how my faith in Jesus was not a blind leap in the dark but was supported by evidence. I specifically detailed the various Messianic prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus as well as the historical evidence that surrounded His resurrection. When we were done with our conversation, this man who appeared to be so hostile and full of hatred toward God and the Christian faith looked at me and said, "I never knew there was evidence to verify the Christian faith. In all my dealing with Christians, they never once took the time to share this information with me."

As the week of the clinic moved on, I continued to build a relationship with John. A few weeks following this clinic I received an e-mail from John. He shared how much our conversation touched his life, and he was now open to doing further investigation. He closed his e-mail by saying that just as in the movie It's A Wonderful Life, George Bailey had impacted the lives of others, so too I had been a George Bailey in his life.

In my conversation with John and other self-professing atheists, I have learned the following three important principles: First, always be ready to give a reason for the hope you have (1 Peter 3:15). You never know when a John will come across your path. Second, always speak the truth in love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). When you share with others, may your motivation be to represent Christ and not try to win an argument. Finally, always try to get beyond WHAT is being said to WHY something is being said. Remember, behind every argument and hostile feeling is a person like John, who is hurting and in need of the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ (John 3:16, 17).