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Evangelical atheists

February 2009 | by Timothy Cross

Evangelical atheists

 

Recently, a group of what we can only call ‘evangelical atheists’ raised over £135,000 to launch an ‘Atheist Bus Campaign’. They are putting adverts on the sides of eight hundred buses in towns and cities as far apart as Aberdeen and Exeter.

 

The adverts inform us: ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life’. We live in a free country, so they are entitled to propagate their ‘atheistic gospel’. But by the same token, we are also free to call their bluff.

 

Ultimate explanation

 

To assert that ‘there’s probably no God’ goes against the grain of what we all instinctively know. If the atheists’ assertion were so obvious, it wouldn’t need asserting. No one campaigns against a belief in fairies.

     But men have long challenged the existence of Almighty God. Three thousand years ago David wrote ‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God”’ (Psalm 14:1). Billy Graham was once asked, ‘How do you know that God exists?’ He replied, ‘I was talking to him this morning’.

     The existence of both creation and revelation tell us that there definitely is a God. Who put the stars there? What is the ultimate explanation for the existence of the universe? ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork’ (Psalm 19:1). ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Genesis 1:1).

     We can also know that God exists because he has condescended to reveal himself to us. The Bible is the Word of God – God’s own written revelation of himself. It tells us what to believe about God and what God requires of us. It is the Maker’s manual for a happy life, a happy death and a happy eternity.

 

God with us

 

To crown it all, we may know for sure that there is a God because some 2000 years ago he ‘came down to our level’. He sent his own Son into the world – the God-man. The Lord Jesus Christ is the unsurpassed and unsurpassable revelation of the one true God.

     One of his names is ‘Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23). The Bible tells us, ‘No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known’ (John 1:18).

     Jesus Christ made the most audacious claim: ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9).

     The hard facts of both creation and revelation – the existence of the world, the written Word, and the incarnate Word – are inexplicable apart from the reality of God. What is this God like? He is like Christ, for the Lord Jesus Christ was God in human flesh.

 

So stop worrying …?

 

Those who composed the advert are obviously worried about the possibility of God’s existence! Why else would they spend all that money? In the light of the Bible, they have good cause to be so. The wording of the advert is therefore wondrously self-contradictory.

     Furthermore, to say to someone, ‘Stop worrying’ is easier said than done. Worry and anxiety are universal phenomena. Are atheists immune from worries? Quite apart from their fear that God might just be real, they share all the worries common to mankind.

     They could lose their jobs or loved ones. They might battle against ill-health. They are not immune from the effects of the ‘credit crunch’ – not to mention terrorist threats, stress at home or work, and a thousand and one other things that make people lose sleep at night.

     Christians, on the other hand, have a resource unknown to atheists – a loving Father in heaven! Ask the atheist, ‘You say stop worrying, but how do I do that?’ He can only shrug his shoulders. The Bible, by contrast, advises us to ‘cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you’ (1 Peter 5:7).

 

Providential care

 

Christians inhabit the same fallen world as atheists. We face many of the same difficulties. Yet we know that our lives are safe under God’s all-embracing providential care. He is in total and absolute control. He ‘accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will’ (Ephesians 1:11).

     Hence, in spite of the difficulties that come our way, ‘We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him’ (Romans 8:28).

     According to the Bible, ‘it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgement’ (Hebrews 9:28). The atheist has no answers to death, judgement and the universal experience of a guilty conscience. An atheist on his deathbed has good reason to worry!

     The heart of the Christian gospel is that ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:3). Christians have no worries concerning death and judgement, because Jesus has taken the sting of both away. He died in our place to deliver us from the wrath of God. Clothed in his righteousness, we are declared ‘Not guilty’ in the sight of a holy God.

 

Enjoy your life?

 

The psalmist said of God, ‘In your presence there is fullness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11). But how do atheists suggest that we attain true and lasting enjoyment?

     It is patently obvious that this world’s fame, fashions, riches, amusements and pleasures (legitimate and illicit) neither satisfy nor bring lasting enjoyment to the human heart. Why not? Because we are made in God’s image and designed for communion with God. There can therefore be no true joy or lasting enjoyment apart from fellowship with him.

     ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever’, declares the Shorter Catechism, and this happy fellowship with our Maker is really attainable. How? Through knowing the Lord Jesus Christ – whose death on the cross reconciles alienated sinners to God for time and eternity.

     Atheists, then, are the kill-joys! Denying the Fact of all facts, they seek to deny others the ‘solid joys and lasting treasures which none but Zion’s children know’. To be truly human, and to know true joy, is to walk in fellowship with God.

     Enjoy your life? Christians do just that! Eternal life is not only a synonym for Christian salvation but a quality of life to be enjoyed here and now. Jesus said, ‘I came that they may have life and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10), and added, ‘this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’ (John 17:3).

Timothy Cross

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