We come this evening to Psalm 53, which as it happens is very similar to Psalm 14. The first four verses are almost identical to Psalm 14:1-4 and verse 6 is identical to Psalm 14:7. The first verse of both Psalms contains one of the best-known sayings in Scripture.
1 The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’
Christian Standard Version reads, The fool says in his heart, “God does not exist.”
There have always been plenty of people in the world who say that God doesn’t exist. The Bible calls those people “fools”. But the verse is often misunderstood, and I confess I have sometimes interpreted it incorrectly myself. What behaviour is it which this verse condemns as foolish?
Some people think that “fool” here means somebody who is just lacking in intelligence, or somebody who might be described as simple-minded. But that is not the Bible’s idea of a fool. Many atheists are very clever people. Foolishness in rejecting God is nothing to do with intelligence. We need to look at the rest of the verse, and as is often the case in Hebrew we see a pattern here called parallelism. The second part of the verse explains the first part.
The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.
When the word “fool” is used in the Psalms and elsewhere in the Bible it typically refers to someone who lives in ways which are morally opposed to God’s teachings. This saying is not related to intelligence, but to morality. The word fool implies being “morally deficient” or “reprobate” or “immoral” or “sinful”. The assertion, “there is no God” is a gesture of defiance. The fundamental reason many human beings reject the existence of God is because they want to feel free to live without the constraints of morality. People refuse to accept that God exists because if they do accept that then they have to acknowledge that they are sinners. That is what is foolish.
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.
2 God looks down from heaven on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
3 Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good, not even one.
It is foolish to live corrupt evil lives rather than to seek to do good. The wise person seeks God – the foolish person ignores God and runs away from God. That is what is foolish. All through the Bible human beings are described with words such as “perverse, wicked, evil, bad, wayward, crooked, deceitful, unrighteous, rebels and lawbreakers. It is these patterns of behaviour which make human beings fools.
The apostle Paul quotes these verses in his argument in Romans 3 to demonstrate the fallen nature of human beings.
Romans 3 10 As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one.’
18 ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’
23 …. all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
It is their rebellion and rejection of God which makes human beings fools. People rebel against the existence of God despite the witness of Creation and of their own consciences. Belief in a divine Being carries with it a sense of accountability to that Being. So, to escape the condemnation of conscience, which itself was created by God, some people simply deny the existence of God. They tell themselves, “There is no one overseeing of the world. There is no Judgment Day. I can live just as I please.” The issue is not a lack of evidence of God’s existence, but a desire to live free of the moral constraints God requires and to escape the guilt that accompanies the violation of those constraints.
The foolish person says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ because he chooses to reject all the evidence which so clearly demonstrates God’s existence. Those who deny God’s existence are not reaching logical conclusions on the basis of evidence. They are actually going against all the evidence. As one preacher said, “there is no fool like the fool who refuses to believe what is staring him in the face every single day.”
We have said before that the truth is that anybody who confidently declares “there is no God” as if that was a proven fact is making a fundamental mistake. It makes no sense to categorically deny the existence of God who is generally unseen even by those who do believe He exists. It is not meaningful to say that something which possibly could exist absolutely does not exist. All anyone can reliably say is, “if there is a God I haven’t seen evidence of his existence yet.” People who say “God does not exist” are only expressing their own personal belief. As a teenager I used to argue vigorously that God couldn’t exist. Then God proved me wrong. Someone who declares that God cannot possibly exist is making the same mistake as someone who insists that Australia cannot possibly exist, just because they haven’t personally been there yet. They are being as foolish as people would be if they said, “the Queen doesn’t exist”, because they have never met Her Majesty, and refuse to believe the photographs or the Christmas broadcasts or all the people who claim that they have met the Queen. It is indeed foolish to say, “there is no God.” End of philosophy lesson.
Christians can never prove to other people for certain that there is a God. But when Christians and seekers look around the world with the eye of faith, evidence for God’s existence is everywhere. Let me remind you of four areas which we can point to as evidence for the existence of God, in order of increasing importance.
We might begin by pointing to
The BIBLE and the CHURCH
Some people are struck by the impact and the uniqueness of the Bible. Most people who say “the Bible isn’t true” actually haven’t read the Bible. So we can encourage our friends to open Scripture and rely on God speaking to them through His word. I’ve quoted Spurgeon before. “Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself.” We need to unchain the lion and encourage our friends to read the Bible.
We can also talk about the historical impact of the church on the world, and the influence of Christianity on society today. We can talk about all the good things Christians have done and are doing in caring for the poor and working for justice and peace, from William Booth and Lord Shaftsbury to Mother Teresa and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, from Food Banks and CHESS to Christian Aid and Operation Christmas Child. These things point beyond the individuals to the living God working through them.
Then we can point to the many ways God has revealed Himself in
We thought indirectly about this a couple of years ago in an evening of reflection and meditation.
Psalm 19 1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
3There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
God has revealed Himself to the world in all He has created. In Romans 1 Paul argued that the existence of God is self evident to all human beings.
Romans 1 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
So the Bible tells us that God’s eternal power and His divine nature can clearly be seen. There are many different aspects of the created world which reveal God if we look at creation with the eye of faith. We can point to beauty and majesty in Creation. Sunsets and starry skies, waterfalls and flowers. It was the inventor of the process we use to preserve milk, the French biologist Louis Pasteur who said, “Posterity will someday laugh at the foolishness of our modern materialistic philosophy. The more I study nature the more I am amazed at the Creator.”
Those of a more scientific mind may appreciate the beauty inherent in mathematics and physics. The way creation works is marvellous to unravel! The 20th century British physicist Paul Dirac once said, “it is more important to have beauty in one’s equations that to have them fit experiment.” We can point to evidence of design in Creation. Biologists can point to the way eyes work, and memory and thinking in the human brain, and the complex interactions of DNA and RNA and proteins in the process of inheritance, which doesn’t happen if even one ingredient in the process is absent. Physicists talk about the “fine tuning of the universe”, the way that the laws of physics, the rate of expansion of the universe and the values of the fundamental constants all fit together in exactly the right balance to make life possible. If any of those were slightly different, no life could exist. All this is evidence of design in the natural world, and design points beyond itself to the Designer.
We can point to the universal spiritual experience of human beings. We are the only animals that pray or worship. When we answered the question, “What is the point of life?” we spoke about the “God shaped gap” in our lives. As Augustine said, back in the fifth century “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Another common experience of all human beings is conscience. Morality is a consequence of us all being created in the image of the holy and righteous God.
Romans 2 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)
Our human conscience is evidence for the existence of God.
Finally from creation one of the classic “proofs” of the existence of God is the “cosmological argument.” Once there was nothing, no space, no time, no matter, nothing. Then there was something. The universe came from nothing – life came from not life and that requires a first cause, a first mover, something which started the whole thing off. And that first cause was God. None of these pieces of evidence for the existence of God are irrefutable knock-down proof that God does exist. But together they do give us grounds to claim that believing in God is reasonable and rational.
“God is not discoverable or demonstrable by purely scientific means, unfortunately for the scientifically-minded. But that really proves nothing. It simply means that the wrong instruments are being used for the job.” J. B. Phillips (1906–1982)
“Science without religion is blind. Religion without science is lame.” ALBERT EINSTEIN
God has revealed Himself in the Bible, in the church and in creation. But we can also point to evidence for God’s existence in human experience.
We can point to the changed lives of the first disciples. One day they were hiding away terrified that they would be next to be crucified. The next day these ordinary men and women were preaching a message which would turn the world upside down. We can point to countless inspirational Christians through the ages. We can talk about Christians we have read about but even better we can talk about the differences we have seen that Jesus makes in other people’s lives. Best of all we can talk about our own personal experiences of the difference Jesus makes in my own life. Answers to prayer. Miracles of grace and of healing. Experiences of peace and joy and forgiveness. We know God exists because we have experienced Jesus in our own lives. And then finally we know that God exists because of
We can point to the uniqueness of Jesus. Jesus’s birth, his teaching, his ministry and to his death on the cross all set him apart from all the other leaders of all the other religions. Then we can point our friends to the love Jesus showed and to his perfect character. We know God exists because we have met God in Jesus.
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” …. 9 “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
We believe in God because we have met God in His Son Jesus Christ. And in all of this the most important evidence for God’s existence is found in one historical event – the historical event of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
1 Corinthians 15 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
Everything rests on the resurrection of Jesus. That was the heart of the gospel the first Christians preached and it is the heart of our gospel today. Jesus is not dead. Jesus is alive. The resurrection is God’s proof that everything that Jesus claimed about Himself is true. It is God’s proof that Jesus is the Son of God and that Jesus is indeed King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And the historical fact of the resurrection is the ultimate proof that God exists. The resurrection is that important!
So God has revealed Himself in the Bible and in the church, and in Creation. God has revealed Himself in human experience, the experiences of other people and our own personal experiences. But ultimately we believe in God because of Jesus and supremely because of the resurrection. Jesus is alive! That is the good news we have been given to proclaim and the evidence for God’s existence which we can share with the world.
So there is so much evidence for the existence of God. The problem is not ignorance but rebellion. Here is the challenge for the church going forward especially in the new normal “post-Covid”. Social distancing will be with us for months and possibly for years. Restricted to meeting with only one other household or social bubble at a time. How can we challenge the foolishness of the world? What should Christians be doing to demonstrate to everybody that God exists?