By David Faust
At first glance Psalm 14:1 sounds like a slap in the face to atheists: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Something in me likes that verse—even finds smug satisfaction in it. “Take that, you hard-hearted philosophy professor spouting faith-killing theories in your Ivy League lecture hall! Wipe that smirk off your face, you irreverent comedian who mocks believers and makes fun of Jesus.”
My smugness melts away, however, when I read the rest of Psalm 14. God has something to say in this chapter to everyone, including those who believe in him.
The evidence of God’s existence speaks for itself. If you can contemplate the intricate design of the eye, the vast mysteries of outer space, the mechanics of human finger movement, the aspirations of the human spirit, and the complex information encoded in DNA, then say it all happened without a designer—as the result of sheer, blind accident—then you believe in a miracle more astounding than any described in the Bible. Fred Hoyle, a prominent British scientist, argued that the chance of higher life forms emerging by accident is like a 747 jet being assembled by a tornado sweeping through a junkyard. Even the problem of evil points to God as the ultimate standard of good and our hope for relief from suffering. Bible commentator Alexander MacLaren observed, “The difficulties of faith are ‘gnats’ beside the ‘camels’ unbelief has to swallow.”
But Psalm 14 not only reminds us about the fact of God’s existence. It goes on to describe what happens when people ignore God: “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven . . . to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (vv. 2, 3).
Who are these villains, anyway? Who are these God-deniers who choose darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19)? Who are these corrupt individuals who “devour [God’s] people as men eat bread” and “do not call on the Lord” and “frustrate the plans of the poor” (Psalm 14:4, 6)?
Let’s be honest. You and I can find ourselves in these ugly verses. In the New Testament the apostle Paul quotes Psalm 14 and applies it to all of us. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” he concludes (Romans 3:10-23).
Some reject God on intellectual grounds, but more often it’s a lifestyle issue—a rejection of moral accountability. Sinners can’t find God for the same reason a bank robber doesn’t want to find a police officer. True belief in God requires obeying him as well, but there’s something rebellious in the human heart that wants to go our own way, independent of divine authority.
We can’t escape the reality of God’s existence, nor can we escape the reality of our own culpability for disobeying him. Thankfully, Romans 3 (“all have sinned”) leads to Romans 5 (“while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”). And that’s good news for any of us who, like fools, have ever thumbed our noses at God.
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of the Lookout.
1. If you had five minutes to explain why you believe in God, what would you say?
2. If you have never explicitly told your friends that you believe in God, do you think it’s obvious to them because of the way you act?