This is a feature guest post by my good friend Ryan Evans. This post is Part 1 of 2. Get into the second half of this powerful article tomorrow.
Do I have the audacity to presume some people are fools? Who is a fool? Is there a place for grace and discipleship when contending with the fool?
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Again, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Ironically, the wise and the foolish are so mutually exclusive that each concludes the other is the antithesis of the situational truth.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Also, “The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.” Isaiah also speaks to the folly of fools: “For fools speak folly, their hearts are bent on evil: They practice ungodliness and spread error concerning the Lord” A fool will be quick to argue, quick to ridicule, quick to state facts in the guise of truth, and slow to ever accept any correction.
Biblically speaking, a fool is an atheist; not particularly an agnostic or even a religious non-Christian. Have you ever wondered why conversations of eternal significance with atheists are so frustrating, contentious, and discouraging? You needn’t look any further than Romans 1:18-32. I encourage you to read that passage – right now – and remember the context as we move forward.
Three Required Realizations
- The first realization of discussing eternal matters with an atheist is uncomfortable – a high probability exists they possess a naturally higher IQ. Often, it is intimidating to discuss deep topics with an atheist.
- The second realization is rather disheartening – they normally will resort to ad hominem (personal insults deterring from the actual subject) attacks, anger, and condescension rather than choosing to partake in a civil and respectful dialogue.
- The third realization should produce shame and angst – they probably know the bible better than you (at least the “difficult” parts). You must know what you believe!
Three Encouraging Facts
- Don’t be dismayed or discouraged – It is better by far to have a small but living and growing faith than to possess a profound intellect filled with dead stores of worldly wisdom and containing spiritual unbelief. At the end of the day, you can rest in the joy of the Lord and be filled with the Holy Spirit!
- Contemplate the truth in Proverbs 14: “Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding, but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.” Meditate on the fact that the Spirit of the Living God grows a true wisdom within you… wisdom incomprehensible to the unspiritual mind. Paul admonished the Colossians by saying: “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” Even a person with a profoundly gifted intellect is found lacking when confronted with God’s wisdom!
- Remember what God requires of you… You are not required to convert every atheist you encounter or to gain their respect. You are required to live faithfully by loving God and loving your brethren. Paul admonished the Corinthians by saying: “We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.” You should focus on continually knowing God more and your image will continually be refined in the likeness of Jesus. Also, your value isn’t dependent on how eloquent you speak or how much worldly respect you draw – your value is found in being a son/daughter of the I AM!!!
Into the Mind of an Atheist
While not universally true, the atheist often needs self reassurance of belief through similarly minded individuals. While not normally admitting it, the atheist often contemplates the spiritual; inasmuch that the spirit is innate to our being and to disregard its reality takes conscious effort. Normally, learning facts and discerning theory is easily achieved by the atheist. Throughout their experience, they likely discovered an intrinsic variance of intellectual capacity in comparison to classmates and friends. The discovery of flaws in theory or inconsistencies in logic is very natural to them; likewise, they often become confused and frustrated when similar conclusions simply elude the grasp of others.
It is common for the atheist to harbor deep feelings of resentment toward religion, or religious people, resultant from previous negative experiences; seldom are they truly spiritually apathetic. Subsequently, their resentment continually increases through observing every foolish (their perspective) religious person who blindly follows theology or clergy without the necessary fundamental conceptual understanding. Finally, their resentment grows into anger, their anger allows the growth of evil thoughts leading to sinful actions (after all, what does it matter if there is no judge?), and then their evil thoughts and sinful actions drive them further into ungodliness and foolishness. It is a very sad cycle to see – even sadder to experience.
As a result of the fool’s (atheist’s) advanced intellect, factual knowledge, and advanced logical arguments, they naturally honor and respect similar exceptional characteristics others while dismissing everyone else. Ultimately, the last analysis of the fool’s world view consists of fact, science, and reason taking the place of Ultimate Truth. They refuse to believe that which isn’t observable is real while curiously dismissing extrasensory realities as false simply because mechanistic materialism has no capacity to develop a scientific postulate. Subsequently, their mind then solidifies the path of foolish ungodliness through perpetually reinforcing the conscious effort to reject that which they can’t logically comprehend (Remember Romans 1).
I should know, I am a former atheist apologist – that is, until that glorious day when my reality was absolutely shaken and my whole being was laid bare before the Holy One.
Stay tuned, let me share with you what I’ve learned experientially from both sides of the faith spectrum.
Click here to read the conclusion to this powerful post. Share your thoughts or opinions in the comments below.