I think it would be safe to assume that most people reading this Blog would not consider themselves to be an “atheist”. If you do consider yourself an atheist, then you probably won’t be impressed with the psalmist’s description of such a person, but I encourage you to keep reading anyway.
There is a greater possibility though, that some reading this will be surprised that they may actually fit another category, called “practical atheists”.
One definition of a “practical atheist” is one who may actually say he/she believes in God, may even be a church goer, but in reality, lives as though God does not really exist. In other words, in the practical activities of his/her life God is basically irrelevant. As the Message Bible puts it, in your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life. (Romans 12:1)
The issue being how our so-called beliefs impact into our daily activities. Do these things actually effect in a practical and spiritually positive way how we live our lives? If the effect is minimal, then we are living the life of a “practical atheist”!
And sadly, in the end, both the “atheist”, who says in his heart, “There is no God”, and the “practical atheist”, who would not make such a brash statement, are, according to the psalmist, “fools”! (see my last post for what the meaning of a “fool” is in the Psalms)
Basically, whether we choose to really believe it or not, God is! The Bible commences with this basic truth which, if we endeavour to refute or forget, we do so to our own peril (and sadly impact negatively all those around us).
Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning God…”
This has to be the reference point for our lives. Start there and finish there and life will have the meaning and purpose that is intended for each one of us, as well as it having a positive impact upon others. If not, let me share with you what the psalmist describes as the tragic result of living one’s life with no or little reference to God.
1 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.
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.
4 Do all these evildoers know nothing?
devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on God.
5 But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
where there was nothing to dread.
God scattered the bones of those who attacked you;
you put them to shame, for God despised them.
6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out
When God restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
Brueggemann comments as follows:
This psalm “reflects on one whose conduct is disordered and without focus, because it is not referred to God…The result of such mistaken autonomy is the assumption that life is normless. Where God is not, everything is possible. The outcome is that the action of such a person is corrupt, without good (v. 1), without discernment, and therefore exploitive of other people (v. 4). The connection affirmed is clear. Where the Creator is not honoured, creaturely life disintegrates and degenerates. The end result is a life filled with terror (v. 5a). There are no guards, limits, or boundaries, but everything is continually at risk. A person who follows that way has no supports for life beyond his own hopeless efforts, and those efforts are inevitably inadequate.”
But this does not have to be the way for you and me, and this is the message of the psalm. “This is still God’s world. A human life referred to God is still possible and worth living. God still governs from his heavenly throne (v. 2). God still sanctions a wise life, derived from proper worship (v. 2). God still attends to the kind of folks who are righteous (v. 6). Thus the psalm is a reprimand and dismissal of those who deny the life given them in God’s gracious sovereignty. But it does affirm that this reprimand and dismissal need not be.” (# 2)
No wonder Paul encourages is as follows:
1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1-2 Message)