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Atheism #6 From Total Loss To Great Faith  

27 Oct

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Napoleon Bonaparte put a man by the name of Charney into prison. A little flower grew within the enclosed prison yard. Above this flower was written, “All things come by chance.” (A concise commentary on the philosophy of the French Revolutionaries.) But day by day, as Charney took his lonely walk this flower was teaching him lessons of trust. He made a frame to support it and a shelter to protect it. He felt that all things could not come by chance, “there is One who made this flower so wonderfully beautiful and keeps it alive.” He brushed the lying words from the wall and in his heart he felt “he who made all things is God.” The Empress Josephine, hearing of Charney’s love for the flower, became interested in his plight. She thought, “a man that loves and tends to a flower cannot be a bad man.” She persuaded the Emperor to set him free. Charney carried the little flower home and carefully tended it in his own greenhouse. It had taught him to believe in God and had also delivered him from prison. [1]

There is another illustration of this transition. His story is found in 2 Kings 5. Naaman’s life is the account of a practical atheist whose life of total loss turned to great gain through faith. Read his transition from atheism to faith in 2 Kings 5:15‑17:

(2 Kings 5:15-17 NIV)  Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant.” {16} The prophet answered, “As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused. {17} “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD.

The honest seeker of Truth has to wrestle with the question of God’s existence. One cannot blithely dance through life and evade the question. God’s existence, or absence, has a direct bearing on our everyday lives. Modern man faces two options regarding God – Atheism or Theism. Honest investigation must give each option close scrutiny – nothing should be glossed over; integrity in study is the rule.  In previous lessons we have given an honest examination of Atheism’s option and have seen that it is a philosophy with defense. It has erected a system of belief that is based upon bias and hatred.

Study has revealed that for Atheistic philosophy to be consistent it must “make sense out of a random first cause, denounce as immoral all moral denunciations, express meaningfully all meaninglessness, and find security in hopelessness. This is a tall order, even for a wizard with word” [Zacharias, p. 112]. This exposure of Atheism forces the honest searcher to reject it as a viable pattern for life. After Atheism is discounted only Theism is left as a philosophy of life. This is the conclusion which Charney, Naaman, and countless multitudes accepted. And they are right for Theism is the only reasonable conclusion!

With these thoughts in mind look now and observe how the honest searcher of Truth will turn from the total loss of Atheism to the rewards of great faith in Theism!

A Review Of Atheism’s Basic Tenets

Throughout this series we have seen how Atheism voids earthly life of any purpose, meaning, and value. As a reminder look again at these points.

First, there is a TOTAL LOSS OF ORIGIN.

According to Atheistic thought God is regarded as a residue of a dark, ignorant past. It suggests that any connection of our origin with God is absurd. According to Atheistic philosophy, human origin can be traced back to non‑living matter. All life becomes “non‑living” matter in motion! Consistent with this suggestion is the theory that all life originated in “slime” – every living structure, even those of the greatest complexity, was systematically assembled by natural processes! But this concept of origin is not justified. Science asserts that all [even non‑living matter] had a beginning point! Not one particle of evidence exists for the concept of evolution which is necessary to Atheism.

Second, there is a TOTAL LOSS OF MORALITY.

According to Atheism, man is a creature of instinct and impulse. He is a higher animal that is capable of choice, but nonetheless still an animal. Atheism thus denies absolute morality. Its advocates claim that right or wrong are relative issues that must be modified by each generation. Atheism consigns humans to an existence that is incapable of moral behavior. But this tenet leads to great loss; a pit of despair such as awaits only animals. Instant gratification from instinct and impulse “digs mudholes that nurture progressive filth. Animals have no choice. For them mudholes are the only alternative possible, and so their filth remains. But humans are capable of moral decisions that impose ‘mudhole’ accountability to which the Bible imparts eternal consequences” [Gange, p. 147].

Third, there is TOTAL LOSS OF MEANING.

Atheism can identify no purpose for earthly existence. We are here by chance; live by instinct; and, die for extinction! What a morbid philosophy! Since life has no spiritual meaning man feeds upon the scum of fleshly appetites and slides into the mudhole of despair. By denying humans the purpose for life’s meaning, Atheism has forced us to an existence of utter despondency.

Fourth, there is TOTAL LOSS OF HOPE.

Even though Atheism postulates that evolution will ultimately bring the utopia of man’s goodness, it fails. But the goal of Atheism is well beyond the reality of existence. Man without God is incapable of “goodness.” Brilliant mortal minds may devise the most complex engineering machines but mortal brilliance cannot engineer a hopeful existence for earthly life without God! Atheism’s loss of hope is keenly felt by its devotees. Listen to this mournful resignation of the total loss of hope . . .

Self‑exiled Harold wanders forth again, With nought of Hope left, but with less of gloom;

The very knowledge that he lived in vain, That all was over this side of the tomb,

Had made Despair a smilingness assume. –Childe Harold, Byron

Having exiled hope by its basic tenets, Atheism seeks to destroy it for all humanity. Today, through its influence, millions regard the Bible as sprinkled with fantasy and myth; Christianity is suited only for children; faith is seen as the activity of fools; biblical promises are a psychological crutch. By publishing these statements Atheism has prevented many from possessing hope. And why not? Having exiled hope for itself, Atheism seeks to prevent any from possessing it!

Fifth, there is a TOTAL LOSS OF REASON.

Atheism screams for a verification of God’s existence by rational certainty. Since it cannot verify God by sight, sound, or touch, it claims that “reason justifies” the rejection of Deity. But such is error. Atheism claims that there is no God, but it does not offer any “reasonable justification” for its claim! “One can jump off a high building and all the way down shout that there’s no such thing as gravity, but eventually the bottom must come and with it the price of such folly” [Gange, p.152]. Such is likewise true with Atheism’s protestations that “reasonable” evidence is not found for God’s existence.

A Response – Theism Brings Great Faith!

The pitiless void of Atheism is set in stark contrast to the option of Theism. All that is lacking in Atheism is abundantly supplied in the belief that a great God does exist! Two inescapable points support the rationale for accepting Theism and rejecting Atheism.

First, Theism provides the only acceptable “world view.”

One’s “world view” prescribes behavior, ideas, experiences, and purposes in life. The “world view” interprets all of life’s choices and acts. Everyone is directed by a world view. Common sense mandates that we reason through the many world views and select the one that will bring the greatest joy and satisfaction to earthly life. But how do we select a world view that will bring joy and satisfaction?  The following criteria offers a suitable guide [Zacharias, p. 189].

(1) Look for factual support that refuses false and arbitrary conclusions. This means that the facts are not based upon a biased view.

(2) Make sure that it maintains a high degree of internal consistency. Truth is always consistent. A truthful world view cannot rest upon tenets that are contradictory.

(3) Look for good explanatory powers. As the view looks at life question how it compiles facts, how its deductions lead to theories, and how sensible are the laws which prescribe behavior patterns.

(4) Be sure to avoid the extremes of being either too simple or too complex in its theories.

(5) Make sure it possesses more than one live of evidence. Evidence should emerge from several sources and all evidence should consistently relate to theories.

(6) It should be able to refute contradictory world views. Its consistency should enable it to possess a foundation of Truth that causes it to rise above all other world views.

Whenever one has decided upon a world view, s/he is able to explain earthly existence so that meaning and purpose are found. Such a world view passes three critical questions: Is it logically consistent in all it postulates? Is it founded upon adequate data? Is it livable, or relevant to modern man?

After all possible world views are scrutinized with these criterion it will be seen that only Theism offers a world view that is satisfactory. Atheism is repeatedly unable to pass these criterion! Thus, Theism offers the only logical, consistent, and systematic world view.

Second, Theism provides the philosophy of life that is best suited to man’s needs.

Any conclusion (decision for action) is reached by following a three step method that first examines assumptions, then sets forth arguments, and finally dictates application to life. Atheism’s vulnerability is exposed and Theism’s strength is magnified with this process. Notice how these three steps unite to form a strong foundation for Theistic Philosophy.

It begins with logic that offers consistent reasoning. The goal is to strive toward Truth and reject error. This first step helps one understand why a fact is believed and why the belief system should be maintained.

After grasping the logical facts, it then looks beyond reason and focuses upon imagination and feeling (i.e. it has the ability to “dream”). With this step mortal minds are able to perceive future satisfaction because basic needs are met. But there is a danger in this second step – one can allow feelings to create an absolute that rejects reason. When this happens the mortal mind ignores the logical facts and follows a delusion. Often those who follow feelings after ignoring logic create incredible perverted practices or fall prey to agony. A fitting quote illustrates – “One who marries on the strength of ‘puppy‑love’ will live a ‘dog’s life’!” Or, “Many a man in love with a dimple makes the mistake of marrying the whole girl.” But when this step is exercised with the logical facts, it enables the mortal mind to imagine and strive toward the noble and right and make the world a better place. It is unfortunate that many who follow Theism fail to guard themselves against the temptation of allowing feelings to overrule facts. This is just as dangerous as the Atheist disclaiming God’s existence because of emotions. “The person who takes emotions as a starting point for determining truth in clutching the finger of feeling thinks he has grabbed the fist of truth” [Zacharias, p. 181].

After facts are accepted and reinforced by emotions, a third step is taken – patterns for daily living are prescribed. This is where the “Whys?” of life are given. Here is the test of reality. This is where moral opinions are tested for one’s practices will be judged on the consistency of the first two points.

Theism is able to prescribe the best philosophy for earthly life because it is able to provide three basic facts for modern minds. It can offer a reasonable pattern for life. This reasonable pattern is workable in daily life. And, its precepts can be transferred to other generations without modification. As such, Theism is the only philosophy, able to offer man consistent arguments as to what he must believe, illustrate those beliefs by appealing to imaginations that are firmly rooted in factual promises, and finally apply those beliefs to a prescribed pattern of behavior and urge all to comply in that lifestyle!

This ability of Theism highlights the inability of Atheism to do the same thing. If Atheism uses feelings/emotions to direct one’s lifestyle it faces multiple contradictions. Atheism cannot appeal to life’s experiences as a rule for living because human experiences only lead to the dilemma of contradictions. Atheism cannot begin with factual data for it has none. The only beginning point is with Truth that can be proven, experienced, and prescribed. But Atheistic philosophy is utterly incapable of presenting such “Truth.”

Look back to 2 Kings 5 and observe how the Syrian General found Theism as the only workable philosophy in life. Naaman tried these basic steps in looking for an answer to the empty void and hopeless plight of his life. Notice how he illustrates this process.

He came to Israel with a world view that accepted all religions. He was basically a pragmatic atheist for he did not have an absolute faith in God but accepted any “god” as long as it worked for his best interest. But after he was cleansed from his leprosy Naaman was convinced that there was only one God (2 Ki 5:15).

What accounts for this dramatic shift in such a brief time? The answer is simple ‑ Naaman utilized the process of reasoning described above and concluded that there was but one God. This is evident from the following observations: He possessed factual evidence of God’s power apart from an emotional/feeling basis (v. 11,15).  He then found a consistency about that factual data and this consistency could not be denied (v.13‑14). He next arrived at an explanation, from the facts and experiences, that prescribed a certain behavior (v.15‑17).

Prior to a belief in Jehovah God, Naaman struggled with the emptiness and void of Atheistic philosophy. But after he changed his world view his life was full and satisfying. He could leave “in peace” (v. 19) because he had found the one true God. Such a transition from total loss to great gain remains possible for all honest searchers today!

The Results And Consequences Of This Series

The issue of Atheism and Theism is not a matter for intellectuals to bandy about in debates. This issue touches every human being. The far‑reaching scope of this series is evident in three points . . .

First, in choosing between these two philosophies, one chooses between the essential dignity and ultimate destiny of mankind!

Atheism has only the dreariest prospect for humanity. Theism holds the only hope for mankind. Here is where the atheist  must face the honest cruelty of his position!

Second, one’s choice between these two philosophies will decide the potential for either irretrievable loss or inestimatable gain.

Should one choose Atheism there is no hope, meaning, or significance. How can a reasonable mind make such a choice?

Third, this choice reflect either the willingness or reluctance to admit one’s need for God.

The atheist often rejects God not because of intellectual reasoning or factual evidence, but because of a self‑willed arrogance. History epitomizes such in the “Romantic” Poets. Ironically their writings portray the hollowness of their positions. Shelly’s “Ozymandias” depicts the futility of atheistic arrogance. The statue speaks these disconcerting words :

‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing besides remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Shelly’s portrayal of arrogant atheism is true. The choice of God’s existence or absence reveals a willingness or reluctance to humble self in acknowledging the need for God’s strength.

Concluding Thoughts

Man’s worldview decides his purpose and happiness in life. The only reasonable worldview is that which sees earthly life as a preparation period for heavenly splendor. This leads one to see God’s handiwork in earth (Ac 17:24‑28). It leads us to see that God does exist (Da 2:28a). It prescribes the need for all humans to view their world from the philosophy of Theism. Such a program is illustrated in haughty Nebuchadnezzar who finally changed his worldview to admit Theism (cf Da 2:47; 4:34‑37).

Viewing earthly life with a God‑centered view allows us to see the Almighty’s compassion, desire to be known by mortals, and willingness to restore fallen man (cf Ac 17:27; Jn 3:16). From the Christian worldview it is not accidental that in the beginning a compassionate God created man for fellowship in the bliss of Eden. Is not accidental that a compassionate God closes the last Book of the Bible with the same compassion exhorting man to “Come!” (Rv 22:17).  [2]
[1] (Elon Foster, New Cyclopedia Of Prose Illustrations. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1877, p. 52). Charney is an excellent illustration of how Atheism’s “total loss” can become Faith’s “great gain”!

[2] For further reading and research on this lesson

Origins And Destiny, Dr. Robert Gange. Word Publishing, 1986.

Christianity And Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1923.

A Shattered Visage: The Real Face Of Atheism, Ravi Zacharias.  Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1990.

[1] (Elon Foster, New Cyclopedia Of Prose Illustrations. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1877, p. 52). Charney is an excellent illustration of how Atheism’s “total loss” can become Faith’s “great gain”!

[2] For further reading and research on this lesson

Origins And Destiny, Dr. Robert Gange. Word Publishing, 1986.

Christianity And Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1923.

A Shattered Visage: The Real Face Of Atheism, Ravi Zacharias.  Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1990.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2014 in Article

 

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