Sun | May 26, 2019

Douglas Street | Do atheists exist?

Published:Wednesday | May 15, 2019 | 12:23 AMDouglas Street/Contributor

Many ask the question, “Does God exist?” Some say God does not exist. Atheists are said to believe that God does not exist, but do they really believe that? Some persons make this assertion, even after growing up in the church, so what happened?

Some persons have experienced personal suffering while some have seen suffering in others, and on that basis conclude that there could not be a God. In other words, in their opinion, God should not allow suffering. Since He allows suffering to occur, then He doesn’t exist. God would not be God if He did not allow this suffering to occur. But how could a loving God allow suffering? The problem is, there is a lack of understanding, on our part, of love.

Where did suffering come from? The biblical account in the book of Genesis indicates that suffering came into this world when our first parents, Adam and Eve, chose a different path for our race than the one God outlined for them. This path involved suffering and they were warned about this inevitability.

Why were they given this choice? Because God loves us, and we can only really connect with Him when given an attractive choice to pull away from Him. Love has choice. Two persons show they love each other by choosing each other when there are options, attractive ones too. Should God have deprived man of that opportunity?

God made us in His image (Genesis 1:27). He is a Ruler. He made us rulers too (Genesis 1:28). He is good and He made us good (Genesis 1:31). He has the power to bring new life into existence that are in His image and nature, and He gave that to us too (Genesis 1:28). He can influence the future and He gave that to us as well (Genesis 1:28). That’s love. He also gave us something He doesn’t have: the option to do wrong. That’s love too. Unfortunately, we used all these gifts inappropriately. God, being God, respects the choice we made. We, however, don’t respect our choice, so we blame God for giving us the choice. God has to be God and that’s all He can be. The choices we make affect others, even when they are innocent. He has to respect that choice, but we don’t.

Suffering, having been brought into the world, was intended by the Devil to hurt us but God only allows us the kind of suffering that will purify us (Romans 8:28), that is, reduce our willingness to do wrong. The Devil doesn’t have a free hand. Just as how we know the correct temperature to make aluminium, steel, etc., God controls the temperature gauge, but He doesn’t turn on the fire. The point is that the idea that a loving God would not allow suffering is not valid.

EVERY TONGUE SHALL CONFESS

Can we truthfully say that we don’t know of the existence of God? Psalms 19:1, 2 and Romans 1:18-22 indicate that God reveals Himself to every sensible person so “they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). This is the reason that at the end of time “saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me and every tongue shall confess to God” (Romans 14:11) because they already knew of His existence.

God shows His love to all, but the Bible does contain “some things hard to be understood, which the unlearned wrest” (2 Peter 3:16). God oftentimes teaches by asking us questions (for example, Mark 4:13) first to get us to exercise the intelligence He gave us so it can improve.

Bible teachings, and life in general, do create questions in our minds. If we can’t answer the question then we should return the question to the Teacher rather than giving an answer that is inconsistent with what we already know about God: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy” (Psalms 103:8). We should seek out answers to the questions we have.

Going back to the question, “Do atheists exist?”, every sensible person knows of the existence of God so the answer is “No, they don’t”. There are many who don’t understand the nature of God or love, so they don’t realise that His in/actions are a demonstration of love, so they hate Him, but call themselves ‘atheists’. But really, they are ‘hate-theists’ (hate-theism).

Dr Douglas Street is a Christian physician. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com