2006-01-15 - Theoretical or Practical
Psalms 14, Part 2
The focus of David's message is the plight of the wicked, noting they are fools. "The fool says in his heart there is no God." The word fool is nabal, which can be translated "madman" or "insane." And it is the result of this insanity which concerns David. Now it doesn't appear he is considering the theoretical atheist; after all, it is only in contemporary times that the world has reached such a level of insanity, that there are individuals twisted enough to deny there is a God. After all, we find even pagan kings, seen in the books of Esther, Daniel and Ezra, who at their worst didn't reject the existence of God.
Now if in the cultures of biblical days, those times when David was writing, people believed in some sort of god, then there were no atheists as we understand the word. So who is David talking about? He is speaking of the "practical atheist." These are individuals who live as if God doesn't exist, who really have no interest in Him. Unfortunately, these are not just the unrighteous. As we will see, the righteous can also choose to live as practical atheists.
Verses 1-2: Listen how David describes these individuals. First, and foremost, their lives are typified by actions which reject God's authority. They are described as vile and corrupt. They can do no good. This is true for all those who live without God. They may do humanitarian works, things that appear good by human standards. But, by God's standards, they cannot do good, for anything done outside of Him is empty. This is important, so let me reiterate. No work done by believer or unbeliever is of any value, from God's perspective, if it is done outside of Him. As much as the works of men may appear to be righteous outside of God, all we can say is
"All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away" (Isaiah 64:6).
This is the state of the atheist, be he theoretical or practical.
To be continued.
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