In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).
One of the fundamental propositions of the Bible is assumed from the start: God exists. Not only does He exist, He is the Author and Creator of all life, and therefore, all things in existence owe their existence to Him. In an astoundingly short sentence—a mere eight words in the Hebrew—the foundations of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures answer several of life’s biggest questions and introduce several other important questions.
It is little wonder then that the book of Genesis is subject to some of the fiercest critiques from avowed skeptics of every sort. If you can demonstrate the first sentence to be false, every other line in the context of Scripture proves false. If God does not exist, the rest of the Bible can be summarily dismissed. Likewise, if God did not create all that exists, He bears no intrinsic authority to impose Himself as the Ruler above all creation. Mankind need not be subservient to God if He is not Creator simply because He has no rightful authority to claim any infringement upon one’s autonomy. Yet if He is Creator, He is Lord over Creation, and has every right to infringe upon our perceived freedoms.
This is rightly seen by skeptics as a bad thing, yet not for the reasons they necessarily hold. If God is the rightful Ruler of all and has the Divine right to impose His will upon created order, no man has the right to talk back. One might do so, of course, but it is of little consequence simply because they are finite creatures positioning themselves as arbiters of truth and morality before the Infinite One whose essence is the basis of truth and morality itself. To make that more clear: one might balk at God’s ways, but God’s ways are informed by His being. He is good, therefore, goodness finds its meaning in Him, just as mercy, love, holiness, wrath, and for our case today, truth and ethics.
The reason I say it is a bad thing though is because this fundamental proposition creates a realization of a fundamental problem: we have all rejected His authority and formed our sense of truth and morality from our own being. In essence, we have played the part of Creator, acting as if we have the fundamental, sovereign right over such matters and then subsequently, we have made arbitrary decisions informed from our usurping of the throne. We may not call it such. No, to say we are usurping the throne is tantamount to admitting God actually does have the authority to impose His will upon creation. Instead, we often place our unbelief and immorality under the auspices of true belief and morality.
To make matters worse, many have gone the way of the fool in proclaiming that there is no God (Ps. 14:1). Again, if you deny the first major premise of the Bible, it logically follows that you can deny the second (i.e. God as creator). While many attribute the role of creator to some other outside force, again, the decision is reached arbitrarily on the merit of our own individual and/or collective insight, rationale, and experience. To state that more clearly: we cobble together answers to life’s biggest questions on the basis of our own authority, rather than an objective, external authority. Thus, many simply conclude God does not exist, but even if He did, God is immoral. Mankind has found a better way.
However, if all of this reasoning is false, that is, if God does exist and He did create all things, it brings incredible responsibility upon the life of every man, woman, and child. Every individual under the sun has the responsibility to not only acknowledge their Creator, but to give Him thanks as their Creator. They have an obligation to order their life around their Creator’s desires rather than their own—and this is the point where the bristling starts to happen. If God exists and He is the Creator of all things, this informs the whole of one’s life. One must not only acknowledge Him as Creator and give Him thanks (an impossible feat all of its own for the unbeliever), He must live according to how God has prescribed. Every aspect of man’s life must then come under total surrender to the One who is the Author of life—and the one who rejects God surely does so on the basis of their desire to reject His authority.
It is all good and fine if there is a Creator who doesn’t impose His will upon the masses of His creation. Surely, the kids delight in running free from any semblance of rule and order when mom and dad are out doing their own thing—but the moment authority is exercised, and rule and order are brought to bear, there is a sort of visceral reaction to the kid that hates everything mom and dad stand for. The child can pretend mom and dad don’t exist, but the firm slap to the buttocks is as good a reminder as any that they certainly do exist, and they’re in charge.
Now, obviously the analogy above breaks down as we consider that mom and dad are sinful, finite beings who owe their allegiance to the infinite, sinless Creator, but the point still stands. It really doesn’t matter if one plays the atheist card in God’s world. He is Creator and man the creature. The atheist stands on borrowed ground. He eats borrowed food and drinks borrowed drink. He breathes in borrowed air and ultimately—lives on borrowed time. He can no more diminish God’s glory and authority than if a flea were to try and blot out the light of the sun by standing before it. This is particularly why many tend to go the route of dismissal of God’s existence to conceal their hatred of God, yet in the end, it will prove just as fruitless as an open hatred of God.
At the end of all days, every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord. They will not confess that He is Savior then because He will not be a Savior to them then. There is nothing they can be saved from. They squandered away a lifetime of opportunity to repent and believe the gospel; there are no second chances. It is assigned once for man to die and meet judgment. There is no hope for the one who dies under the consuming wrath of God, but just as there remains no hope for those who do not believe upon Christ prior to their death, there will be no lingering skepticism. There will be no doubt. There will be no unbelief. All will believe and will either go away to eternal death or eternal life, for there will be no atheists in Hell.
The good news is that Christ Himself made a way for the skeptic. I was one myself and had been for the whole of my life. I was raised as a religious “none” in a home that set foot in churches only when a wedding or funeral of a distant relative took place. My parents were not forceful proponents of any belief system; it was simply not a matter of importance. In later years, I was a rather unhappy atheist, in that I came to embrace what I believed to be the logical conclusions thereof in nihilism, but I held no qualms about my unbelief. I made it my delight to try and twist up immature and untaught Christians; I was not simply an atheist, but an anti-theist. To make a long story short: to further my fun, I decided to do a comparative study of world religions and an in-depth study of Christianity in particular, all with the aim of continuing in my quest to disprove the existence of God.
What I found though was a rather disturbing thing: try as I might to remain an objective skeptic, I found myself intentionally twisting the words of Scripture to try and escape the implications of it. Little by little, the text itself eroded many false conceptions I had about Christians and the Judeo-Christian God, yet little by little, a rather interesting dilemma arose. I started to actually entertain the idea that I might be wrong. Well, we now know how that story ends, but suffice it to say, there was a watershed moment where I realized I had to reconcile with the implications of Scripture, most notably, in the person and work of Jesus Christ Himself. I could have easily denied those implications by denying their plausibility at the onset, but that is a rather disingenuous way to give things a fair appraisal.
I’m not so naïve as to think that anyone and everyone who has read the Scriptures for themselves will come away with the same story as myself. For some, the Scriptures have a way of softening their disposition; for others, the Scriptures harden their disposition. No matter how one stretches it, one thing is clear: The Bible is not all that interested in bending over backwards to prove itself to you. That is not me saying that it doesn’t prove itself—I actually believe it does, and quite well at that. However, it is to say that Scripture has more of a declarative stance, in that it levels certain propositional truths every man, woman, and child must grapple with. This is particularly why I believe it creates such a visceral reaction in people when they are confronted with such statements.
The underlying dilemma the Scriptures present is that God is not the one on trial. You are. And unless you have Christ as your Advocate, you stand no hope outrun the implications of what all Scripture has to declare on your eternal state. You can be found in Christ and go to eternal life or you can be found outside of Christ and go to eternal death. Yet the one thing you cannot do is retain your unbelief. There are no atheists in Hell.