Theistic Indifference

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I think it’s fair to say that we live in a world in which atheism has become increasingly militant. This is at least true online. Militant atheists are perhaps rarer in the streets than on social media and other digital platforms. Still, when we encounter these atheists online, it seems increasingly that, rather than simply denying that God exists, they wish to attack those who affirm that he does. Rather than indifference, they display open hostility toward religion.

Psalm 53 highlights the folly of those who claim, “There is no God” (v. 1). As you read the psalm, however, it becomes clear that David does not have in mind intellectual or philosophical atheists. Rather than denying the existence of God, they deny the immanence of God. That is, they deny that God is present and concerned about the way they live. Because they doubt that God is present and concerned about the way they live, “they are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good” (v. 1). The Lord looks in vain among these God-deniers to find one who cares about his law (v. 2), but “they have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one” (v. 3). The language here suggests that these are those who once pledged allegiance to the Lord but who now live as if he is not there.

David was not writing to Ivy League professors or New York Times bestsellers. He was not writing to angry bloggers or bitter millennials hiding behind their screens. He was writing to the community of faith—to those who professed belief in God but with their tongue and by their lives denied his influence in their lives. Christians today need Psalm 53.

There are far too many professing Christians who gather with the church week after week, who listen to Scripture read and preached, who sing the Lord’s praises, and who partake of the Communion meal, but who then live throughout the week as if God was not with them. They seem to believe that they leave God in the walls of the church building when they leave it on Sunday morning. God plays no role in their day to day lives. Even if they profess, when pressed, that God exists, they declare by their lives, “God is not here.” These professors, who live with theistic indifference, cause more damage to the Christian gospel than those who outright deny God’s existence. Marvin E. Tate warns,

An even more dangerous species of human being may be the person who affirms God but who allows no impact of that affirmation on the actual reality of living—or else attempts to use faith affirmations for ungodly ends. The course of religious history is replete with fools who have said “There is no God” and with even greater fools who have said “Lord, Lord,” but who have refused to do the will of God.

Christians must recognise that God not only exists but that he cares about how they live. We do not worship God in a church building on Sunday and leave him behind until the next Sunday. He cares about the things we say. He cares about the way we treat one another. He cares about how we think and what we watch.

As you head into this day, remember that you are called to do more than merely acknowledge God’s existence. As an ambassador for Christ, you are called not only to say, “God is” but to show by the way you live, “God is here.” Theistic indifference has no place in the life of the gospel-centred Christian.

Let us verbally profess what we believe and the live according to what we profess.

Stuart