Psalm 14:1 says,
“The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” (KJV)
That’s the declaration of the Bible, but of course the atheist will only laugh at this, believing that such a declaration is non-sense. But why did the psalmist declare that it is foolishness to deny the existence of God? What’s the logical reason? What’s the proof that will validate such declaration? Although there are various theoretical approaches to answer this question but this article will only limit its answer to 2 arguments, namely, the Cosmological and Moral arguments.
This argument was formulated and popularized by a brilliant Catholic theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas. The argument simply holds that every effect must have a cause and that in the final analysis, there must an absolute cause. Aquinas developed a fivefold arguments to explain this position. They are as follows:
The Existence of the Unmoved Mover
Science sees that everything in nature and in the universe is in the process of change. All of us are subject to change. But we must understand that change will only happen if there’s something that causes the change. Change demands a mover that will cause the movement of change. For instance, the ball on the floor will remain on the same position and location, unless a force or motion from something causes it to move. But even the fact that it’s on the floor and not on the other place demands the existence of a mover that/who put it on the floor. Apply this concept in the natural laws of the Universe, since the Universe in and of itself is in the process of change, it demands also of the necessary existence of the mover that causes it to change. And this mover is by necessity not subject to change because if it is also changing, then it will become part of the universal process of change. But this chain of change cannot be infinitely long because if the presence of change in the universe will not have an absolute cause that is not subject to the process of change, then there will be no “change” at all. So the point of the argument then is: Change demands an Unmoved Changer. And this unmoved changer is no other than what we call “God.”
The First Cause
Since it is already established that every “change” requires a “cause”, therefore, there must be an existence of the First Cause. This First Cause must be eternal or outside the process of change (universe). And in the mind of Aquinas this First Cause is the Principal Cause that caused/causes the secondary cause/s to effect a next cause/s. The Principal Cause then is not the realm of the “Effect” but the Absolute Cause of the Effect or the universal effects. Therefore, it is safe to deduce then that the Universe is not eternal because it is in the realm of the Effect wherein the process of change is intrinsic. Hence, God is by necessity eternal because the First Cause is outside the realm of the Effect or the process of change.
Argument from Contingency
The eternality of the First Cause (God) is necessary and logical, because if there is no existence of the Eternal One, then there would be no existence at all. In other words, since the universe is in the process of change and is outside the realm of the eternal, it has characteristic and ability to be soon out of existence. And yet, till now the universe still exists. Why? That’s because there’s an existence of the Eternal One who causes the universe or the process of change to be kept on changing. God then preserves the process of change. For instance, the cycle of the rising and setting of the Sun is still naturally on-going on planet earth because this movement is preserved by the moving of GodArgument from Degree
The moving of God (First Cause) in His universe (realm of Effect) does not only point us back to His necessary existence and movement upon it, but it also points us to the reality of the quality of His moving or His work – Creation. By observing the world around us, we see not only existence but also intelligence. For instance, when you drink your coffee, have you ever thought why it is hot? What makes the coffee hot? Why do you say it is hot? It is because you also know what is cold. Hot and cold are different gradations. But who/what made and keeps these particular gradations in the changing process of hot and cold? Why fire is hot and not cold like ice? Thus, it is necessary then to deduce that God is not only eternal but even intelligent.
An Intelligent First Cause
The universe shows intelligent design. To deny this is also to deny Science. The very reason why we have Science is because Nature is characterized by intelligent laws and beauty. Therefore, to say then that believing in God as the First Cause devalues and rejects Science is an ignorant accusation. It is true that Science today (by scientists’ own belief-biases) can reject God as the First Cause. But God, considered to be as the Absolute Cause, cannot deny true Science that is intrinsic in the laws of His universe which He designed. God made Science, and He by the laws of nature shows Himself wondrously to every scientist as long as they are open-minded to His fingerprints in Creation.
Therefore, using these five link-arguments, when the psalmist said that an atheist is a fool, the reason is because he intently denies the ordered-world around him as created by an Eternal, Uncaused, and Intelligent Being – God. It is foolishness because the atheist denies not only Design but even Necessity and Logic, in other words the atheist is not thinking right, although the evidences are clear in front of him.
But then the question is: Since the cosmological evidences for the existence of God are clear and intelligent, but still, why is the atheist so denial of the evidences? There are many possible philosophical reasons for this, but the best reason is from the Moral Argument of the psalmist in Psalm 14.
The basic premise of this argument answers the issue-question that the reason why the atheist is so foolishly denial of God is because of sin-problem in the heart. Biblical expositor Albert Barnes noted in Psalm 14:1,
The word “fool” is often used in the Scriptures to denote a wicked man – as sin is the essence of folly (Job 2:10; Psalm 74:18; Genesis 34:7; Deuteronomy 22:21). The Hebrew word is rendered “vile person” in Isaiah 32:5-6…It is designed to convey the idea that wickedness or impiety is essential folly…”
Thus, in the language of the Scriptures, “foolishness” is not mere logical fallacies alone, but primarily a moral problem in the heart caused by the presence of sin. And by this premise, the Bible teaches that the atheist’s foolish problem is not primarily intellectual, as if there is no sufficient, solid, and clear reasonable evidences for the existence of God. No, rather, the primary problem is the heart. The moral and spiritual problem of the heart is the reason why the atheist is solidly biased to his arguments and close-minded to the proofs of God.
That’s why the psalmist said, “The fool has said in his heart…” The source of the atheist’s anti-theistic presupposition is not sound reason (though he uses reason), but the sinful inclination of his heart that is already biased against God. This inclination is what gives him “rationalization” in a sense of justifying his contrived reason only directed for the purpose of removing God out of the scenario of existence. This is the atheist’s attitude when he declared “There is no God.” Barnes noted that the literal rendering of this phrase is actually “no God,” “nothing of God,” or “God is not.” The idea is that, in his apprehension, there is no such thing as God, or no such being as God.” Consequently then because of this bad attitude, he fails to see the evidences of God. Although St. Paul said,
“…because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20, NASB)
What then is the solution for the atheist’s moral problem?
Unashamedly, the Scripture provides for us the core-essential presupposition for our heart and mind. For instance, in Proverbs 1:7, Solomon said,
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (KJV)
Admittedly, the atheist will scorn that this premise is just begging the question. For to him, how can he believe in God if in the first place he denies Him? Fair enough. But here in this verse, Solomon is not appealing to the mind by means of philosophical arguments, just like the Cosmological approach that is presented above. What Solomon is doing here is addressing the moral problem of the heart, the inclination or the problem of bias that controls the reasoning of the mind. The point is: If a posteriori arguments like cosmological and teleological fail to convince the mind of the atheist to believe in God, then perhaps a priori or the ontological argument of the Scripture will transform his heart to believe in God. Solomon made it clear that “the beginning of knowledge” (i.e. of God) comes from the “fear of the Lord.” But the “fear of the Lord” is an attitude of the heart that the atheist is unable to do. So then, how can the atheist’s heart be changed to believe in God? Consider this two-fold answer:
Practical and Personal
Humanly speaking, the atheist must start to honestly consider the facts presented to him; to weigh them with intellectual honestly and moral integrity, not intentionally suppressing the truth. Christian apologist Vincent Cheung said,
“People often complain that there is insufficient evidence about God and Christianity, but the Bible says that they already know about this true God, only that they are suppressing this knowledge because they refuse to acknowledge or worship him. Knowledge about God is “evident within them,” because he “made it evident to them.” The problem is not a lack of evidence, but an artificially manufactured set of presuppositions that suppresses their knowledge about God.
Knowing that the real problem of the atheist is not mere scientific and intellectual but deeply moral and spiritual, inevitably then, the solution in the final analysis is supernatural – that is, the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Alexander Jordan, in his analysis of apologetic approach said,
“…how critical it is that we understand and correctly represent in our apologetic the total depravity of the human heart as described in Scripture. If we misdiagnose man’s problem, our apologetic will surely be off target. The human predicament is truly deplorable because the heart of man following the fall became deeply hardened in its sin. It is desperately evil and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Men everywhere are sinners who fall short of the glory of God and are “dead in trespasses and sins”, “following the course of this world, unwittingly following Satan, “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” and living “in the passions of (the) flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and are “by nature children of wrath.” (Romans 3:23, Ephesians 2: 1-3)”
Indeed sin separates Man from God; a separation that corrupted his heart, mind, soul, and strength. And only God’s Spirit through regeneration can make him start to “fear the Lord” seeing His reality in Creation, in sound reason, and particularly in Christ who will make him a new creation who loves God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength.