Theoretical Atheism

Charles J. Aebi

Dear Aebi: “I heard someone refer to ‘theoretical atheism.’ What was he talking about?”

He probably was referring to the doctrine that denies the existence of God. Madelyn Murray O’Hare and Bertrand Russell would affirm in debate and writing that there is no God. Bertrand Russell said, “The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men” (Why I Am Not a Christian, p. 23).  “Atheism” is a Greek word, which means “without God.” Paul said the Ephesian Christians, before they obeyed the gospel, “were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God [atheoi, atheists] in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Atheists are “without God”—they argue that God does not exist. Agnostics, who say that you cannot know whether God exists, are also without God.

Atheism may seem to be more widespread today than in the past, but that is our perception of it because we are Americans. America, in the past, has been a nation devoted, for the most part, to belief in God—the God of the Bible. Atheism is actually old stuff. David said, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1, NKJV). Paul said in Romans 1:28 that the Gentiles “did not like to retain God in their knowledge.” Theoretical or philosophical atheism is actually a faith (a religion), because the atheist does not know there is no God; he only believes it. When the first Russian cosmonaut had made an orbit around the earth, he reported that he had been out in space and now he knew there was no God, for he did not see God there. Someone quipped that if he had gone out of his space capsule without an oxygen line he would have seen God! Atheism combines three doctrines: materialism, an emphasis on the physical, rather than the spiritual; rationalism, an emphasis on scientific reason as the explanation for all things; and humanism, an emphasis on man. 

What are the results of atheism? It produces a denial of the supernatural in the Bible, in creation, in the universe, and in our lives. It denies the reality of Heaven and Hell, but it deifies evolution as the explanation of everything. Sin is rejected as non-existent or is redefined as hurting society. Man is exalted and becomes his own god, makes his own rules, creates his own earthly paradise, and “saves” himself by his own “goodness.” Atheists claim to trust in empirical science to explain all things by the theory of evolution, though evolution is neither empirical nor scientific. They become nihilists: they have no objective standard of morality and truth. They believe that social ends are the only worthy goals, so they become socialists, politically. They claim to be concerned only with humanitarian pursuits to achieve civil rights, social justice, and perfection on earth, but they believe people are merely animals and so are expendable if it suits those in power to destroy them. Since they do not believe man has a soul, they have no time nor toleration for religion and certainly not for Christians whose main concern is with the soul (Matthew 16:26). Theoretical or philosophical atheism is thus a greater threat to the Lord’s church than we generally realize. We need to prepare ourselves to do serious battle against atheism. It is a most destructive false religion, and we cannot convert an atheist to Christ until we get him to believe in God and the Bible. –2660 Layman Rd., Vincent, OH 45784-9730.

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