Am I Really an Atheist? – Reflection on Psalm 53

Psalm 53:1-6

How Could They?

Every so often we read or hear of someone committing a ghastly deed and discover they were active in church. The perpetrator might be a Sunday School teacher, Elder, Administrative Board Chairperson, or even the pastor.

While There are many contributing factors on why someone might live out such duplicity and it’s easy to generalize and paint with broad strokes, many things contribute to someone acting “out of character.” On the other hand, we all fall short and we all have those times when we don’t live out our deepest commitments. Sometimes we just “mess up” and other times, well, it’s hard knowing why we do what we do.

Practice makes…

Some, however, seem to make it a practice to follow God on Sunday, yet live a completely different life the rest of the week. Sunday they are holy, but if you knew them on Tuesday you would have no idea of their Sunday practices. You might even be surprised that they go to church or profess faith at all!

They may not be atheists, but functionally it is hard to tell the difference. They are functional atheists; living as if God didn’t exist. Craig Groeschel points out in Christian Athiests that sometimes we all live as if God didn’t exist.

It might be easy to read this Psalm as a rant against atheists. The atheist does say “there is no God,” but as I take a closer look, I notice the psalmist says the fool says in his heart “there is no God.” The fool might not say there isn’t a God with his lips, but his life shows what he really believes. How we live reveals what we mostly deeply believe.

Near and Far Away

While there is some indication that Atheism was alive in the ancient world, I’m not sure the psalmist is addressing the atheist. God said through the prophet Isaiah, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught”(Isaiah 29:13). God is addressing his people, those who profess to love him!

Saying “there is no God” in my heart indicates that I may say there is a God with my lips, attend worship, read Scripture, and maybe even give large amounts of money to the church, but my actions betray me. This Psalm focuses on the fools’ deeds; their actions are evil and corrupt.

The wise seek God and their actions reflect their seeking heart. Fools, on the other hand, are bent on evil because, regardless of what they might say, their actions give them away.

The psalmist knows that the days to do evil are numbered. God will rescue his people. We may not know why evil continues, or why God doesn’t deal with evil acts and people quickly, but we can know that God will rescue his people.

What About Me?

I have to be careful not to start pointing fingers while reading this Psalm. Scripture can be a mirror that we look into and see ourselves. So, what about me? Am I a fool? Do my actions betray what I say I believe. Even though I say all the right things, when things get tough, do I default to living as if God doesn’t exist?

What does it mean to seek God? Not just seeking God in words, but when I can’t pay my rent, or my children do something that upset me, or when things don’t go my way, or when someone makes me angry? Do I hang on to anger? Hold grudges? Do I seek God in my vocation daily?

Do I seek God, take up my cross, and follow Jesus even when doing so is inconvenient or difficult? Or do I live life on my own terms doing what I want to do? Is Jesus my source? Or, do I chose another path allowing culture and my sense of what will make me happy drive my behavior, decisions, and practices?

Do I live as if God doesn’t exist?

Leave a Reply