[NOTE: Numbers in parenthesis refer to notes at the end of article]
“The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 53:1).
The psalmist and fool returned for their card game, tossing their bets, calling one another on their hands, and attempting to gain an edge with each card. Their bantering continued back and forth for about an hour in their attempts to gain a philosophical strategic advantage. The fool was hesitant to say much about the questions the psalmist left on the table from their prior game. He thought long and hard about them, attempting to wrestle through some subtle and distracting replies from his readings of the Four Horsemen of new atheism: Dennet, Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins. Although, he did not want to be the first to speak, he believed he was ready to engage in this winner-take-all bout with the psalmist. He read through numerous philosophical arguments from the four atheists and others and considered himself armed to reply to any question about the psalmist’s God.
The psalmist threw out a question, “Mr. Fool, have you ever been married?” The psalmist paused to wait for an answer from the fool.
The fool was caught off guard by the sudden question seemingly unrelated to their previous discussion about God. He wondered what marriage had to do with whether God exists or not. He was unsure what the psalmist was up to and how to address his question. His readings of atheism had not prepared him for such a question.
Then the fool replied, “Uh…Yeah…Yes. But what of it? None of the ten marriages ever worked out for me. I never got anything out of them. Every morning when I sat down at breakfast, the wife I had would preach at me about this or that, trying to convince me of her god. They were the worst communions I ever had. I then shopped around to find the woman with the best looks, listened a bit to her ideas, got tired of them, and decided they were not to my liking.
The fool paused and then continued, “It was similar to searching for a church, you know. Sit in the pew for awhile, get preached at, but never getting anything out of it. I couldn’t get any satisfaction as the Rolling Stones would say, you know…heh heh…the preacher was like the voice on the radio trying to ignite my imagination with useless information…how pure my soul could be.”
The psalmist interrupted, “So, finding a wife is like finding a good church, eh? You didn’t get anything out of marriage or church? What was it you were looking for? Self-fulfillment? Self-gratification? Some magic solution to solve all your problems? Did you believe the preacher or your wives were genies ready to pop out the lamp and fulfill all your fantasies?
The fool squirmed in his chair just thinking of his failed marriages and all the hypocrites he met in one church after another. The fool replied in an angry tone as his face grew red and his hands shook, “What a second. What does having a wife have to do with God, religion, or church? I don’t get it. I’m not interested in your psychoanalysis. So what’s your point?”
The psalmist replied, “In our last card game, you suggested believers in God must take a “flying leap” of faith. You also said that you didn’t need faith and that faith is a religious thing. My point is that faith, or its twin “trust” is relational. You do not rely on science for proof your wife loves you or that she is beautiful, kind, and patient with you in spite of any conflict or disagreement the two of you encountered. Tell me how you apply scientific methodology to those qualities? Tell me, also, how interpersonal trust between a husband and wife or even friends are religious experiences if indeed you assign faith only to religion. Do you establish a null hypothesis (1) and apply statistical analysis in relationships for determining the confidence level of marital love? What scientific proof do you need from the women you married that they loved and trusted you? Finally, would you apply such an analysis to yourself for seeking scientific proof of your trusting commitment to your spouse or even that she is your spouse at all?”
The fool thought about all the alimony he paid out to each wife that left him without the means to buy his boat and RV and retorted, “Now wait a minute! That is plain ludicrous! You can’t apply science in that way.”
The psalmist interrupted, “Why not? If atheists hold that science is the arbiter of all that can be known, (2) then the qualities of love, faithfulness, patience, beauty, or relational trust cannot be known except through scientific method. The trait of trust is every bit a faith factor in relationships, and this fact seems to escape your notice. Even the atheist Bertrand Russell suggested as much when he said, “What science cannot tell us, mankind cannot know.” (3) Would you make exceptions for beauty, love, faithfulness, and trust by claiming that they are not within the realm of knowledge? Or would you claim their nonexistence altogether or that they are subject to individual taste or perspective? If so, are perspective or taste not then part of the realm of knowledge? If they are part of human knowledge, would then Bertrand Russell’s assessment not apply that they are subject to scientific inquiry and proof? How would scientific inquiry explain trust, love, and faithfulness apart from religion if you hold that faith is the exclusive realm of religion? Also, you claimed that those who believe in God must take a leap of faith.
The psalmist paused, leaned over the table, looked the fool in the eyes, and continued, “Did you take a leap of faith each time you married? Was not your interactions with your marital prospect sufficient substance and evidence (4) for you to trust her enough to marry? That does not sound like a leap to me but trust based on knowledge of the woman you wanted to marry before you said “I do.” You admitted that you shopped around, examined each woman you married, listened to their ideas, and then made your choice. Did you not gain knowledge of each woman before you married? Was there not evidence? Even with such evidence, you still needed mutual trust for your relationship or skepticism and doubt of your spouse would continue to overshadow you.
The fool seemed stunned by what the psalmist said. He stared at the cards in his hand and contemplated if they were good enough to win this round. One card kept him from an inside straight and winning the hand. He discarded one and asked for another card. The card he received had written on it EMOTION. He thought, “That’s it!” Love and trust like faith are just emotions.”
The fool looked up from his cards straight into the eyes of the psalmist and exclaimed, “Faith like love is nothing but an emotion. You can express emotions toward things that do not exist, such as a dead loved one. Dead people no longer exist. Christians do the same with God. They simply express their emotions toward a god that really does not exist.”
The fool folded his arms, sit up straight in his chair, held his head high, grinned at the psalmist, and said, “Answer that! Your god is simply wishful thinking based on emotional desire.”
The psalmist spoke gently, “Mr. Fool, your explanation of love is reductionistic much like Sigmund Freud’s assessment of religion as being nothing more than an illusion or mental illness or Karl Marx’s belief that it is no more than the “sigh of the oppressed” or “opiate of the people.” Anyone can derive a philosophy of love. Tina Turner did when she referred to it as a “second hand emotion.” Now these are unsubstantiated truth claims. They are simply sheer philosophical assumption from speculation arising from a given worldview. Your claim also has no substance for scientific analysis as you claim as needed for knowledge. It is no more than philosophical mysticism.
“Mr Fool,” the psalmist continued, do you think that perhaps your lack of understanding of faith may have contributed to your ten failed marriages? You compared it to going to church for Christians – seeking what you could get from it rather than give to it.
The psalmist laid one of his cards on the table that showed the following formula:
faith (substance + evidence) = hope (God’s promises) + unseen realities (faithfulness, love, patience, self-control, kindness, giving)
“Mr. Fool,” the psalmist said in a compassionate voice, “This card shows a formula that God has revealed to everyone about the essence of faith. It transcends any religious experience or practice to the relational. It not only applies to relationships with people but also with God. Just as your trust in people elevates your hope, so also does this same trust in God do the same. This faith is not a religious leap of faith but that which relies on knowledge. Human philosophy claims that faith begins when knowledge ends. It also claims that since God does not exist, that theists must take that leap of faith and cling to it in the face of God’s nonexistence. That is not the biblical view of faith. It does not separate faith from knowledge but rather joins them. That knowledge consists of all God is and does in time and space. Our tendency toward evil is undeniable historical fact that requires a remedy beyond ourselves before we destroy ourselves. As any judge would in human courts, God must judge all evil and those who commit it.
“There is none who does good. God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. Every one of them has turned aside; They have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one. Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God? There they are in great fear where no fear was” (Psalm 53:2-5).
“God broke through time and space and provided the remedy in the life of His Son Jesus. He lived a life pleasing to God, a life we could not live. He also died in our place so that we do not have to be judged for our evil. Placing faith in God’s remedy gives hope of escape from God’s judgment and for being with God forever.”
The psalmist paused once again and then asked, “What is your assessment of this faith, Mr. Fool?” How do you see yourself in relation with this God and His remedy?”
“One of God’s spokesman wrote,
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame”” (Romans 10:9-11).
The fool looked at the losing cards in his hand and stammered, “I…I…uh…I never thought of it like that before. Let me…give your words some thought, and I will have an answer the next time we meet.”
(1) Null Hypothesis – Something assumed to be true unless statistical analysis shows otherwise.
(2) Paul Copan, How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong: Responding to Objections that Leave Christians Speechless, Baker Books, 2005, p. 58.
(3) Attributed to Russell in Ted Peters’ Cosmos As Creation: Theology and Science in Consonance (1989), p. 14
(4) “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). While this passage applies to God, its truth shows it as a relational quality between and among people. As a married couple gains knowledge of the other, their faith and trust in one another grows and becomes more firm. That trust promotes hope of a lasting relationship and evidence of unseen realities – continued faithfulness, integrity, and self-control.