Book review of R.C. Sproul’s “If there’s a God, why are there atheists?”

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

Brian Auten has a book review posted up at Apologetics 315.

The book is “If There’s A God, Why Are There Atheists?”, by theologian R.C. Sproul. R.C. Sproul is one of my favorite theologians. The book in question has a very, very special place in my heart, because I think that it is one of the major reasons why I was able to resist pernicious ideas like religious pluralism and postmodernism for so long. Once you put on the glasses of Romans 1 and see for the first time what man is really doing with respect to God, you can never see things the same again. I’ll say more about this at the end, but let’s see what Brian wrote first.

The review

So often, you hear atheists complaining about religion is nothing but wish-fulfillment or some sort of crutch for people who are frightened by a variety of things. They think that God is invented to solve several problems. 1) how does the world work?, 2) is there meaning to suffering and evil?, 3) why should I be moral?, and 4) what will happen to me and my loved ones when I die?. On the atheistic view, God is just a crutch that people cling to out of weakness and ignorance. But is this really the case?

Sproul starts the book by investigating three atheists who sought to explain religious belief as a result of psychological factors.

Brian writes:

Before tackling the psychology of atheism, Sproul spends a chapter on the psychology of theism, from the perspective of Freud’s question “If there is no God, why is there religion?”11 What follows is an overview of various psychological explanations of theistic belief: Feuerbach’s “religion is a dream of the human mind.”12 Marx’s belief that religion is “due to the devious imagination of particular segment of mankind.”13 And Nietzche’s idea that “religion endures because weak men need it.”14 The author properly reiterates: “We must be careful to note that the above arguments can never be used as proof for the nonexistence of God. They can be useful for atheists who hear theists state that the only possible explanation for religion is the existence of God.”15 That being said, Sproul also reveals what these arguments presume:

Their arguments already presupposed the nonexistence of God. They were not dealing with the question, Is there a God? They were dealing with the question, Since there is no God, why is there religion?16

Sproul points out the weaknesses of each of these approaches and says “there are just as many arguments showing that unbelief has its roots in the psychological needs of man.”

Wow, could that really be true? What are the real reasons why people reject God? Does the Bible have anything to say about what those reasons are?

Brian cites Sproul’s contention:

The New Testament maintains that unbelief is generated not so much by intellectual causes as by moral and psychological ones. The problem is not that there is insufficient evidence to convince rational beings that there is a God, but that rational beings have a natural hostility to the being of God.

[…]Man’s desire is not that the omnipotent, personal Judeo-Christian God exist, but that He not exist.

In Romans 1:18-23, the apostle Paul explains what is really going on:

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools

23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

On this blog, I regularly present many, many arguments for theism in general, and Christian theism in particular:

Sproul explains why atheists cannot allow themselves to live according to the evidence that is presented to them:

The cumulative effect of this knowledge that is clearly seen is to leave men ‘without excuse.’ Herein lies the basis of the universal guilt of man. No one can claim ignorance of the knowledge of God. No one can cite insufficient evidence for not believing in God. Though people are not persuaded by the evidence, this does not indicate an insufficiency in the evidence, but rather an insufficiency in man.

[…]The basic stages of man’s reaction to God can be formulated by means of the categories of trauma, repression, and substitution.

[…]If God exists, man cannot be a law unto himself. If God exists, man’s will-to-power is destined to run head-on into the will of God.

And this is the force that is animating atheists today. They don’t want to be accountable to God in a relationship, no matter what the evidence is. They have to deny it, so that they can be free to get the benefits of a universe designed for them, without having to give any recognition or acknowledgement back. If they have to lie to themselves to deny the evidence, they will do it. Anything to insulate themselves from the Creator and Designer who reveals himself in Jesus Christ.

The rest of the book review, and the book, deals with explaining in detail how atheists respond to an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator/Designer. I encourage you to click through and read the whole book review. You can read the review, and the book, and then investigate for yourself whether atheists really are like that.

My survey of atheists

By the way, did you all see my survey of atheists that I did a while back? It’s relevant because one of the questions I asked to my volunteers was “How you begin to follow Christ if it suddenly became clear to you that Christianity was objectively true?”. I got some very strange responses that dovetail nicely with Sproul’s book.

Here are a few of the responses:

  • I would not follow. My own goals are all that I have, and all that I would continue to have in that unlikely situation. I would not yield my autonomy to anyone no matter what their authority to command me.
  • I would not follow, because God doesn’t want humans to act any particular way, and he doesn’t care what we do.
  • I would not follow. Head is spinning. Would go to physician to find out if hallucinating.
  • I hope I would be courageous enough to dedicate my life to rebellion against God.
  • I would not have to change anything unless forced to and all that would change is my actions not my values.  I would certainly balk at someone trying to force me to change my behavior as would you if you were at the mercy of a moral objectivist who felt that all moral goodness is codified in the Koran.
  • He would have to convince me that what he wants for me is what I want for me.

This is all part of my series discussing whether morality is rationally grounded by atheism.

Well Spent Journey did a similar survey of atheists, inspired by mine, and got this result on the relevant question:

12. How would you begin to follow Jesus if it became clear to you that Christianity was true?

– Would follow (5)
– Wouldn’t follow (6)
Might follow the teachings of Jesus, but that isn’t Christianity (2)
– It would depend on how this truth was revealed (3)
– Christianity can’t be true (3)
– No answer given (4)

…What would be the hardest adjustment you would have to make to live a faithful, public Christian life?

– Adjusting wouldn’t be that difficult; would eagerly welcome knowing that Christianity was true (2)
– Praying, since it seems weird, creepy, and strange
– Trying to figure out how the Bible became so corrupted

– Trying to convince myself that the God of the Bible is deserving of worship (2)
– Don’t think it would be possible to adjust

– No clear response, or not applicable (16)

Yes, they really think like that! Just ask an atheist questions and you’ll see how “objective” they really are. Atheism is entirely psychological. It’s adopted in order to feel sufficient and to operate with autonomy, with the goal of self-centered pleasure-seeking above all. Evidence has nothing to do with it.

UPDATE: Greg Koukl  responded to concerns by Ed Feser, and Ed Feser posted his response here. I agree with Koukl.

34 thoughts on “Book review of R.C. Sproul’s “If there’s a God, why are there atheists?””

  1. I have no doubt that there are many atheists who don’t want there to be a God. But is it the case that all atheists don’t want there to be a God? Your survey data is far too weak to support such a bold claim.

    As for Romans 1, the text is part of a sweeping argument (Romans 1-3) which aims to establish the general culpability of all human beings. I would suggest that anytime a text which is focused on establishing the universal sinfulness of human beings is used to target an outgroup (in this case, atheists) that something has gone awry with the exegesis.

    The formation of Christian doctrine doesn’t come simply by citing a chosen list of biblical verses. It also includes careful reflection on Wissenschaft, i.e. the cumulative learning of the age, as one crafts an emerging theological understanding in dialogue with the collected wisdom of the age.

    And so, for example, today the man who cites Joshua 10:13 as evidence for geocentrism whilst dismissing as irrelevant the scientific evidence for heliocentrism shows himself more enamored of his current doctrinal constructions than complex reality.

    And so it is with this citation of Romans 1:18-23. Those who triumphantly cite it as evidence that every single person who rejects the proposition “God exists” is in rebellion against God effectively dismiss as irrelevant the staggering complexity of real people in real life situations.

    Consider just one of those people. Bob Jyono was a pious Catholic who discovered that his daughter was repeatedly raped by a Catholic priest in his home over six years. Torn apart by the agonizing thought that God silently stood by while his daughter was victimized as well as his own mind-numbing pain and guilt, Jyono eventually came to call himself an atheist.

    Is Jyono just angry with God? Or is he really an atheist? And if he is an atheist, is it simply the result of sinful rebellion? Do you really think a couple surveys and a citation of Romans 1 is sufficient to answer all those questions for this single individual, let alone every instance of disbelief everywhere?

    1. “Is Jyono just angry with God? Or is he really an atheist?”



      “At first glance, this finding seemed to reflect an error. How could people be angry with God if they did not believe in God? Reanalyses of a second dataset revealed similar patterns: Those who endorsed their religious beliefs as “atheist/agnostic” or “none/unsure” reported more anger toward God than those who reported a religious affiliation.”

      In summary, the fact that it is not doctrinally consistent in the atheist worldview to hate a God one does not believe in does not mean that it is not actuated in practice on a regular basis. As someone who engages with atheists on a daily basis, I can assure you that many, but certainly not all, are VERY angry with the God of the Bible, in Whom they do not believe. I believe that, in addition to a form of cognitive dissonance, this is a desire for complete autonomy, something we all engage in to some degree or another.

      Great question, and thanks for posting it.

      1. It’s always possible that Jyono is angry at God. The question is what evidence you have that this is the case. As I pointed out, WK’s survey data and single biblical citation are woefully inadequate to support such a robust claim. Do you have something more substantial to support such a robust thesis?

        1. Of course, neither you nor I can, without first hand experience of Mr. Jyono, get into his head to tell if he is an atheist, if he hates God, or both. The best I can do, in terms of your request for support is to link you to that specific WK post I gave you where he supplies a peer-reviewed secular study that shows that unbelievers have a tendency to hate the God they do not believe in more than believers hate the God they do believe in. This I did.

          Obviously, the case you provided is tragic and the priest should be strung up by the balls and imprisoned for life – if not worse. I cannot imagine the anger, grief, pain, and guilt that Mr. Jyono feels and experiences. My heart goes out to him.

          I might point out, that on the intellectual side of things, the deductive problem of evil not only has been abandoned by atheists, but is now being used by theists as evidence for God. Consider this argument:

          Premise: My child was raped by a Catholic priest.
          Conclusion: Therefore, God does not exist.

          As you can see, the conclusion, in no way, follows from the premise anymore than it would in this argument:

          Premise: Pediatric oncology wards exist.
          Conclusion: Therefore, God does not exist.

          There are hidden premises that the atheist would have to use to somehow come to the desired conclusion, AND these hidden premises have been agreed upon by atheists and theists alike to not hold water. I can actually turn these two arguments around in favor of the theist, but I would like to do so in a more general way. Consider this argument for now, and I will be happy to provide support for the two premises in a follow-up:

          Premise 1: If there is no God, then objective moral values do not exist.
          Premise 2: Objective evil exists.
          Conclusion 1: Therefore, objective moral values DO exist.
          Conclusion 2: Therefore, God exists.

          In fact, I need only support Premise 1, since you and I both agree that what the Catholic priest did to the girl was objectively evil. I will be happy to do so, should you reply to me. Thank you for bringing this case up and for your thoughtful commenting!

          1. I should just let everyone know that Randall is coming from a more liberal point of view than I do. His Twitter blurb mentions “social justice”. From what I have read he is considerably to the left of me on theology.

            And he denies inerrancy:
            “I obviously have many gripes about John Loftus. But while fewer, I do have some about Randal Rouser. First is the position that he rejects Biblical inerrancy. I think this is dangerous for a Christian to do and is why I don’t think I could recommend him as a philosopher, and this is something that John does call him on a few times.”

            I’m not speaking specifically about Randall here, but my view is that the Bible means what it says, and that people have to accept that, even if they have lifestyles and beliefs and peers that make them want to disagree with the Bible. I accept the universality of sin as applicable to atheists and non-atheists (i.e. – everyone). I don’t think anyone who knows the Bible needs me to prove this (e.g. – Romans 3:23-24), but if you don’t accept the Bible, then you don’t accept bedrock doctrines like total depravity, which non-Calvinists (like me) and Calvinists accept.

          2. Oh for sure, I have been to his page, but he brings up a great point, in my mind: how do we apologists handle the Problem of Evil, regardless of if it is presented by a theist or atheist? Well, what I have learned from Wintery Knight and WLC is that we:

            1. Admit the serious emotional problem involved.
            2. Point out that the purpose of the Christian life is NOT happiness.
            3. We ask for the premises of the logic, and show that they do not reach the desired conclusion, and point out that the deductive Problem of Evil has been abandoned – completely by atheists.
            4. We turn the argument around to show how (objective) evil proves the existence of God, NOT the other way around!

          3. And for the inductive problem, put the burden of proof on them to show that it’s gratuitous, and argue against it with the solid arguments for theism.

          4. Agreed. But, for most, it never comes to the inductive problem. That is above their heads, IMO. Not the pros, but the typical New Atheist.

          5. Two quick comments.

            First, the study you refer to doesn’t support the conclusion that atheists are actively suppressing their knowledge of God. *At most* it would establish that putative anger toward God is statistically higher in the surveyed atheistic population (i.e. that in a segment of North America) than the theistic population of the same region.

            Second, contrary to your premise 1, there are many atheists who accept moral objectivism. Jeff Lowder, the atheist I interview in my book “Is the Atheist My Neighbor?”, is one of them. Erik Wielenberg is another. He defends a form of moral Platonism in his philosophical works. So if you want to endorse premise 1, you will have to rebut moral Platonism.

            However, debates over moral ontology are a side issue. The main point of this discussion is that the categorical statements about all atheists being in rebellion against God have not been supported by evidence.

          6. No atheists can rationally ground objective morality, that’s the problem. They can affirm anything they want, but in an accidental materialist universe, there are no objective moral values, no objective moral duties, no judgement when you die, no free will to make moral choices, and so on. Atheism necessitates moral relativism and determinism. So, that’s why I don’t just accept their “me too” statements at face value, particularly when they affirm things like abortion and same-sex marriage, etc. One does not derive a rationally-grounded ethic of compassion from survival of the fittest, and arbitrary claims to the contrary, especially in a society that is still living on the fumes of Judeo-Christian moral values, do not impress me. Although, if you look at what is happening to those who merely disagree with things like abortion and same-sex marriage, the mask is increasingly coming off, the same way that it has in other atheist-dominated societies in the past (e.g. – the Soviet Union) and in the present (e.g. – North Korea).

          7. Well, it seems to me that being angry with a Being that one does not believe in is a form of cognitive dissonance that indicates that intellectually, the atheist IS suppressing his knowledge of God, while simultaneously and emotionally, he is letting it rise to the surface. Now, I do not make the claim, nor does the study, that ALL atheists do this, just that it is a statistical tendency. Given the cognitive dissonance in other areas (“We atheists follow the science, but that clump of cells is NOT a human being until 5 minutes after the abortion takes place because I could not fit into my prom dress”) of atheism, it seems to me that the atheist is alternating between the No God world and the God world when it is convenient to do so.

            OK, so here are my reasons for affirming Premise 1:

            A-theist scholars generally affirm Premise 1 and have good reasons for doing so:

            “In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.” (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995))

            “Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.” A-theist William Provine

            “The position of the modern evolutionist is that humans have an awareness of morality because such an awareness of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate when someone says, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory.” (Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-269).

            “Is there a God? No.
            What is the nature of reality? What physics says it is.
            What is the purpose of the universe? There is none.
            What is the meaning of life? Ditto.
            Why am I here? Just dumb luck.
            Is there a soul? Are you kidding?
            Is there free will? Not a chance!
            What is the difference between right/wrong, good/bad? There is no moral difference between them… So much for the meaning of history, and everything else we care about… you will have to be comfortable with a certain amount of nihilism . . . . And just in case there’s always Prozac.” — Alex P. Rosenberg

            “The idea of . . . moral obligation is clear enough, provided that reference to some lawmaker higher . . . than those of the state is understood. In other words, our moral obligations can . . . be understood as those that are imposed by God. . . . But what if this higher-than-human lawgiver is no longer taken into account? Does the concept of a moral obligation . . . still make sense? … The concept of moral obligation is unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain, but their meaning is gone. … The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, without noticing that in casting God aside they have also abolished the meaningfulness of right and wrong as well. Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things as war, or abortion, or the violation of certain human rights are morally wrong, and they imagine that they have said something true and meaningful. Educated people do not need to be told, however, that questions such as these have never been answered outside of religion.” — atheist Richard Taylor

            Additional reasons for Premise 1:

            1. Under naturalism, the only things that exist are those things described by and measured with science. Objective moral values do not apply. You cannot locate moral values in a test tube.

            2. Why would human beings, under Darwinism, have any objective moral value? We are, in that view, just byproducts of macro-evolution and social conditioning – no objective moral values there. In fact, rewind the clock and play evolution over again, and you will, based on the randomness involved, get something entirely different:

            “If … men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be any doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering.” Charles Darwin, “The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex,” p. 100.

            3. As for moral duties, we would have no more basis for them than any other animal. That means that, as in the animal kingdom, we can kill or rape for any reason whatsoever – animals are not restricted by some sort of “traffic cop” in doing so. There is no one saying “OK, Mr. Lion, you can take out that gazelle, but only if you eat him.” :-)

            It makes no sense, on the ultimate fate of the universe on atheism, that there could be any objective or transcendent moral values or duties. There will be no One around on this view to even know if you or I behaved more like Hitler or Ghandi. Why would it matter at all which one we chose as a role model – we are just Sun-bait in either case?

            As for moral platonism, it is unintelligible that objective moral properties exist independent of persons, MP has no basis for objective moral duties, and it is highly improbable.

          8. Please, can we give Randall’s point a rest. I have asked him not to comment any more, since to me he just doesn’t believe the Bible, and this is a Bible study post.

    2. Mr. Rauser, what I see in your one single example of the case of Mr. Jyono is this: A priest who was clearly acting under the influence of Satan hurt Mr. Jyono’s daughter. He himself was not acting in her best interest, for did he really not know the priest and his daughter were alone together? I have four sons, and I make sure they are not alone with anyone who is in a position of authority over them, and I tell them to make sure of the same thing, and why. And so Satan had his way in every bit of this situation… and then Jyono decided to blame God for Satan’s handiwork. Doesn’t this support Wintery Knight’s post, that atheists just want their own way (blame God so Jyono doesn’t need to feel guilty) and are angry at God, for no good reason? I believe that previous question mark doesn’t need to be there, it is a fact that you just supported his claims, because what he said is truth, and what you said is trying to get around that truth. But that’s impossible to do.

      1. You’re blaming Bob Jyono that his child, along with dozens of other children, was raped by a clinical psychopath and sexual predator?!

        That has to be one of the most offensive and ill-informed examples of armchair analysis that I’ve yet encountered.

        1. Mr. Rauser, I believe you need to work harder on your reading comprehension. It’s no one’s fault except the perpetrator’s that this happened; however, parents do have a huge responsibility to train their children to watch out for evil in this world, as well as to watch out for it themselves. I just had to do that yesterday, with my son at an opera matinee, by the way. Anyone who is too friendly (as an older man was to my son) is suspect, sadly. But I arm my children with this knowledge, and watch out for them myself, as every parent must do. That’s all I was saying.

    3. Both Feser and Rauser are resting upon their experience of “the honest atheist” in their objections. But that only has merit if you can ground that in Scripture at some point. Feser’s alternative understanding of Romans 1 fails to adequately account for the language of Romans 1 and Rauser doesn’t even offer an alternative explanation of Romans 1. What’s so strange about that method is that if we are going to let experience trump exegesis at this point then you’re basically letting experience trump Scripture’s entire anthropology. I say this because if Scripture is correct that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9) if the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts (Eccl. 9:3) if prior to regeneration we are walking in mental futility and are darkened in our understanding (Eph. 4:17-19), if we have a tendency to glory in our shame (Phil. 3:18-19), etc. etc. Then we have every reason to be skeptical of our experience at the level of how honest or nice we think a person is. We have every reason to be skeptical of our own self-assessment, let alone our assessment of others. We don’t see the heart. – See more at:

  2. I got into apologetics because of one of R.C. Sproul’s books. I had to re-read and re-read it until I finally understood the language but once I did, it kicked open the philosophy door in my brain.

      1. I think that response goes for me, as well. I guess I would just add that a person doesn’t have to be doing immoral things in order to be in rebellion. For example, they can be promoting immoral things in opposition to the moral law, and that would count as rebellion as well. And it would also be causing harm indirectly, by encouraging others to come to the point where they act immorally. That’s why Romans 1:32 is interesting – it points out that part of the rebellion is encouraging others to sin. I think this encouragement is rebellion whether or not one is personally sinning. It certainly causes harm to encourage someone to do a sinful action X even if one does not do it oneself. Even voting to keep abortion legal, or to redefine marriage so that more children grow up without their mother or their father, or to promote single mother welfare which causes more children to grow up fatherless, would be destructive behaviors even if the person encouraging them did not do the sinning themselves.

        1. “For example, they can be promoting immoral things in opposition to the moral law, and that would count as rebellion as well.”

          You just described me, WK, in my first 42 years. Trying to do right, mostly doing wrong.

          1. Yeah, I think it can feel good for an atheist to encourage others to sin and to make war on Biblical morality, even if they are not sinning in the ways they encourage themselves. And does that support for other people sinning (e.g. – celebrating when your state legalizes same-sex marriage), then color their ability to assess the evidence for God’s existence rationally?

          2. Yes, spot on. The one place where Rauser may be close to right with me is that I really WAS trying to do right, but was in darkness about what right was. But, there is no question in my mind that the darkness that I was in was because of my rejection of the Creator. Absolutely no doubt. I was my own “god.” So, it was not a direct one step link, but a two step link.

          3. Yes. It is so tempting to want to tear down the rules that make people who break them feel ashamed, even if one does not break the rules oneself. But this is, of course, rebellion against God. And it does, of course, result in destruction, e.g. – 57 million dead unborn children, an epidemic of children separated from their mothers and fathers, etc. Can a person committed to promoting sin weigh the evidence for God fairly, even if they are not committing the sins they encourage others to commit?

          4. “Can a person committed to promoting sin weigh the evidence for God fairly, even if they are not committing the sins they encourage others to commit?”

            Wow – that is an incredibly brilliant question!. I just am thinking of where I was when in utter darkness and how the Holy Spirit made me open-minded through the observations and practice of homeschooling and the apologetic evidence that science and math are fully consistent with Christian theism. Even having gone through it, it is still VERY confusing to me. It seemed to me like I was being rational before (even though I wasn’t). I think the only thing I had going for me is that I have always been really open-minded to the pursuit of truth and knowledge, realizing that those two things are not isomorphic.

            I was a “trinitarian polytheistic atheist:” my “god” was me, myself, and I, but I also served the lesser “gods” of money, degrees, and status. (And many others too, I am sure.) In that sense, I do not think that there is any question that I was indeed rejecting any God bigger than myself. I don’t think I was a consistent atheist though – I’m not even sure that it practically possible: I somehow believed my life had an objective purpose or meaning, but it was through money, degrees, and status that I acquired that meaning. It was not long after the logical realization, on atheism, that all of those things would not only be gone in 100 years, but it would be as if they had never existed, that the scales really started to come off my eyes. That may have been the only truly logical philosophical thought that I had BC. Of course, all of these things I now know were through God and His Spirit, to Him be the praise and glory.

            I don’t think I have answered your question well, nor do I know if I have given you evidence for or against your position. I think that there was open rebellion against a Creator, yes, but I was still trying to do the right thing (which does not exist objectively on atheism) and failing. I also knew I was failing – does that help?

            I am not even sure that, deep down, I was rejecting the existence of a Creator more than I was rejecting being accountable to anyone but myself. I used the Lord’s Name in vain early and often and daily, and I KNEW that was wrong, but could never stop – that is surely a major sin and knowledge of it. Not only that, but it is absolutely self-refuting for an atheist to use the Lord’s Name at all – or to tell someone to go to Hell! (Despite the silly excuses I keep hearing from the New Atheists.) On the other side of things, I was pro-life the last 13 years of my atheism, but certainly not to the extent that I ever would have spoken out against it, much less been as involved as I am now. So, that is a case where I (by logic, accident, or the Holy Spirit) was correct on a sin, and was not encouraging it.

            Perhaps you can psychoanalyze what I have written? Does this experience fit in at all Biblically?

      2. Thanks for that link, Scott! Like Koukl, I am inclined to turn this around into an argument for the existence of God from evil – although his main point about suppression of Truth seems valid too.

        I once had an atheist tell me that if God existed, then the term “pediatric oncology” would not. I replied that if God did not exist, then pediatric oncology hospitals would not. The point being that, on atheism, infant and child cancer is a “good” thing that weeds out the bad “specimens,” and keeping them alive longer, even into remission, is “bad” on evolutionary naturalism. The opposite is true on theism, most notably, Christian theism, based on the historical data.

        BTW, Rauser replied in the comment section of your link.

  3. WK states that I hold a “more liberal point of view” than he does. That may be true. But it’s irrelevant to the current discussion.

    He also claims I “deny inerrancy”. This is, in fact, false. See, for example,

    But this is not about my views. This is about defending the claim that every atheist is actively suppressing knowledge of God as a result of moral rebellion. That claim is supported neither by scriptural nor empirical evidence.

    1. Well, stalemate. I stand with Romans 1, and the clear meaning of the text. You disagree with it, and at least one person who reviewed your book came away with the impression that you deny inerrancy. In the comments you took issue with Romans 1 and claimed that R.C. Sproul was mistaken. Does R.C. Sproul know more about the Bible than you do? That’s for each person to decide on their own, Mr. Social Justice. You are free to believe as you like, and share your beliefs with others. But I think we are done here.

  4. Hmmm…In my life time I have experienced very different atheists than the ones you cite.

    Strangely, many of the atheists I’ve read and/or talked with in the last 50 years, especially recently, actually have a philosophical stance similar to R.C. Sproul.

    Of course, they don’t think God exists, but they do think, like Sproul that hard determinism is true, that no human has any choice.

    Have you read Sproul’s book , Willing to Believe? I’ve read it twice as well as other books by him. Very hopeless and no Good News there.

    While I am a committed theist, I am surely a hard atheist when it comes to the God that Sproul believes in.

    1. Oh my gosh, I don’t agree with him on his hard determinism regarding predestination. I’m for middle knowledge, which I think is more fair to the text. But I do think that God must initiate, and then humans have a choice to respond. However, on Romans 1, we are not talking about rocket science hermeneutics here. It’s very straightforward what it means. There is no such thing as rational unbelief. However, I don’t think it is required that ALL atheists ground their rebellion in dastardly acts of evil, it’s sufficient that they simply don’t want God being the one in charge of how they ought to live, don’t want to have to stand up to their non-Christian friends on moral issues, don’t want to have to waste their time with moral oughts that are virtuous, don’t want to have to take unpopular positions in order to protect the unborn, or children’s right to a mother and father, etc. Letting God own morality is the issue.

  5. I am wondering if Randal Rauser and WK are defining the term ‘rebellion’ differently? If both of you 2 agree that rebellion is sin, then it doesn’t matter what type or kind of sin. It is still sin.

    I also am wondering about the survey, particularly the responses. How many atheists would really ignore Jesus if he appeared in their doorway? Sometimes people would make a statement, but once presented with the ‘ugly truth’ (for lack of better words), they would have a different perspective?

    Or maybe I am wrong and the book of Revelation 9:20-21 states it better:

    “The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood-idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.’

    Or maybe I am wrong and Jesus said it correctly in Luke 16:29-31:

    “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
    ‘No, father Abraham, he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
    ‘He said to him, ‘if they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

    1. Your post makes a lot of sense, particularly the part about Scripture.

      I have actually had some atheists admit that if they saw the words “This is God, Jim, and I am here” written in the sky, they would assume that there was a naturalistic explanation. It has been conjectured that some atheists, if they rejected the naturalistic explanation, would resent the advertising God is doing. If Jesus appeared in the doorway, based on the loose description of Him, I doubt that any of us would recognize Him, barring the miracles He is willing to perform. Now, on His next return, I think we will ALL recognize Him, believer and unbeliever alike.

      I’m just guessing that God has the optimal level of hiddenness down perfectly – to bring the most into the Kingdom without overcoming free will.

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