It was Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Gay Science (1882), who had his character the madman declare, “God is dead.” The point Nietzsche seemed to be making toward the end of the 19th century was that the Christian idea of God was dead. The cultural forces at work in the Western world at this time seemed to be leading people to this conclusion. This was the century that gave birth to the rise of Secular Humanism (man is the center of all things). This really was not a new philosophy; it was as old as the Tower of Babel. These same forces seem to be at work today in the 21st Century. Our culture, along with Western Europe, has become increasingly secular. It is once again popular to declare like the psalmist, “There is no God.”
If indeed God were dead, would you want to live in this kind of world? What would a world without God be like? As believers, intellectually, we know that God is not dead but it sure can feel like He is at times. In Psalm 10, David was saying it felt like God was dead or at least asleep or perhaps on vacation. David questioned God, “Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do you hide Yourself in times of trouble?” He goes on in this psalm to describe what a world without God would look like. See if you think you would be comfortable in this world: The wicked person constantly boasts of the evilsthings he is going to do. Greed was rampant (v.3). This culture operates in a denial of God, what I call a practical atheism. People give no thought as to what God thinks or how He feels about how they are living (v.4). This results in Relativism with each person becoming his or her own god. Everyone does what is right in his or her own eyes. It is a repeat of Israel’s history from the book of Judges (Judge 17:6).
You may wonder how a person can be driven by such a self-centered life philosophy. The theological answer is the depravity of man – we are born sinners. The more practical answer is that it seems to work. This is the paradox that often troubles a more immature believer. It is easy to become envious at the prosperity of the wicked and the arrogant (Psalm 73:3). They seem to prosper in all they do and at all times (v.5). They possess what appears to be a superior confidence and self-assurance. However, in reality it is egotism, pride and arrogance. It leads to a false sense of security – “I will not be moved; … I will not be in adversity,” (v.6).
The wicked maintain their power, position and prosperity through intimidation (curses), manipulation (deceit) and the misuse of power (oppression) (v.7). However, behind the façade of success and respectability there is often a darker side – another person who operates out of public view. In rejecting God, this person has replaced Him with a new god – success, wealth and power. In dismissing God, this person has dismissed all moral absolutes. He is able to make up his own rules to suit his own purposes. He is now able to justify any means that will accomplish his ends.
He takes advantage of the misfortunes of others. Even if innocent people die in the process of achieving his goals it does not matter to him (v.8). Like a lion, he preys on the weaker, poor and marginalized in society (v.9-10). He justifies his actions by his Darwinian outlook – life is about the survival of the fittest. He is even able to feel that he is doing the world a service by making humanity stronger through eliminating the weak and inferior from the human race. Perhaps you are thinking no one in his or her right mind would think like this. May I remind you of Hitler and his superior Arian race?
The problem with people like this is they are in denial about the reality of God. Notice the inconsistency in the life philosophy of the wicked. He says in verse 4, “There is no God.” Then in verse 11 he says, “God has forgotten … He will never see it.” How can God forget or not see if He does not exist in the first place? When you suppress a truth placed by God into the conscience of every person it has a nasty habit of resurfacing through our subconscious. The person must intentionally find a way to suppress it again.
When a person rejects and suppresses God and His truth long enough he can sear his conscience (1Timothy 4:2) and harden his heart to God’s truth. In Romans 1:28-32, the Apostle Paul explained how the human condition became what it is through just such a process.
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful. Inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful – and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
When a culture, a country or a world is filled with people like this it is not a pleasant place in which to live. You may say, “There have always been people like this since the beginning of time.” You would be right – evil and sin have been in the world since the Fall. However, along with this ungodly seed that lives in rebellion to God and His ways there has also been a godly seed; people who are also sinners but have chosen to believe God and His word. They have responded in faith to the grace of God. They “believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). These people prove their faith by their works as they live in obedience to God’s ordinances (James 2:18-20).
In doing so, they become the salt and light in this world of darkness (Matthew 5:13-16). They are a restraining force against the evil of the wicked. This world can be evil but think how much worse it would be if God did not exist; if there was not light pushing back against the forces of darkness. There is some goodness in this world because of three primary reasons. First, there is a God and He is good (Matthew 19:17). The second is that man was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Even though sin has marred this image there is still the residue of God’s image in each of us. At times we are still capable of doing some good things. Thirdly, there are God’s children in this world who reflect His light (1John 1:7). If there is no God then none of these three things exist. If you subscribe to the belief system that there is no God then all you are left with is man as he is today. Do you really want to live in this world without any of these godly influences?
It is hard enough at times living in this world with God. However, because God does exist, like the psalmist we can cry out to God in the midst of the evil:
Do not forget the afflicted (v.12).
Do not forget the wicked. You have seen what they do God. I commit myself to you to be my defender (v.13-14).
Break the arm of the wicked and the evildoer (v.15). He is asking God to break the power of the wicked.
The psalmist closes his psalm with a declaration of victory and faith (v.16-18). Because he believes there is a God, he knows that God lives forever (v.16). He knows God hears the cry of his heart in the difficult times of life (v.17). He also holds out the hope that God will vindicate the weak and marginalized so the wicked will no longer terrorize him (v.18).
Because God exists we always have hope no matter how dark the days seem. A world without God is a world without hope. The atheist (or “the fool”, as the Bible calls him) says, “Prove God exists.” I answer, “Prove that He does not.” Either way it is a choice of faith. I choose hope over hopelessness. What kind of a world do you choose to live in?
Dr. Hawkins can be reached at [email protected]