Ep.123: Psalm 53: Is There a God?

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

Psalm 53 is exactly the same as Psalm 14, except  for two words. Twice where the earlier Psalm calls God “Yahweh”, Psalm 53 calls him “Elohim.” 

The Psalm opens with a striking assertion:
    The fool has said in his heart,
      “There is no God” (v. 1). 

Nearly 40% of Canadians don’t believe in God or a higher power. Is Psalm 53 calling them fools? Let’s take a  brief look at atheism today and consider whether it is just foolishness.

Charles Dawkins, the popular British evangelist for atheism, says that as human thinking and civilization mature, superstitions and religions fall away. And we are left with a rational, empirical, evidence-based view of life, free from primitive notions of gods and demons and angels.

Charles Taylor, the well-known Canadian philosopher from Montreal, describes this as a “subtraction theory”. and says it doesn’t work that way. If you subtract superstition and belief in God from a worldview, what is left is not the rational system Dawkins describes. Rather, the modern western worldview has replaced belief in God with a belief that human reason and science and initiative are all we need to give meaning to life. The new belief can no more be proved than the old one.roved than the old one.

I think of it like this: if belief in God is a swamp you can drain, does draining the swamp leave you with a tidy bit of land where good stuff grows? Or has the subtraction of the swamp left a muddy and uneven place where new creatures and plants take over? Does draining the swamp of American politics create a just and reasonable society?

Charles Taylor describes today’s culture as “cross-pressured”. By that he means we have many options for belief. For example, fundamentalist Christians believe in God and in six literal days of creation. Fundamentalist atheists profess certainty that God is just a myth. The rest of us live in a cross-pressured space where sometimes it feels like faith in God doesn’t make much sense, and at other times we feel that science and modern culture have excluded the most important aspects of life.  

Here’s what Apple founder Steve Jobs said near the end of his life: 

  “I’m about fifty-fifty on believing in God . . . For most of my life, I’ve felt there must be more to our existence than meets the eye.
    “I like to think that something survives after you die,” Jobs said. “It’s strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures. 

   “But on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch: Click! and you’re gone.”

   Then he paused . . . and smiled slightly. “Maybe that’s why I never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices.” (Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2011), pp. 570-571, as cited in Smith, James K.A. How (Not) to be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014), p. 13.)    

Let’s pray. 

Our father, it is a modern invention that we can choose whether to believe in God. The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” But we modern thinkers try not to think with our hearts. We try to weigh the evidence and form logical conclusions. But all of us–Christians, atheists, and agnostics–are  subject to doubt that we have concluded rightly. And we are never sure how much our heart and our hidden motivations influence the conclusions we draw.

Jesus, king of truth, touch our minds, touch our hearts, touch our souls, until we know and feel your presence, until we lose our endless speculations and doubts. Teach us to be still and know that you are God (Ps 46:10)

We conclude with Psalm 53:

    When God restores his people,
    we will  rejoice and be glad (Ps 53:6).

Amen.

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.

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