April 1 is commonly known as April Fools’ Day, a day when pranksters delight in making others look foolish. A good time is had by all . . . with the exception of the ones on the receiving end of the pranks.
Being an April fool is one thing; being an eternal fool is another. We well know Psalm 14:1 (ESV): “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” We denounce the atheist, the one who denies that God exists, and we use this verse to justify our criticism of them.
Psalm 14:1, however, doesn’t merely have philosophical atheists in mind. Realistically, it has always been a very small percentage of humanity that denies the existence of a god or gods. The psalm points to a much larger group of fools.
In reality, all people are born fools. None understand. None “seek after God,” as Paul emphasizes in Romans 3:10. Left to ourselves, we flee from God. We in our fallenness are repulsed by God’s holiness. We flee the righteous, holy One. We are fools.
What is alarming, though, is that many who are concerned about the state of their eternal welfare remain fools. Frightened by the prospect of eternal judgment, they make a decision for Christ, perhaps walking an aisle or repeating the “sinner’s prayer.” Merely seeking an escape from hell, they fail to repent of what has separated them from God and fail to seek God himself through faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus. For many, Christianity is not about a God to pursue. It is about a place from which they flee.
Inside and outside of church are fools who in essence say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They live as though God does not exist. Psalm 10 illustrates this: “For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, ‘There is no God’” (10:3–4). This person “says in his heart, ‘God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it’” (10:11).
Such a person does not deny that God exists. Philosophically, he believes in God. He may even get teary-eyed at a music concert when a rapturous and seemingly heartfelt rendition of “Amazing Grace” is performed. Day to day, however, reveals a life of practical atheism: “He says in his heart, ‘God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” His head may give a nod to God, but his heart reveals his true beliefs. Stephen Charnock [1628-1680] stated it well: “Men may have atheistical hearts without atheistical heads.”
There are plenty of deceitful politicians who say whatever is needed in order to get elected or pass legislation. There are people in business who cheat customers in order to increase their own personal wealth. People game the welfare system and others conspire with their bosses to get laid off so they can claim unemployment payments. Others engage in sin under the cloak of darkness or the privacy of their personal computers. “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” Such people are rightly denounced as practical atheists.
We ourselves need to face the question squarely, looking at ourselves rather than others. Do we gather with other believers on the Lord’s Day because that is what we are expected to do? Would we rather be at the beach or playing golf or fishing or hunting than in corporate worship? What about reading the Bible? What about praying? Do we truly desire God, or are we just trying to keep the peace with him while engaged in worldly pursuits? In spite of our