Do you worship God by avoiding atheism?
In these bulletin articles, we’ve been going through a list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. We’ve been looking at God’s law as summarised in the ten commandments. We started by examining the first commandment: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). We looked at the duties of the first commandment, in other words, what we are expected to do. Now it is time to look at what is forbidden by the first commandment.
One of the most obvious things forbidden by the first commandment is atheism – denying God or not having a God at all.
Atheism has become increasingly prevalent in our culture. But to deny God’s existence is not a new notion. David speaks of the atheist when he says: ‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good’ (Psalm 14:1). And again: ‘2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. 3 He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. 4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. 5 His ways are always prosperous; he is haughty and your laws are far from him; he sneers at all his enemies. 6 He says to himself, “Nothing will shake me; I’ll always be happy and never have trouble” (Psalm 10:2-6).
The apostle Paul also reminds Gentile Christians that they were once atheists ‘11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision (that done in the body by the hands of men)–12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world’ (Ephesians 2:11-12).
But you don’t have to deny God’s existence verbally (like the popular atheists such as Richard Dawkins) in order to break the first commandment. Even Christians can break the first commandment as practical atheists. When your actions do not match what you claim to believe, you show that your heart disbelieves the existence of God.
Thus practical atheism is shown in your life every time you sin – if you truly believed in God’s existence and that he exists as an all-knowing, all-powerful, just God, then you wouldn’t dare sin. But every time you sin you show that deep down there is a part of you that doubts God’s existence. This means that whenever you break one of the other commandments of God, you have also broken the first commandment.
Therefore, all humans are guilty of atheism. At the very least, practical atheism. So we all deserve to be punished by the God who really is there and whom we have not acknowledged as we should.
But, thankfully, Jesus Christ never denied the existence of God. He always lived with perfect faith in God. And his obedience to the first commandment can be attributed to you if you trust in him.
So have you trusted in Christ and are no longer guilty of atheism?