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Thursday, December 29, 2011
I don't know why it is that lately I am running into more (or am more attuned to notice) atheist advertising. First, it was this Santa billboard. Then, a few days later, I saw this bumper sticker on the back of an SUV:
This has several features to commend it. First of all, it carries a complex thought in a relatively small number of words. You cannot effectively squeeze a lengthy manifesto onto a bumper sticker size rectangle. But this sticker manages to say something philosophically profound in 15 or 16 words, which makes it rather elegant.
The second thing I like about it is its refreshing acknowledgment of the awesomeness of God, and of man's smallness, dependence, and frailty by comparison. In short, it adequately recognized the Creator-creature distinction (pretty good for an atheist!): It realizes what an audacious thing it is to question Almighty God. The whole phrase just rings with the injustice of puny man daring to confront and question God his Creator, of daring to drag God, Job-like, into court to press one's complaint against Him. In fact, the sentiment as expressed could almost have been lifted out of one of the later chapters of the book of Job:
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. (Job 38:1-4)The next commendable thing about this atheist bumper sticker is a startling thing, indeed. For it assumes a Calvinist understanding of God's work in creating faith in the hearts and minds of men. The clear assumption here is that God is Sovereign over mankind, choosing those in whom He will create faith. This is a Romans 9 understanding of human salvation, a rare enough thing to find in Christians, an odd oracle indeed in the mouth of an atheist. Or, is it? I have long noted that non-believers can often be more honest in the interpretation of Scripture than Christians since, for the atheist, nothing (as he supposes) is "riding" on it. Since Scripture is hogwash from his point-of-view, he is free to be totally honest about what it says. And what it says is that God determines who will answer the call of the Gospel:
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me ... (John 6:37)After all this praise, you may be asking what it is that I find wrong or lacking about the sentiment expressed. Two things, primarily. One centers around the use of the word "want". To use it without comment (as one must needs do in a bumper-sticker length sentence) confuses God's Decretive Will and His Prescriptive (Preceptive) Will. God does "want" every atheist to believe, because He commands it:
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent. (Acts 17:30)Finally, the atheist is being presumptuous in assuming that because he does not currently believe in God, that it is God's will for him never to believe. That is a totally unwarranted conclusion. And chiefly because of this error, I'm afraid that the poor atheist in the SUV is likely to keep having Gospel seed flung on him by Christian after Christian, all his life long.