Just as we saw in Psalm 14, the fool here is not someone who lacks knowledge or the ability to discern. That would be an entirely different word in the Hebrew. The fool in question here is someone who has willfully turned away from God, stands back, and mocks Him. No greater fool exists.
We live in the age of “the new atheist.” This is a moniker assigned to those who publicly ridicule believers as being irrational and unreasonable. Their predominant claim is that the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis that has been tested and proven false. We’ve seen them on TV, heard them on the radio, and we who know the truth shake our heads at the utter foolishness of their rant.
God knows all things, sees all things, and does all that He intends to do. To say, with surety, that God does not exist is tantamount to saying; “I know all things, see all things, and discern all truth; and I’m telling you that there is nobody who knows all things, sees all things, and discerns all truth.” In actuality, there is very little that is new about the new atheism. There have always been scoffers. Proverbs 21:24 names them. They laughed at Noah, and then begged for help when the rain came. They jeered at the army of Israel then fled when their hero was felled by a rock flung by a shepherd boy. And, they nailed the Son of God to a cross, placed him in a tomb, and still deny against all evidence that God raised Him from the dead.
It’s important to remember that the atheist is not our enemy. Even those annoying hyper-intellectuals who have made careers out of publicly ranting against God are nothing more than casualties of a war being waged by a foe that is already defeated. Their rants do nothing to hinder the gospel, and should they die in their sin, they will stand before God with no defense for their wickedness (Rom. 1:20). Rather than our disdain, they deserve our pity. They have embraced the lie of Satan, and in their pride and arrogance have set themselves against the God who provides every breath they take. Arguing against a scoffer will only bring dishonor and insults (Prov. 9:7-8). They are frighteningly deceived—pray for them. But remember God will be glorified either in their salvation, or their destruction (Rom. 9:22-23).
This Psalm, however, is not only referring to those who loudly and publicly dishonor the living God with the passion and zeal of an evangelist. When we proceed through life without regard to our dependence on Him; or, when we charge ahead with our own agenda, forgetting that it is God who directs our steps, we are acting like practical atheists. The psalm tells us that it is a fool who says “in his heart” there is no God. Do you cry out to the Lord only when a crisis arises? Do you worship on Sunday and reserve the rest of the week for yourself? Are you neglecting the importance of abiding in Christ? When these things are true of us, we are playing the fool. There is no greater fool that he who knows the truth, but chooses to ignore it.
Richard Dawkins was asked what he would say to God if, when his dies, he finds that he has been wrong about Him. He responded, “I would ask him why he didn’t make himself known to me.” Could he stand before the creator and sustainer of all that exists, who alone possesses infinite power, and in his utter arrogance suggest that God has somehow failed to make His presence known? Perhaps he could; but I fear for his soul.
“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” Hebrews 10:31.