Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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"The fool has said in his heart, "'There is no God.' "
David, in Psalm 14:1
I met an elderly atheist on a airplane once. We happened to be seated next to each other. He was about ninety years old, a retired government official. His mind was still very sharp, and as we talked about his career in government service and such things as the books he was reading, I could tell that he was a highly intelligent man. He had traveled the world over in his career, helping third-world countries develop clean water systems, and he was thoroughly disgusted with what he had encountered in every corner of the globe. The greatest hindrance to civilization, he emphatically told me, in every country he had visited, was religion.
Apparently, time after time, local superstitions had hindered or blocked completely his efforts to help people in various undeveloped countries. Such things as sacred trees could not be cut down, or sacred streams could not be dammed up, or sacred burial grounds could not be traversed with pipes, or holy wars made it too dangerous to reach essential areas, and the result was that he and his workers were frustrated time and again in their efforts to help people.
Over the years, he had come to despise the very word "God", and he had concluded that the worst of all man's follies was not sin but the belief that there was a god – any god.
This man's bitterness had grown to such a point that it infected everything in him. He was not at all a poor man, materially speaking, but he told me he had planned things so that he would leave his children nothing, no inheritance at all. I can remember, very distinctly, seeing him take his hands from his sides and moving them closer together in front of him to demonstrate how he planned to die about the same time that his money was all used up – just so his children could have nothing from him when he died.
Now, you and I know the death of men is in God's hands, but my point is that this poor man's life had become so infected with bitterness that, to use Paul's phrase, he had lost his "natural affection" for his children. But I know that in his youth, he did not feel or think as bitterly as he did now. Otherwise, he would have never even wasted his time marrying and producing more people into this religion-cursed world. I don't think I have ever met a lonelier man. There was around him a sense of purposelessness, of hopelessness, of subdued hatred and anger, to a degree I had never experienced prior to that encounter.
I listened to him a while, very interested in what he was saying, and agreeing with much of his assessment of the problems in the world. But at the end, I told him what I thought. I said, "Sir, everything you are saying is logical, based upon what you have seen and heard, and I can understand how you came to the conclusions you have reached about life. But there is one bit of information that is missing from your internal computer which would have changed your conclusions if you had it."
"What's that?" he asked.
"You have no experience with the power of God."
"That's right" he quickly responded, and I was surprised at how very quickly and how openly he agreed with what I said. It was as if he had been fully aware of this missing piece before I even mentioned it.
That was so very sad to me. I related to him some of my personal experiences with the power of God and of some of the things the Lord had spoken to me and taught me. And since he was an avid reader, I offered to send him some of the things I had written. Somewhat surprisingly, he produced a checkbook and tore off the top left corner of one of the checks where his name and address were, and asked me to send him some material.
He would never have admitted it to me, but it was clear that this lonely, bitter old man was still seeking – just a little – and still hoping that there was goodness, still hoping that there was really a good God in heaven.
That elderly gentleman is long dead by now, and I never received any response from him concerning the All Things book and other reading material I sent him, but I have thought of him often and wondered. Ninety years old, and all there was to his dwindling life was self, self, self.
What a sad world this is for those without God! In a world without God, good is evil, and evil is good – if there is anything good or evil at all.
Next Time: In A World Without God, Part 3