Written by Dr. David Lamb
Sunday, 01 April 2012 00:00
In the spring of my freshman year, I remember the Stanford Daily declaring in a headline that Stanford’s president, Donald Kennedy, was going to run for the U.S. Senate. I was shocked. It didn’t make any since—his background was science, not law. As I glanced over the headlines on rest of the front page, I was struck by how interesting all the news stories were that day…until I noticed the date on the top of the page, April 1. The headlines that day were all fiction. I was fooled.
Foolishness is understood generally, and particularly on April 1, as naiveté. (“Did you know ‘gullible’ is not in the dictionary?”)
Scripture has a lot to say about foolishness. While Proverbs may address the topic more than any other book, several psalms also focus on foolishness. Last week in my Psalms class we were looking at Wisdom Psalms and we examined Psalm 14, which begins,
Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
Interestingly, Psalm 53 repeats Psalm 14 verbatim. (Paul also quotes most of Psalm 14/53:1-3 in Romans 3:10-12.) The biblical authors apparently thought that the message of this psalm needed to be emphasized.
I have had the opportunity to interact recently with many atheists, or non-theists, as some prefer (see http://davidtlamb.com/2012/02/18/behaving-badly-at-bucknell-2/). I was careful to not quote Psalm 14:1 at them. Somehow I don’t think that would have made them more open to Jesus. But I don’t think this psalm is targeting the people we think it is.
Notice how the psalmist expresses it, “Fools say in their hearts…” These aren’t people who state their atheism with words, but they have somehow internalized their lack of faith, and as the psalmist elaborates in the following verses, this “atheism” is expressed in behavior. Sound familiar? Christians aren’t going to say, “There is no God” publically, but often our actions communicate exactly that. When we act as if God doesn’t exist, we have become practical atheists. Christians behaving badly.
I’m not just talking about not having a morning quiet time (although that is a problem). The things God calls people to in Scripture required real faith. To Abraham: Leave everything. To Moses: Deliver my people. To Hosea: Marry a prostitute. To Peter: Leave your nets. To Saul/Paul: Go to the Gentiles. When these individuals responded obediently, they were saying in their hearts, “There is a God.”
God’s invitation to get involved in his mission will involve more than attending church on Sunday. Our acceptance of his invitation will constitute a bold declaration that there is a God.
Even though our reckless acts of faith may appear naïve to the world around us, we will be able to join Paul in declaring that we are “fools for the sake of Christ” (1 Cor. 4:10).
How can the actions of Christians today communicate that there is a God?
David Lamb is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Biblical. He’s the husband of Shannon, father of Nathan and Noah, and the author of God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? He blogs regularly at http://davidtlamb.com/. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/david-lamb.