Date: October 2, 1930
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. – Psalm 14:1
IN accepting the unique privilege of establishing the most extensive radio-broadcasting chain ever supported by one Church, a chain that embraces thirty-six stations and extends from coast to coast, the Lutheran Laymen’s League is conscious of but one purpose, actuated by but one impulse: the consuming desire to hold up the Cross of Jesus Christ to the 120,000,000 people of our divinely blessed nation as the only, but all-sufficient source of salvation, both spiritual and temporal. Every Thursday night at this time, over almost 60,000 miles of wire, through a network of stations with a power aggregating about one-sixth of a million watts, and with frequencies that will reach not only into every nook and corner of this country, but through two auxiliary short-wave stations also to the very outposts of civilization throughout the world, a constructive and stimulating message will come with a heart-to-heart directness which, please God, will bring into uncounted myriads of homes a positive statement of Christian faith and with it the God-given solution of the problems and issues of our day as they affect the spiritual life of the nation.
These Thursday evening messages, sent out by the oldest Protestant Church (very appropriately in the year in which the world pauses to observe the four-hundredth anniversary of the first Protestant statement of faith, the Augsburg Confession), are not to be speculations which misguided men like to call modern, yet which, in principle and often in detail, are nothing but twentieth-century restatements of ancient, hoary fabrications of heathen minds; not a series of pessimistic lamentations on the sordid and sensual materialism of our mechanical age; not a program in which blatant bigotry and narrow sectarianism can raise a selfish voice; but a succession of uncompromising and unhesitating messages, which without fear or favor will offer an unshaken acknowledgment and glorification of a changeless Christ for a changing world.
This evening, then, we are to dedicate the message of our first broadcast to the fundamental and basic conviction that there is a God, that the great and infinite Father of the entire human race, who has revealed Himself in many and remarkable ways, is no fantastical formation of superstition, no creature of childish tradition, no will-o’-the-wisp of religious delusion, no vague and indefinite idea; and that atheism, materialism, agnosticism, skepticism, and all of the many other similar theories which deny or question the existence of God or set up as a supreme being a conception which is contradictory to the revelation of God and His Word, are not only irrational, deficient, and disappointing, but also anti-Scriptural and therefore thoroughly destructive from every point of consideration.
ATHEISM DENIES CONVINCING DEMONSTRATIONS.
In completing the demonstration of the existence of our God, I proffer cogent and convincing reasons that emphasize the truth to which the psalmist gives expression in the words of our text, when he asserts that it takes a fool to say in his heart, “There is no God.” Atheism is folly because there is, first of all, a natural revelation of God, demonstrated by the universal belief in a Supreme Being and the universal religious instinct. The great apostle writes of the Gentile world, “That which may be known of God is manifest in them,” and the universality of that belief in the existence of a Supreme Being is all-comprehensive in its sweep. In the census of India taken in 1911, when the religious affiliations of the 300,000,000 plus children of Mother India were tabulated, it was found that only seventeen persons described themselves as atheists; in other words, that less than five-millionths of 1 per cent. of that nation of ancient and profound philosophies denied the existence of a Supreme Being. Cicero’s question still awaits an answer, “What people is there or what race of men that has not, even without traditional teaching, some idea of the existence of God?” 1,500,000,000 people cannot be wrong, we say, adopting the advertising phraseology of our day, particularly since the Scriptures assure us that there is inborn in every human being a natural knowledge of the existence of God, accentuated by the conscience, which attests the moral lordship of God.
But the modern denial of the existence of God is a folly of the first magnitude because it contradicts the witnesses which God has given to His power and His existence. St. Paul tells us in the introduction to his Letter to the Romans that the created world, God’s second book, Nature, is an eloquent testimony to His divine existence and omnipotence. Even the heathen, the apostle concludes, are “without excuse” if they question the existence of God because His eternal power and Godhead may be clearly understood in the realms of creation. Who is there indeed that can gaze upward to the mysterious heights of the heavens with their 700,000,000 charted stars and the uncounted hosts of the other heavenly bodies beyond the searching reach of the most penetrating telescope without being overcome by the conviction that behind the immensity of those overpowering reaches there is a master mind of One, whose glory the heavens declare, and of whose greatness, even in their immensity, these starry heights are but weak reflections? Or, to descend to the microcosm, who is there, again, who can hear that modern physiology shows that the human eye has 800 complementary parts of the most exquisite fineness, arrangement, and combination without coming to the natural and instinctive conclusion that the temples of our bodies have been fearfully and wonderfully made by a superhuman and divine Architect?
Even cold and calculating reason assures us that the stupendous marvels of nature in and about us cannot be the result of mere chance. You can take ten keys on your piano, and mathematicians will assure you that with these you can play more than 3,628,000 different combinations of notes. But how much probability is there that these piano keys will ever play the national anthem by mere chance? Surely no rational person with the ordinary quota of average common sense will shrink from the inevitable conclusion that this universe with its system, its order, its superhuman complexities, has not been called into existence by mere mechanical chance, but that it affords clear evidence of a superior design and a superhuman arrangement. Small wonder that scientists in every branch of human learning who have delved into the deep and hidden mysteries of the natural world have emerged with a definite conviction that there must be a superior an supreme being responsible for all the intricate, complicated, and inconceivably numerous processes of nature.
History also emphasizes the irrational inconsistency of the atheistic delusion. The heathen at Lystra are told that God “left not Himself without witness”; and among His witnesses the apostle enumerates especially the record of Divine Providence, “He did good and gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” No student of human history can read of the rise and fall of nations or peruse the record of the varied destinies of men without arising from such study with the conviction that it is He who “upholds all things by the word of His power” and that the world does not continue to exist, and the affairs of men continue to run on, in an automatic, self-existent manner.
But as human experience and the annals of human history lend a decisive voice to the existence of God, so they also emphasize the folly and immorality of atheism. Not only has there never been a great atheist, but there have been few, if any, consistent atheists. John Quincy Adams saw the failure of unbelief in his day, and in a letter to Thomas Jefferson wrote this review of freethinkers popular in his age: “Bolingbroke said his philosophy was not sufficient to support him in his last hours. D’ Alembert said, ‘Happy are they who have courage; but I have none.’ Voltaire, the greatest genius of them all, behaved like the greatest coward of them all at his death.” And this failure of the atheistic philosophy is beheld today in the moral breakdown that inevitably follows in any community where the attempt has been made to put it into consistent practice. The terrors of the French Revolution, which symbolized its supposed victory over revealed religion by enthroning a Parisian actress on the altar of Notre Dame Cathedral, are being repeated today before all who have eyes to see and ears to hear, when organized atheism, sitting in the high places of whatever government is left in that chaos which we used to call Russia, has supported with official fanaticism the greatest away-from-God and away-from-the-Bible movement that history has ever recorded, only to produce the supertragedy of modern times. For atheism always involves moral collapse and the destruction of national and individual virtue. We may well pause to survey our own country at a time in which the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, legally chartered to carry out its destructive principles, boasts of allegedly tremendous conquests and claims a constituency of many thousands; in which Societies of Damned Souls and similar godless groups have been organized at our colleges and universities; and in which the number of those who have dedicated themselves to the task of dethroning the almighty God and who disdainfully announce, “There is no God,” is legion times legion.
ATHEISM CONTRADICTS THE TRUTH OF REVELATION.
But more conclusive proof for the folly of atheism than the revelation of God in nature is the incontestable and incontrovertible testimony to the supernatural revelation of God found in His Word. The Christian does not derive his knowledge of God from the manifestations of the divine in nature; for all the wonders of the created world are ominously silent as to who this God is that has made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is. Nor does the Christian find God in the knowledge of the universal consciousness of the divine existence; for that consciousness is often beclouded with sin, too frequently weakened and dimmed by human perversity, and always incapable of revealing the full nature and identity of God. No, we must have the unfailing revelation of God Himself in our Bible. And here on its pages, first of all, all atheism is swept away, and humanity is told that the God of the Bible is the one and only God, the Lord of lords, the King of kings. In the Old Testament alone, in more than 9,000 passages, the existence of this God is definitely assumed when God is directly mentioned in His relations to humanity. In more than 2,500 instances we read the announcement, “Thus saith the Lord.” And who is there who would venture the brazen assertion that in all of these thousands of instances the Bible is guilty of misrepresentation and of the most pernicious sort of dishonesty, when the whole regenerative, ennobling, and redeeming power of this Word has been operative in uncounted hundreds of millions of lives? Men may not understand the philosophic, scientific, and moral arguments for the existence of God which profound thinkers of all Christian ages have advanced in attempting to complete the rational demonstration of His existence; hut here is proof positive, lifted up above all possibility of error; no mere human speculation, no mere personal conviction that you and I may entertain and that others may contradict, but above all this, the absolute truth.
The process by which God revealed Himself increased in clarity, until on the pages of the New Testament, as a victorious climax, comes the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ, the great Scriptural and historical evidence of the intense folly of all atheistic or semi-atheistic philosophy. Here is this Immanuel, “God with us,” “in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily,” who assures us, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” of whom St. John testifies, “This is the true God,” whom St. Paul calls “God over all, blessed forever,” whom St. Thomas acknowledges as “my Lord and my God.” In Him as He walked the paths of His earthly life, as He fulfilled His mission of unfathomable love and immeasurable mercy, giving His own holy body, shedding His own precious blood, raising up the downtrodden masses of sin-sick humanity, and ushering in the happy existence of the new age that dawned upon earth when He came,—in Him the world saw God. Because Jesus Christ, before a host of unimpeachable witnesses, demonstrated His superhuman, His truly divine power in His miracles climaxed by His victorious resurrection from the dead, we repeat: The world saw God in Christ. Yes, it still sees God in the exhibition of His divine power in the lives of those who through Him can call God their dear Father, who, kneeling down before the glory-crowned cross, with the fire of divine truth inflaming even the depth of their souls with the conviction that “the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanseth us from all sin,” hear His invitation of grace, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” and answer:—
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
This Biblical picture of God, as revealed in His Word and by His Son, is preached into our hearts by the divine power of God’s Spirit. In that Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Scriptural conception of God is completed, the entire picture of the Deity delineated for all ages as the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is this Spirit, expressly called God in the sacred records, acknowledged and honored as God by the sacred writers, who operates in the hearts of men, calling, gathering, enlightening, sanctifying them, and preserving them in the true faith, who presents the last, telling death-blow to atheistic folly. The mighty works of this Spirit, unmistakable and tangible as they are throughout history, are the Gibraltar against which the puny assaults of those who deny the existence of God are rammed to destruction. Men can live without money, without fame, without erudition; they can eke out an existence without friends, without health, or without personal liberty and the possibility of the pursuit of happiness; but they cannot live in the fullness of a life that continues beyond the grave without God. Though they repeat the age-old challenge of blasphemy by standing up before large audiences to deny the existence of God and condescend to grant Him five minutes to strike them down dead; though they speak glibly and boastfully of the freedom from restraint which the denial of God has brought them, He who is in the heavens laughs, and when the echo of His laughter transforms itself into the sterner demands of His wrath, what sorry spectacles these self-sufficient, self-existent deniers of God present! In the crises of life and in the pivotal hours of existence only the Christian, having God and with Him the assurance that no one can successfully prevail against Him, is able to carry the pressing burdens of sickness, death, financial reverses, family troubles, and misfortunes of almost innumerable kinds and degrees, to bear all this with the undaunted optimism which enables him to join in the conviction, victorious even over death, and to cry out in exultation, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Amen.
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.