In the evening services we’ve been studying the letter of Romans. One of the most controversial things Romans says is that deep down everyone knows that God exists.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse
There’s a great old story about Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen. At this stage he was only Vice Admiral and the Admiral sent flag signals to withdraw from the battle. Nelson didn’t want to withdraw though. He was up for a fight! So, famously, he turned to his Flag Captain (called Foley) and said “You know, Foley, I only have one eye–I have the right to be blind sometimes,” and then holding his telescope to his blind eye (he’d already lost one of his eyes in action), he said “I really do not see any signals!”
Was Nelson genuinely blind? Yes. But did he also want to be blind? Yes. It was a wilful blindness. And therefore also a culpable blindness. It suited Nelson not to see. It meant he could do what he wanted to do.
The Bible says something similar is going on with us and God. We choose to ‘hold the telescope to our blind eye’. Only, in our case, it’s been going on so long that it has become second nature. We’ve chosen to hold the telescope to our blind eye so many times that it’s become a habit. We barely even realise we’re doing it anymore; it’s become subconscious and automatic.
Like Nelson it suits us not see. It means we can do what we want to do.We can be the captain of our own souls. Like Nelson our blindness is wilful and therefore it is culpable.
So how might we respond to someone who says they do not believe in God. Were someone to say to me I would want to start by listening graciously and not questioning their sincerity. But I would also want to gently suggest that their atheism took time to acquire and takes effort to maintain.
It’s not just atheists. Every human heart does essentially the same thing. The truth about God is traumatic to us. We want to be in charge of our lives and we hate the idea of a God on whom we are dependant and to whom we are accountable.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them since God has made it plain to them.
There is a deep fear and mistrust of God in all of our hearts. Even after someone starts to follow Jesus we still ‘suppress the truth’ every day. The only remedy is the gospel, for the gospel speaks of a God who chose to come to Earth, suffer and die rather than lose you and me. The more I grasp that, the less I will want to suppress the truth and keep that God out of my life.