During times of crisis, many may turn to atheism and renounce any underlying meaning to personal and communal suffering. What do you say in response? How do you reassure your own heart when doubts arise? In Pastor Lutzer’s experience this is more often a matter of the heart than the head. Join us today as we take an honest look at these difficult truths together.
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Transcript: Welcome to “5 Minutes with Pastor Lutzer.” I’m so glad that you joined us today as we continue this study, entitled “Pandemics, Plagues, and Natural Disasters: What is God Saying to Us?” If you’ve been with us in previous episodes, you know how we emphasized the sovereignty of God; we emphasized the fact that, indeed, natural disasters are judgments. Thankfully, they are not permanent to those who believe on Christ. Today I want to direct our thoughts to this question, how do we handle those who say “in light of what is happening in the world today, I can no longer believe in God?” Now, I’m going to answer this philosophically for just a moment and then we’re going to bring it down in practice as we minister to people who look at this world and say “if this is the way God runs his world, I want nothing to do with Him.”
And so as a result of natural disasters, often times atheism results—“I don’t believe in God.” Let’s talk philosophy just for a moment. You know when you stop to think of it, all moral judgments assume the existence of God. For example, if life began in what Darwin called “a warm pond” with some molecules getting together in very complicated arrangements and eventually life came and from that life, all other life arose, there could be no good or evil because one combination of atoms or another combination of atoms—none can be better or worse than the other; they just are what they are. But the simple fact is that even atheists have morality and I’ll tell you why. It’s because they are created in the image of God and part of that creation is that you and I are created with a mind or a soul that is not just calcium and phosphate. It is not just molecules. It would be wrong for you to say, you know, I had a thought that weighed about a half a gram and was about a half an inch long. No. It exists in another realm and that realm has to be created by God. It cannot be explained from natural processes.
Well, that’s the philosophical explanation. We could go on and we could give more examples of why atheism is unsatisfying, but I want to emphasize the fact that if you are an atheist, there’s no possibility that the evil that we see could ever be used for a higher purpose. I had a Jewish friend in our neighborhood and sometimes we used to walk together and he was an atheist and I said, “has it ever given you pause to think that Hitler will never be brought into judgment, because in an atheistic world, there’s no possibility that the wrongs could ever be made right and he said “Yes.” He said, “That does trouble me.” We as Christians believe that no matter how bad and evil this world gets, God always has a higher purpose which we see glimmers of but we don’t fully understand. But, nonetheless, we know that there has to be a higher purpose because God is good. “Give me all the power that God has for 24 hours and you’ll see the changes that I will make in this world,” one person said. But then He said, “if I had God’s wisdom, I’d leave them just as they are now.”
Let me talk to you personally as a pastor to your heart. If your child comes home from university and says mom and dad, “I’m an atheist.” You need not get into all of these philosophical issues because atheism almost always is based on anger toward God. It is often times based on guilt. Talk to that child, find out where they are at. Or an adult that says that he’s an atheist, always go for the heart because the mind will believe, or not believe, based on the disposition of the heart. Everyone knows down deep inside that God exists and they have various ways of explaining it, but you and I know that despite all the mystery, God is God and we aren’t.
I’ve time to tell you a story about a repair man who was in our home and of course I’ve witnessed to him and he was an atheist. And he said, “You know, if God sends me to hell, I am going to defy Him for all of eternity.” “Wow” I said, “I’m sure you can do that. You know, I mean a rowboat can try to take down an aircraft carrier, you know, but do you think God is going to say ‘Oh my, there’s someone in hell defying me.’” I said, “You know, that is a very unwise decision. Why don’t you take advantage of what God has done for us in Christ so that you are saved from hell? Take advantage of the mercy of God and the fact that we have the opportunity to prepare to meet God and despite all of the mystery and despite all the understanding, and misunderstanding at times, we come humbly, but we come to someone who has revealed God to us. A God whom we can trust because He sent His Son to redeem us. That’s the message that atheists need to hear. All of the philosophical arguments—we can swirl around those forever but atheists need to deal with their heart— their heart of sin and see that they need a savior. Don’t let COVID convince you that God doesn’t exist. Rather let COVID be a motive for you to recognize that the world is under sin and they need a savior from the coming judgment.
Thanks so much for joining us today. I sure hope that you join us next time because I’m going to be giving you some great encouragement and some great hope as we think about the future. God bless you and as for today you just go with God.