Monday, April 04, 2011
Owen on Atheism
I have been blessed recently by reading John Owen’s Spiritual Mindedness (Banner Puritan paperback, 2009).
At one point, Owen addresses atheism in a way that reminded me of Reymond’s discussion (see pp. 85-94).
Owen addresses the question as to why “there are more atheists in Christian lands than in non-Christian” (p. 85)? It is an interesting point. Why has the Western world—influenced by Christianity—produced the intellectual atheists?
Owen offers three reasons, all of which focus on atheism as a mark of God’s chastening on a culture that has had the privilege of exposure to the gospel:
1. Owen says that “where his word is rejected and despised, God will not give the honour of keeping men from atheism and all other evils to reason or to the light of nature” (p. 85). He continues, “Therefore, there is often more common honesty among civilized heathens and Muslims than among degenerate Christians. For the same reason, the children of Christians are sometimes irrevocably apostate” (p. 85).
2. Where the gospel is held in contempt, “the mind cannot help but be wholly attracted to the worst of evils” (p. 86).
3. Owen adds, “when men are determined not to see, the greater the light that shines around them the more firmly they shut their eyes. All atheism springs from a determined resolve not to see the invisible and eternal things” (p. 87).
He concludes that atheism “does not disparage but honors the gospel” (p. 88). No one is tempted to deny God’s existence until they first reject the gospel. “Atheists are atheists because they desire to live sinfully without the fear of having to face God’s judgment one day” (p. 88).