Last week I offered a response to the ESPN article on Arian Foster’s atheism. I pointed out several of his errors in reasoning leading to false beliefs. I will continue to examine more of his mistakes (which many commit today) and other related issues in this article.
The ESPN reporter referenced a recent study from the Pew Research Center indicating a gradual shift in religious affiliation. The article noted a “number of Americans who say they are not affiliated with any organized religion [including those who identify as agnostic or atheist] has jumped more than 6 percentage points [16.1 to 22.8] in the past seven years. Still, just 3.1 percent of Americans identify as atheist.”
First, it is important to note that the “nones” (those who say they are not affiliated with any organized religion) can also be Christ followers who simply do not affiliate with any church. Going to a church building does not make someone a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes them a car. Similarly, one can be a Christian without being a part of a church. I know several Christians who do not attend church—not a lifestyle I recommend (Hebrews 10:25).
Second, given the influence on American culture by atheists one would think that they represent a much larger segment of the population—currently a mere 3.1 percent. Atheism is growing slowly but the idea and influence of atheism is skyrocketing. The culture is now more open to the idea that atheism could be true. People who would have never considered atheism are now contemplating it as a viable option. Moreover, this movement of “new atheism” is having a tremendous effect on youth groups across America. Many students, even if they think Christianity is probably true, are now swimming in greater degrees of doubt. A young Christian who would normally have high degrees of certainty regarding Christian theism, might now be filled with doubts and questions. This produces a weak faith and evangelism comes to a grinding halt. It is when Christians have high degrees of certainty, and when they possess a strong justification for their beliefs, that evangelism increases and our culture flourishes.
Our culture, unfortunately, is allowing atheism to flourish. If the church remains content to preach to the dwindling choir, America will eventually emulate secular Europe and Christians will become less significant with little impact on our culture. This is America’s future (and the world’s), unless Christians learn exactly what they believe and why they believe it. If reasonable Christians begin to speak and share truth, then the future will look much different than the one just mentioned.
The ESPN article continued to reference a 2012 Gallup poll and indicated only 54 percent of Americans would vote for an atheist for president. This is, in part, because all world views are not created equal. If atheism is true – and God does not exist – then there would be no logical grounding of objective moral values and duties. If one thinks that objective morality is illusory and there is nothing objectively wrong with any action, then the atheist would reach the logical conclusion that there is nothing really wrong with lying to get elected, nothing really wrong with shredding the Constitution, nothing really wrong with nuking Israel (or anyone else for that matter), and nothing objectively wrong with denying someone their inalienable human rights. After all, those do not really exist if atheism is true.
I would question why an atheist would even vote for an atheist candidate? Why would anyone want the leader of the most powerful country on earth to think there is nothing objectively good, bad, right, wrong, fair, or evil?
Does God watch football?
Back to Arian Foster. He thought it was rational to reject theism, providing the following reasoning: “If there is a God and he’s watching football, there are so many other things he could be doing,” he says. “There are hungry children and diseases and famine and so much important stuff going on in the world, and he’s really blessed your team? It’s just weird to me.”
It is sad to see someone become an atheist for ill-informed reasons. For someone who claims he has read the Bible from cover to cover, Foster has drawn unbiblical conclusions about God. The Bible makes it clear that God possesses all of his attributes in a maximal sense. This is why they are called his “omni” attributes.
God’s omnibenevolence is implied in scriptures, such as, Psalms 145:9; 17; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19; and 1 Timothy 2:4. God’s omnipotence is referred to in Genesis 1:1; Eph 1:19; Matt 19:26; Genesis 18:14; Job 42:1-2; Luke 1:36; and Jeremiah 32:27. God’s omniscience is referenced in such Bible verses as, Psalms 139:4; 147:5, and 1 John 3:19-20. Last but not least, God’s omnipresence is described in verses, such as, Jeremiah 23:24; Proverbs 15:3; Psalm 139: 7-10; Matthew 6:6; and Acts 17:24. These are the qualities of a maximally great being.
What does God’s omnipresence mean? This divine attribute is best understood in that God is aware of and causally active at all points in space. This is what it means to be everywhere present. It follows that any being possessing both omniscience and omnipotence, will also be omnipresent. If God is omnipresent, then Tim Tebow can be playing and praying in Philadelphia at the same moment that Russell Wilson is doing the same thing in Seattle. They can both pray to the Creator of the universe simultaneously—so can every person regardless if they care about football or not.
I enjoyed reading about the friendship between Foster and his former teammate, Justin Forsett (who is a Christian). The article reports, “They began to discuss religion, and morals, and whether one can exist without the other. Every day, it seemed, Foster presented Forsett with a different question, a new challenge. In Forsett, Foster found a friendly adversary, someone who wouldn’t cower, who could back his beliefs with both Bible verses and actions.”
This is encouraging! I admonish all Christians to know exactly what they believe and why they believe it. Now, I do not know much about Forsett, or if he knows and can specifically explain why he believes what he believes. With that said, it appears Forsett graciously challenged Foster with what seems to be the Moral Argument for God’s existence!
Be that as it may, Foster apparently respects Forsett primarily because he lives consistently as a Christ follower. This is the ultimate apologetic! When Christians keep the two greatest commands of Christ, the world becomes a great place to live and His attractiveness shines.
When Christians know exactly what they believe and why they believe it, sharing their faith, and even graciously challenging the faith of an atheist, becomes quite easy and actually enjoyable. In fact, since I know exactly why I believe what I believe, I never have to speak in fear or get emotional during theistic discussions. I make friends with those who are in the dark. Some of my closest friends are atheists. Moreover, I see a growing number of my friends becoming former atheists!
Forsett makes this clear: “Arian is going to voice his thoughts whether you want them or not, or whether you ask for them or not… He’ll make a statement. You can choose to respond or you can let him speak. He’s very smart, very witty. If you’re not confident in what you believe, and if you don’t know what you believe, you’ll get caught up and probably look silly… They might get embarrassed, and that’s why they don’t engage.”
Foster has unknowingly strengthened Forsett’s faith by challenging him: “Arian pushes me to be a better man and a better man of faith,” Forsett says.”He’s going to ask questions, tough questions, and I take that as a challenge. I have to be prepared to give a response at any given moment. If I don’t have a response, he’s going to push me to go get it.”
This reminds me of what Sean McDowell shared as I was beginning to try my hand at apologetics. He said at “first you will get stumped by many questions, but make it a goal to never get stumped by the same question twice!” Since I have taken this approach, it has actually been the movement of the new atheists that has provided fuel to my reasonable faith. In fact, as atheism grows in our country, rational Christianity rises with it.
God really does use all things together for His good!
Next week I will conclude my response to Arian Foster. I will discuss his thoughts regarding the person of Jesus, his mother’s wavering agnosticism, labels, the meaning of life, and more of Foster’s “reasons” for atheism. I will examine some things that Foster gets right and that we can all learn from (Christians included). I will also offer a surprise at the end that readers will not want to miss.
Stay tuned & stay reasonable (Phil 4:5 ESV),