What the Fool Says in His Heart
February 9th, 1964 @ 10:50 AM
WHAT THE FOOL SAYS IN HIS HEART, Part I
Dr. W.A. Criswell
2-9-64 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock message entitled What The Fool Says In His Heart. It is a message on the reality, the existence, the presence of the Lord God. To divide the sermon is like cutting a man in two with a sword, but I have no other choice but to divide it. I cannot encompass the message in one hour, therefore the first part of the sermon will be delivered this Lord’s Day, and the second part of the sermon will be delivered next Sunday. The fourteenth Psalm, the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Psalms, the first verse reads like this.
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
And that psalm is repeated. The fourteenth Psalm and the fifty-third Psalm are exactly alike. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." Why does the Lord call him a fool? First, because of the shallow and lack of depth, the shallowness and the lack of depth in his thinking. Francis Bacon wrote an essay entitled "Atheism," and in that essay on atheism, Lord Bacon said, "A little philosophy inclineth a man’s mind to atheism; but depth of philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion."
When I see someone who has read a book somewhere, can quote a metaphysician of some age, and he ridicules the idea of God, I look at him and think, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but depth of philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion." You will find the true scientist the most reverent, and the true philosopher the most devoted. God says because of the shallowness and lack of depth of his understanding, he’s a fool. He’s a fool.
"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." Why does God call him a fool? Because he allocates to himself an omniscience and all-knowingness that is impossible to a finite man. For a man to avow there is no God, he would have to know everything. He would have to be in all places. He would have to be in all ages. He would have to understand all that is meaningful or that exists in time and in eternity. He would have to be omnisciently infallible!
I could not say it as eloquently as a great theologian wrote it a hundred years ago.
The wonder turns on the great process by which a man could grow to the immense intelligence that can know there is no God. This intelligence involves the very attributes of deity. For unless this man is omnipresent, in some place where he is not, there may be God. If he does not know absolutely every agent in the Universe, the one that it does not know may be God. If he is not himself the chief agent in the Universe, and does not know what is so, that which is so may be God. If he is not in absolute possession of all the propositions that constitute universal truth, the one, which he lacks, may be that there is a God. If he cannot with certainty assign the cause of all that he perceives to exist, that cause may be God. If he does not know everything that has been done in the immeasurable ages past, some things may have been done by a God. Thus unless he knows all things, that is, precludes another Deity by being one himself, he cannot know that the Being whose existence he rejects, does not exist.
["On The Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God," Thomas Chalmers, 1833]
God says he’s a fool, for he allocates to himself an infallible and an impossible omniscience. God says, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." God calls him a fool because of his spiritually corrupt nature. This is context of the Psalm, "The fool has said there’s no God." They’re corrupt. They have done abominable works. The Lord looked down from heaven among the children of men to see if there were any that did understand, and He saw fools in the earth who deny the existence of the great Lord God.
That’s why I suppose that the existence of God is never argued in the Bible. The first statement of the Bible is not, "There is a God." The first statement of the Bible is, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," and it is never argued, and it is never supported. The apologists who wrote the Bible never took upon themselves to defend a proposition whether or not there be a God. The attitude in the Bible is it’s the fool that disavows and disowns Him.
Our Lord Jesus said, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, and don not cast your pearls before swine" [Matthew 7:6]. And so without argument, the Bible just avows the deity of the great Creator who governs in sovereign power this universe. And I suppose it is foolish for a minister to defend the proposition that there is a God. I was reading from a historian an observation of the eighteenth century. And this historian said, "What all of the apologists of the eighteenth century could not do in defending Christianity, for the more they defended it, the less it was believed," but he said, "What the apologists could not do, the great revivals of George Whitefield and John Wesley did, because," he said, "it quickened the intuitions of men’s minds into an actual devotion."
Now I am of that persuasion still; the best defense of the Christian faith is just a proclamation of it, a proclaiming of it, a preaching of it, and a doing of it. Nevertheless, I have taken upon myself another turn. We live in this day, in this generation, in this hour; we live in a different turn of history than any the earth has ever known before. Never in the history of the world until your day, never in the history of the world was there such a thing as a government built upon the thesis that there is no God! Atheism in our generation has become blatant, and has challenged the very foundation of the Christian faith. And there are great systems of government that increasingly, like the embracing arms of an octopus – there are great systems of government today that grasp and grasp, and we tremble before it, and it is built upon the proposition of atheism and infidelity.
For example, in my reading this week, a creed of communism, "the belief in a personal, living God is the chief foundation and origin of a worm-eating social state. And further, that so long as mankind shall hang by a single hair to the idea of heaven, there is no happiness to be looked for on earth. Man himself is the religion of the future. God stands in need of man, but man has no need of God." This is the day and the generation in which we live.
How do you construct atheism, and communism? You cannot do it by quoting the Bible. Their first affinity and predilection would be toward an anathema of the Word of God. To admit the Holy Scriptures would be to admit a deity that could inspire it. So their first repudiation would be the Bible itself. Nor would you with good logic argue of the deity, the presence of God in the universe, from the Scriptures. It doesn’t make sense, for example, to prove God by the authority of the Scriptures, then turn around and prove the authority of the Scriptures by God. You just enter an endless circle.
But there are other witnesses; there are other things God hath done in the earth to announce and to proclaim His presence, His majesty, His power. And we shall turn in these sermons to these other witnesses by which God doth proclaim His name in the earth. You see God has written two books. One I hold in my hand, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. But God also is the author of another book, the great marvelous world of creation. And these also declare the presence of God.
The Himalayas, the vast mountain range in Southeast Asia, the Himalayas are but raised letters by which we blind children put our fingers on to spell out the name of God. And God’s book of creation harmonizes with God’s book of the Bible, and they attest the being of the great Lord Jehovah.
Now, in that other book, the book of God’s works and God’s creation, there are two witnesses. One is in the man God hath made – the inner witness, the intuitive knowledge of God that the Lord inlayed in a man’s soul and in his very life, an inner witness. Then there is an outer witness, the great affirmation of the intuitive knowledge of a man in the explicated and announced glory of the presence of the Lord in the universe about us.
Both of those you will find here in the first chapter of Romans. Paul writes in the [nineteenth] verse; "Because that which may be known of God is manifested in us; for God hath shown it unto us" [Romans 1:19]. Inside of us, there is the witness God hath made inside the soul of every man. In the second chapter he writes of that work of God written in our hearts, "our conscience bearing witness" – the inner witness to God, the intuitive knowledge of God that is made in the soul of every man; and second, the outward witness of the Lord that verifies, and explicates, and confirms, and attests that inner intuition of a man.
Now the next verse: "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead" [Romans 1:20]. Now that’s the division of the sermon. This morning I shall speak of the witness of God intuitively, how God speaks to us of Himself on the inside of our souls, and then next Sunday morning the sermon shall be on the great affirmation, and verification, and explication of that intuitive witness that God hath placed in a man’s soul.
All right, now, the intuitive witness of God; the congenital, the natural, the inborn knowledge of God that exists in the soul and life of every man who was ever born or shall ever be born. Don’t you forget, this mind of ours produces far more grist than is ever carried to the hopper. The vehicle of these little minds of ours produce an idea far beyond our ability. The conception of God and the idea of God is beyond what any man could think up or reason out.
For example, a little child without understand, a little child will naturally worship and be reverent, will respond though without understanding, naturally. Helen Keller who was blind, who was deaf, who was mute, to whom only the sense of touch could bring knowledge, Helen Keller said to the great Bostonian preacher, Phillips Brooks, "I always knew that there was a God, but I didn’t know His name."
The intuitive knowledge of God is first, universal. There is no family, there’s no tribe, there’s no man, there’s no nation, there’s no people, however perverted, however depredated who does not know God. Now, the idea of God may be primeval, may be warped, but they acknowledge His existence. You could not find fault with a child who, in proving the existence of his father, tried to draw his father’s picture and did it with such childish, juvenile, futile forms and letters. So an untaught heathen, he may not know the refinements of religion, and he may never be introduced to the true faith, but yet, what he sees and what he knows, reproduces in his heart and life in some kind of reverence, or fear, or adoration, or religion.
Don’t forget that the same sensory impressions of the world around us made in a man are made on a brute animal. The brute animal has the same organs that the man has. The animal can see, many times far better. He can hear, most of the times far better. He can touch, and taste, and smell. And yet an animal can live in this world and never seek after the invisible things of God that a man does! Why? Why? They are the same sensory perceptions, but in a man he fears, and he seeks, and he bows down, and he finds expression in religion, you and I, viscerally. There is no tribe or family ever but that knows God.
Second: that intuitive knowledge of God is also ageless. Go back, and back, and back, and back, and back, and back, and wherever mankind has been, there is the knowledge of God, the idea of God. Or take it the other way, go forward, and forward, and forward, and forward, and the higher you go up, the other races and its culture and its civilization, the more refined and the more devout will be their religion, as they call on the name of the Lord God!
Voltaire, at one time in his infidelity and atheism, Voltaire, scoffing at religion said, "It will not be long until Christianity is a memory and the Bible a forgotten book." About a hundred years after Voltaire made that statement, the British government paid five hundred thousand dollars for a copy of the New Testament. Now that would be about three million dollars in [today’s] money, the British government bought Codex Sinaiticus, and placed it in the British Museum, and paid the czar of Russia five hundred thousand dollars for it; and that same day on the streets of London a copy of Voltaire sold for three cents!
Bob Ingersoll who also prognosticated the demise of religion, where Bob Ingersoll had his home, to this very day now, there is a manufactory for the Word of God, publishing Bibles. Ageless, backward, forward, in between is that inalienable idea of Almighty God.
It is not only universal. It is not only ageless. It is unavoidable. It is congenital. It is not a product of a man’s reasoning. He doesn’t sit down and then come up with the idea of a God, but it flashes on his soul with a quickness and force of an immediate revelation, and he cannot help it! In times of disaster, and danger, or bitter grief and despair, and sorrow a man will become more conscious of the existence of God than he is of the existence of his fellow man.
In a beautiful, beautiful poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, called "The Cry of the Human," that identical idea is marvelously expressed.
"There is no God," the foolish saith,
But none, "There is no sorrow."
And nature oft the cry of faith
in bitter need will borrow:
Eyes which the preacher could not school,
By wayside graves are raised;
And lips say, "God be pitiful,"
Who never said, "God be praised."
["The Cry of the Human," Elizabeth Barrett Browning]
And when a man would answer, "But that is a trained reaction, that is a studied and a taught response. This man fears because he sees other men fear. This man trembles because he sees other men tremble. This man bows because he sees other men bow. He cries because he sees other men cry, and he worships because he sees other men worship. It’s the fashion and he’s imitating. That’s the same kind of a logic as if a man were to say, "A horse eats hay because he sees other horses eat hay." There is a hunger in the horse that leads it to eat hay. There is a hunger in the soul of man that leads him to bow before God. And the Holy Scriptures and the preacher’s sermon is nothing other than an interpretation of that that is already in the human heart and in the human soul. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." God hath placed that witness in the soul of a man, an intuitive knowledge. It is universal. It is ageless. It is natural. It is congenital. It is unavoidable.
Last and above all, the idea is encased and attested by a man’s moral conscience. Right, let’s turn it around: wrong is inconceivable unless there be right. Error is inconceivable unless there be truth. You can’t have wrong unless you have right. You can’t have error unless you have truth. But truth and right are inconceivable unless there be an ultimate seat, an infinite right, an infinite truth over and beyond a man.
And with authority a man’s conscience bears witness to that something, that some other over and beyond himself. There is an authority, there is a judge, there is a lawgiver that speaks to a man’s soul. And He doesn’t speak in abstract terms. He doesn’t speak in generalities. He speaks in specifics. He doesn’t speak in the subjunctive mood, "Let us think, let us." He speaks in the imperative mood, "Thou shalt," and "Thou shalt not."
And whoever that something or that someone or that some other, whoever He is, He speaks with will, and with authority, and a man’s conscience will turn to it like a magnetized needle. And the vibrations from that power makes a man tremble like the needles that points toward the north. That’s universal, and ageless, and in all of us.
Macbeth, Macbeth. Macbeth kills Duncan, king of Scots, and he is to inherit the throne and to inherit the kingdom. What’s the matter with him? What’s the matter with Macbeth? In the nighttime looking at his hands, "There’s blood on my hands. Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood from my hands?" What’s the matter with him? He has the kingdom. He seized it. So what’s the matter with him? "There’s blood on my hands."
Nero, destroying the Christians, persecuting God’s people, burning them as live torches on the streets of Rome while he rides his chariot furiously up and down, he gets his golden palace. What’s the matter with him? The palace is his, the greatest palace ever constructed, but he spends his night in terror, walking up and down his halls. Why?
There is a somebody else. There is a something other. There is something over and besides, a great judge, and a great lawgiver, and He speaks with authority and a man trembles. Authority of that judge is universal. Right is universal. Even these nations that deny God will stand in the presence of other nations and plead their cause on the basis of righteousness, and of peace, and of justice. It is universal, and no man creates it, nor does any convocation or host or group of men create it. It is a law of Almighty God.
For a man to say the sun and the moon and the stars create the laws of gravity that control them is to be foolish in his logic. For a man to say it is a convocation of men seated in cities or congresses or courts of justice that create the law is foolishness, and God says it: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God up there." This thing is instinctive. It is intuitive, and it is inlayed in the soul of a man. And all of the threat and power of mankind can never break that law, or dispossess it, or destroy it. All he can do is abuse it. He can’t break it.
If a man were to say, "Watch me break the law of gravity. Watch me destroy it. Watch me snap it asunder. Where I stand on the top of our neighboring skyscraper, I will now demonstrate how the law of gravity can be broken." And he jumps off. He just illustrates it. You don’t break it.
If a man in astronomy had the power and he were to say, "I will illustrate that there are no laws of gravitation that control God’s universe, if there be a God. And you watch me." And so he seeks to break the law of gravitation, and in doing it, the worlds collide and the universe turns to vapor and to fire as they crush one another; he just illustrated, illustrated.
You don’t break God’s law; you just illustrate it. You don’t dissolve God’s mandates; you just exhibit them. And the great judgments of the great Judge, and the great pronouncements of the great Lawgiver are eternal, and immutable, and unchangeable! And the man just recognizes it either in wisdom or in disaster. And that holds true for all of the ages and this present moment.
A nation can disavow the Lord God. And a nation can seek to disown the great purposes of the Almighty. A people can, a family can, a man can, but there’s a Judge who sits and who carries with what you do an inevitable penalty, judgment. And there’s no escaping. It is writ in the fabric of the universe.
And so with us, a man can disassociate himself from the Lord God. "I will not acknowledge His prerogatives. I will not bow in His presence. I will scoff His name to His face. I will challenge Him. I will blaspheme. I will disown that He lives. I will separate myself from God." He can do that, but he can’t separate himself from the penalty and the judgment that follows after.
Jesus said it is like the branches that are cut off, they wither and die. A man can say, "I will separate this little finger from my hand." And he ties it tight. It no longer receives nutrition. The bloodstream no longer feeds it. And it atrophies. And it’s diseased. And it disintegrates. And it rots. And I’m in pain, for the whole body suffers with it, and seeks its release and its rejoinder in health to the body.
So a man can disassociate himself from the great Lord God, but when he does, he suffers. He disintegrates. He loses the heavenly meaning, and the heavenly vision. He has no reason for his existence. He has no reason for anything. He has no basis for truth, or righteousness, or hope, or right, or heaven. It’s a blackness, and a despair, and a decay, and a corrupt, and an unjust to him. He separates himself.
Then all the mercies of God, like the little finger, every part of your body will plead for its release and its restoration and health. So everything in God’s universe pleads for a man to turn himself to the Lord, to come back, to draw nigh, to find strength, and life, and help in the great God who made us for Himself. And there’s no help, and there’s no life, and there’s no benediction, and there’s no grace, and there’s no favor, and there’s no living, and there’s no goodness, and there’s no joy, and there’s no happiness outside of that response to the love of God.
Oh, the flood gates open wide, that my soul may be blessed! The whole universe of God pleads with a man to be restored. "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come. Let him that heareth," just a passer-by, repeat the glad refrain, "Come. Let him that is athirst, Come" [Revelation 22:17]. This is the fullness of God and the purpose of heaven for a man’s life. God bless the appeal and its assurance to our salvation this holy day.
While we sing our song of invitation, somebody you in the great balcony round, there’s a stairway at the front, there’s one at the back, on either side, there’s time and to spare, come, come. "Today, pastor, today, I give my life’s soul, my destiny all to the Lord God. I avow Him. I own Him. I trust Him, and here I come." On this lower floor, this throng of people, you, into the aisle, into the aisle and down to the front, "Pastor, here I come." A family of you, "This is my wife. These are our children. All of us are coming this day." A couple you, a one somebody you, turning your face heavenward, upward, where Jesus is, where God can forgive, and bless, and heal, and restore, and save forever; "Here I am, preacher. Here I come." Make it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.