“If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.” — John 15:22 (KJV)
I was surfing online the other day when I decided to read the Wiki biographies of British actors Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry. Both received English degrees at Cambridge University. They’re also atheists. Not only that, Stephen is a homosexual – and proud of it.
Cambridge University is the best this world offers, but it’s far short of heaven. The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (1 Corinthians 3:19; cf 1:18-31). Unless Emma and Stephen enter God’s school – holiness, suffering, and love – they will remain fools in his eyes. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1, 53:1).
I never liked Emma but I never knew why. Now I know: she’s an atheist. People think atheists are like everyone else. They’re not. One can see the spiritual darkness, an absence of the life that is in God, in their faces. A person’s heart will show up on his or her face eventually. Atheists can’t hide their hearts from those with spiritual discernment.
Emma and Stephen have strong opinions about religion and the Bible.
“I’m an atheist; I suppose you can call me a sort of libertarian anarchist. I regard religion with fear and suspicion. It’s not enough to say that I don’t believe in God. I actually regard the system as distressing: I am offended by some of the things said in the Bible and the Qur’an and I refute them. … I think that the Bible as a system of moral guidance in the 21st century is insufficient, … I feel quite strongly that we need a new moral lodestone if we can’t rely on what is inside our own selves. Which I think, actually, is pretty reliable.” — Emma Thompson, The Australian
“I was brought up within the Christian tradition, [but] I had a fairly secular upbringing. The guiding moral principles, the ethical principles, much of the philosophy, if properly applied, is very good. And I love Christmas. I know all the carols and all the songs, and Greg used to sing in the choir, so in spite of our secularism, we observe the Christmas tradition. And we talk about the [Christmas] story. It’s a very great story, and I grew up with it. It’s very interesting and full of metaphor.” — Emma, Good Housekeeping
“I knew I couldn’t believe in God, because I was fundamentally Hellenic in my outlook. … Sometimes belief means credulity, sometimes an expression of faith and hope which even the most sceptical atheist such as myself cannot but find inspiring. … The cruel, hypocritical and loveless hand of religion and absolutism has fallen on the world once more.” — Stephen Fry, Autobiography, lectures, The Guardian
I think Stephen – raised in a secular Jewish home – was right to attack the Roman Catholic Church’s hypocrisy, leadership, and wealth in a 2009 debate with Christopher Hitchens. Yet regarding religion and Christianity in general, these statements aren’t tolerant or neutral. They’re antagonistic.
Since Stephen is homosexual, he finds offensive any condemnation of his chosen lifestyle – divine or human. Emma is heterosexual but has many gay friends. She’s even a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. They don’t like the message from heaven that homosexuality is sin deserving of death in hell. They don’t like the God that condemns their friends to hell. So they just choose to wish God away.
Because of their unbelief and pride, atheists have had no glimpses of divine glory. It takes faith, humility, and purity to see God (Matthew 5:8). Atheists don’t want to see him. They don’t want heavenly treasures or Jesus Christ, the pearl of great price (13:46). They would rather trade treasure for trash and soak up the mud of this world. They don’t know that they can gain the whole world and yet lose their souls (16:26) – the precious ones that they deny exist.
Atheists want to take the “good” that they see in Christianity and throw the rest away. They don’t know that the “good” in Christianity is exclusive. Other religions aren’t good and can’t make people good. But there’s something else. Atheists don’t know that they’re not good either! Only God is (Matthew 19:17). They don’t know how vile they are in God’s eyes – precious, but vile. They haven’t encountered the holiness and perfection of Jesus Christ. Instead, they have believed the lie of Satan that they can be “good” without God.
“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” — Romans 10:3-4 (NKJV)
Atheists consider judgment, sin, and hell “bad.” But it’s just this “bad” news that is the gospel. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Jesus died for sinners, including Emma and Stephen. Until they submit to the whole counsel of God (both good and bad), they will not be saved. Until they agree with God through his Word (both written and incarnate) that they are sinners deserving of eternal death and that grace comes only through Jesus Christ, then they will not be saved.
Atheists think they are free to stand in judgment over the Word. What they don’t know is that when they’re exposed to the light and truth of the Word and reject it, God then stands in judgment over them. Such exposure is dangerous. It makes them open to deception, lies, and darkness when rejected. This divine exposure also becomes a testimony against them so that they have no excuse. God in his righteousness can destroy them.
This is what happened in Noah’s day. He preached righteousness for 100 years while building the ark (2 Peter 2:5). The sinners who heard the truth of God through Noah and rejected it then died in the flood (Genesis 7:21-23). They had no excuse. God will destroy the earth in fire one day (2 Peter 3:7-10). He is preparing his Noahs and John the Baptists, people who will preach the righteousness of God. Once again, sinners will have no excuse.
If God chooses to give Emma and Stephen the gifts of repentance and conversion, it will be only through his grace. They will be like brands plucked from the fire (Zechariah 3:2). Until then, their souls are in danger. God can cut them off in righteousness.