Faith Focus: Functional Atheism – A Fool’s Errand

FRANKLIN LIVING MAY-JUNE 2024

A fool’s errand: A practical joke whereby a naïve person is sent to fetch some non-existent but plausible-sounding item. Perhaps you’ve heard of sending someone to the auto parts store to buy turn signal fluid. Always funny – unless you are the one shopping for turn signal fluid!

Interestingly enough, the Bible has quite a bit to say about fools and foolish living.

Psalm 14:1 declares, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’” While we might be quick to say we are not atheists – meaning that would never be us – we must always be on guard against falling into a dangerous trap.

Psalm 14 can be summarized as follows:

  1. Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” (vs. 1)
  2. The Lord is looking for wise people, ones who seek Him. (vs. 2)
  3. Terror will eventually grip those who are evil. (vs. 5)
  4. God is with those who obey Him; the Lord will protect his people! (vs. 6-7)

The psalm paints an either/or picture that should be a no-brainer: Seek God and obey Him or be a fool! But life often gets busy and complicated, to the point that God can be unintentionally relegated to the background. And when that happens, we run the risk of becoming functional atheists.

What is functional atheism? Commentator Eddie Cloer wrote, “Functional atheism, also referred to as indifferent atheism, describes people who rarely think about God and as a result, live as though he doesn’t exist.”

Thankfully, the New Testament clearly warns against the perils of functional atheism. One such warning occurs when Jesus teaches about the foolish builder in Matthew 7:26-27. The foolish builder lives like a storm isn’t coming when he builds his house on a foundation of sand. Then there is the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21: When blessed with a great harvest, he chooses greed and hoarding rather than seizing the opportunity to be rich toward God – and unbeknownst to him, he is going to die on the very night he makes his godless choice.

Both stories reveal the plight of foolish people who share the same core problem: neither of them are prepared!

That’s what happens to us if our lives get so self-centered and busy that we end up living like God doesn’t exist.

_______________________________________

Philip Goad has been serving as the minister at North Highlands Church of Christ in Russellville since March 2020.

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