[ 5 minutes to read ]Making the atheist’s argument for him Can a Christian believe that God doesn’t exist? No would seem to be the obvious answer, but what if it’s not? In the early 2000s it was trendy among the emergents to suppose there was a new kind of Christian who essentially doubted that God existed, but did not deny it outright. If we are progressing along that trajectory, then we eventually have to reach a newer kind of Christian who denies God’s existence altogether. This would give us a new kind of Christianity where God, God’s Son, and God’s word were not essential to this new faith.
But, would that be faith at all? The Bible uses the term Christian, or at least reported the use of the term as a descriptor for those who believed in and followed Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26). The Bible has other terms to describe Christians, like saved, believers, disciples, followers, slaves of Christ, the faithful, God’s children, heirs, joint-heirs with Christ, etc. All the terms used to describe the people who inherit eternal life in Christ’s coming kingdom require faith in God. In other words, belief in the existence of God is absolutely essential to Christianity (Hebrews 11:6). Without that core faith, you have no Christianity at all, regardless of what one might call it.
We are now back to the original question. Can a Christian believe that God doesn’t exist? We can confidently answer in the negative. Why? Because one cannot be a Christian, who by biblical qualification believes in the existence of God, and also deny God’s existence at the same time. It is a self-contradiction and, therefore, cannot exist. It violates the laws of reason, logic, scripture, and even quantum mechanics.
The laws of logic like the laws of gravity, aerodynamics, thermodynamics, and relativity are not the inventions of mankind’s imagination. These are not artificial restraints fashioned in the human right hemisphere and superimposed on nature. They are actually discoveries of the way the creation works, the way it was designed to work. So God created this universe in such a way that something in the universe cannot be and not-be at the same time.
No Christian Atheists
I assume we can now agree there is no such thing as a Christian atheist, a Christian who believes God does not actually exist. To suppose a Christian atheist is to suppose a self-contradiction, a simultaneous a and not-a, which cannot exist in reality. But what if a common belief among Christians leads to a God who does not exist?
The well intended idea is ironically meant to make much of God, but ends up making nothing of God. Let’s call this theory the Infinite Possibility Principle. In more popular, street-level terms, it is the God-can-do-anything idea. This view emphasizes certain verse portions, such as, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14), “there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jeremiah 32:17), “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26), etc. The conclusion deduced is that God can do anything, or alternatively, God can do everything. The Infinite Possibility Principle states that God can do any or all of an infinite number of possible thoughts and actions. The corollary principle states that an infinite number of possibilities are accessible to humans because God can do any or all of an infinite number of possible thoughts and actions. In street terms, if God can do anything, he can do anything I imagine, if I believe enough. After all, “all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).
This principle has prevailed throughout Christendom since its onset in the 19th century, and is behind a seemingly infinite number of human endeavors and ecstatic experiences to this day. Of course, this principle is falsified by other verse portions that contradict it explicitly: “God, that cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), “God cannot be tempted with evil” (James 1:13), and, “he[God] cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). We could also add more to these that make the statement implicitly. God cannot repent like a son of Adam (Numbers 23:19), God cannot justify the wicked (Exodus 23:7; Nahum 1:3), etc. Further, the practical application of what the Bible reveals about God is not that we can get God to do anything as long as we have enough faith. Rather, we are taught God only and always does what he has purposed from eternity (Ephesians 3:11) according to his will (Ephesians 1:11), and what pleases him to do (Isaiah 46:10-11). Therefore, we are taught to pray, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), and to submit our every endeavor, not to the limits of our imagination and faith, but to his eternal will (Proverbs 19:21; 1 Corinthians 4:19; 1 Corinthians 16:7; Hebrews 6:3).
These scriptures do not contradict one another. Every God-can-do-anything verse has an immediate context that explains why nothing can prevent God from doing what he has purposed to do. For example: the immediate context of Genesis 18:14 is that God had made a covenant promise to Abraham and Sarah that they two together would have a son. The age of both and the fact that Sarah had never had children before and was menopausal by Genesis 18 posed an impossibility to God’s promise they would have a son in a year’s time. This wasn’t too hard for God to overcome, as he miraculously healed Sarah’s barrenness and restored a measure of youthfulness to her so that she and Abraham had a son by the normal means. Every such text has a context that shows that God has an eternal redemptive purpose that nothing can prevent him from accomplishing in his appointed time.
Whenever you meet the God-can-do-anything theory with the certainty that God in fact cannot do anything because he cannot lie and cannot deny himself, you will encounter the standard retort that you are limiting God and putting God in a box. To hold the absolute God-can-do-anything theory is really to put God in a box like Schrödinger’s cat, which the famed physicist demonstrated would be simultaneously alive and dead in the box if the Copenhagen theory of superposition held true. His point was how a line of thought led to an absurd non-reality. But, this is precisely where the Infinite Possibility Principle (God-can-do-anything view) leads, to a God who both exists and does not exist. If God is so big/powerful as they suppose that he can do absolutely everything, then he can lie, he can change, he can do something contrary to his will, he can create a rock so big he cannot lift it, and therefore he absolutely can deny himself. A God who can deny himself is no God at all. A God who can deny himself is a self-contradiction and therefore does not exist, an atheist’s dream come true.
It is not limiting or lessening God’s power in any way to acknowledge the scriptural revelation of God that he is the supreme, all-powerful Deity and Creator of the universe, who is all-knowing and eternally existent and eternally consistent. God has an eternal will and only and always works everything according to that will, which no being or entity can hinder or prevent him from doing. Attempts to make God bigger than he is, like the Infinite Possibility Principle, actually puts God in a paradox box where he simultaneously exists and doesn’t exist alongside Schrödinger’s cat. I admit the imaginary powers of some far surpass my own as I cannot hold such a supposal in my mind. If you insist on the paradox box, at least throw some bologna in the box for the cat. It won’t bother the dead state of the cat and the simultaneous live state of the cat is probably hungry.