David said, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1). There are four important elements to this statement:
First, there is a proclamation. The proclamation is “there is no God.” The word “atheist” combines two Greek terms: theos, meaning “God,” and the alpha-privative, which negates the force of the root. Etymologically, this proclamation is merely a literal definition of the word atheist—“no God.”
Notice that the atheist “says” there is no God. Simply saying there is no God does not make it so. In fact, saying your position is even weaker than, say, believing it or discovering it. No one has ever proven that God does not exist. The atheist, then, cannot argue from evidence. He must be content to assert his position without the proof to back it up.
Secondly, there is a location. David says that the atheist makes his proclamation in his “heart.” The “heart” (Hebrew: leb) denotes the totality of man’s inner being. In the Bible, virtually every immaterial function of man is attributed to the heart. This includes the emotions, thinking, and the will. When it is said, then, that the atheist says “no God” in his heart, we understand that to mean that he feels it, thinks it, and decides it.
I have heard some comment on this verse, saying that the atheist argues from his heart in the sense that we normally mean it (emotions) and not his head (mind). Not only is this position disingenuous and a bit naïve, it also ignores what the Bible means by “heart.” We are not up against a flippant attitude. This is real conviction. Atheists firmly believe their position and many have shown they are ready to be evangelistic about it.
Thirdly, there is an identification. David says “the fool” says in his heart there is no God. What is a “fool” in the biblical sense? If Jesus says calling another person “fool” is evil, why do we find the word so often in the Bible?
The word occurs 49 times in Proverbs, 18 times in Ecclesiastes, and three times elsewhere in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, “fool” is not an angry expression of hate. It is generally used of a person who is the exact opposite of everything that is wise.
Getting back to what we learned about the heart, the identification of “fool” tells us that what makes an atheist is not simply that he “feels” rather than “thinks.” Atheists are defined by the way they use their hearts—they foolishly close them to the truth and focus their intellect in a direction away from God.
Finally, these first three elements lead to a materialization. David describes the results of an atheistic heart, saying, “They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.”
Your thinking translates into your actions. Nothing good comes from disbelief. If you entertain the possibility that God does not exist in your heart very long, you will soon be behaving as if there is no God, no day of judgment, no afterlife.
But the wise believe there is a God. And that belief bears the fruit of righteousness.