When we hear the word “atheist” these days, we think of an individual who denies the existence of any sort of deity. Moreover, the atheist is typically a naturalist and a materialist who rejects the notion of any supernatural influence, and embraces a humanistic worldview where man is simply an autonomous creature not bound or restricted by any transcendental entity. The American Atheists website defines atheism as follows: “Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity, which implies that nothing exists but natural phenomena (matter), that thought is a property or function of matter, and that death irreversibly and totally terminates individual organic units. This definition means that there are no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of or apart from physical nature, or which transcend nature, or are “super” natural, nor can there be. Humankind is on its own.”
Recently I have been reading Justin Martyr’s, First Apology, and I found it interesting the charges he was refuting made against Christians during the 2nd century. What was so interesting about the charges being refuted? Christians were accused of being atheists. How can Christians be considered atheists? Well, the term “atheist” not only means to deny any form of deity, but it also carries with it the idea of a person who believes in a particular deity that is not the same deity worshiped by the larger society. In other words, if 20 people worship a tree and 1 person decides to worship a rock, the rock worshiper is considered an atheist since he refuses to worship the God that is worshiped by the consensus of the society. Christians were considered atheists because they refused to worship all of the idols and false gods that were being worshiped during the 1st and 2nd centuries. These days, atheism is the complete opposite of what was going on during Justin Martyr’s day, but it does exemplify the continual decay of our culture. I remember reading in Francis A. Schaeffer’s book, Death in the City, his assessment that man used to believe that something was out there, but nowadays people believe nobody is home.
With all that being said, I wanted to share with all of you some of Justin Martyr’s writings from his First Apology, where he responds to the accusations of Christians being atheists. I will be posting citations from his writings in the following days so stay tuned. May we be challenged and encouraged by Justin Martyr and his unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ.