Letter to an Atheist – Theology Essay
Over the years, we have conversed about the existence of God. We have discussed creation and the unlikely theory that this vast, varied, and complex universe could have just come into existence by accident or have evolved over a trillion years.
We have considered the Apostle Paul’s argument that from the creation of the world people have seen the earth and the sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So they are without excuse whatsoever for not knowing God. (See Romans 1:19-20.)
These observations and other reasoning’s seemingly did not convince you of the existence of an almighty, awesome, and loving God. A God we can know personally and who knows us personally. (See Psalm 139.) You have had friends and now a dear loved one die. “The question now comes back to me,” you say, “How does one face death? I’m an atheist, but I have no idea what’s on the other side. Is there an after life? When someone dies, I often think about what happens – where do they go?”
My friend, that’s a very perceptive and critical question. I think that it was Mark Twain who observed that there are only two things certain in life – death and taxes. “Everyone must die.” This trite sentence conceals a mass of questions, problems, yearnings, and troubles that have plagued all of us at some time in our lives. Is death the end of everything? Is this life as good as it gets? Or, is there an eternal life? Someone once said that there are no atheists in a foxhole. Perhaps that is true.
In the book The Faith Letters by Helmut Thielicke, the story is told about the death of the wife of an older member of their project group in Germany. Some friends from America sent a letter of sympathy to the grieving gentleman.
. . . It would be of little use to come to you now with pious clichés. But you should know that we suffer with you, that we accompany you in love upon your lonely way and that your name is spoken again and again in our prayers. Those who do not know God can only see death as the archfiend. For them it is the end and severs their relationship with everything we consider dear and valuable. For us Christians, however, it is only an incident, hardly an interruption. In the New Testament we are repeatedly struck by the spirit of joy which overcomes the pain of death. We pray that this certainty may also be yours . . .”
The letter refers to “the incident of death”. The terror of death often appears as the absolute end. Consider how many deal with death. In many countries, funeral homes no longer use black hearses, but are “disguising” them in neutral colors. People are getting away from many customs of grieving to keep from reminding them of death. In the New Testament we are always struck by the spirit of joy concerning death. The focus is not on the way people “experience” death. The basis of the New Testament’s message and hope is not the human incapacity to bear death in its harshness but the defeat of death itself by and through Jesus Christ. Thielicke says, “The New Testament is thus not concerned how death can be made subjectively bearable, but with the victory over death as an objective power.”
My friend, you ask “What happens in the end?” The Apostle Paul addressed that question. “If in this life only we have hope (in Christ), we are of all men most miserable” (I Corinthians 15:19). He further declared, “I face death daily . . . And what value was there in fighting wild beasts . . . if there be no resurrection from the dead? If there is no resurrection, let’s feast and get drunk, for tomorrow we die!” (I Corinthians 15:31-32 NLT). The hope and teaching of the Word of God is resurrection. Death is not the end. Death was conquered by Jesus when he arose from the dead on the third day, victorious over death, hell, and the grave. Jesus says, “Because I live you shall live also.” Jesus gave this promise to Martha after raising Lazarus from the dead, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish . . .” (John 11:25-26 NLT).
When we put faith in Christ and receive him as Savior and Lord, He takes us into His fellowship and will never let us go. He will go with us through deaths door and he will, as in the conversation with the penitent thief on the cross, “be with us in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
My friend, I noticed that the words “Love Says It All” was stamped on the back of the envelope that your letter came in. It’s so true. Paul writes concerning the power of Easter, “Neither death nor life . . . can separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 NLT).
How do we face death? Look to the one who is victor over death – Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but has eternal life” (John 3:16).