The fool speaks. To deny God is foolish. The fool speaks in his heart. His denial of God may be vocal and theoretical. Or he may be a practical atheist, ignoring the law of God, the law which calls God’s people to live in fellowship with him, Psalm 15. Practical atheism is evident in the following verses. The heart is the deepest core of your being. What you are there will work itself out in your life. God calls atheism of either variety foolish. The use of the term “fool” is serious (see Matthew 5:22), but this Psalm uses that language to describe those who deny God. This Psalm closely resembles Psalm 53, except for its use of “God” instead of “the Lord.” You, and all mankind, deal, not with some abstract or generic god, but with, YHWH, the covenant God who is the sovereign Creator and Lord. Foolishness is moral and ethical rather than primarily lacking in intellect or judgment. “They may not plainly deny the existence of a God, but they imagine him to be shut up in heaven, and divested of his righteousness and power; and this is just to fashion an idol in the room of God.” (John Calvin, Commentary on the Psalms, on Psalm 14)
Look at how folly works itself out. No one does good. The Lord looked down from heaven. The Lord’s sight takes you back to his original examination of his creation, Genesis 1:31, but also to his subsequent observation in Noah’s day, and his viewing the builders of the tower of Babel. All are corrupt. No one is exempt from the charge of having turned away from God. Mankind is totally depraved. Paul quotes this Psalm in Romans 3:9-12. He sees this Psalm as summarizing the condition of mankind, including both Gentiles and Jews. The Word of God includes you and me in this indictment. This is not a problem limited to atheistic philosophy professors and high school teachers who promote Darwinian evolution. It is your problem and mine as well to whatever degree we live without taking God and his Word into account. “If a man is only to be pitied, we suppose that he has not had any great opportunities, but if a man is condemned and is called a fool, it must be that he has had great opportunities. Hence the fact itself that Scripture speaks of man as a fool shows that Scripture considers the light that he had as being very great.” (Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology)
The great miscalculation: the wicked never learn. David almost exhorts the wicked to repent. Lack of knowledge may be part of the problem, but the blindness of man is self-inflicted. Man remains culpable. He is responsible for his rebellion and his ensuing miserable condition. The wicked harm God’s people, eating them like bread. Theology and ethics are related! Failure to call on the true God leads to chaos.
David paints a bleak picture. Is there hope? A great day is coming! The folly of atheism miscalculates the consequences: God’s reaction. The Lord comes from Zion, his dwelling place. David may have had in mind a deliverance from an enemy nation, or from some fool like Nabal. But he looks beyond that to a full and glorious salvation. God does come from his dwelling place–in the person of his Son, the Anointed One, Jesus the Christ. Notice how Romans 3 moves from the description of utter sinfulness to the glory of God’s sending his Son to deliver his people from that sin. Christ came to deal with the foolishness of our sinful rebellion, with our explicit denial of him as well as our practical atheism. He brings a restoration which includes not just the people of God, but the whole creation, Romans 8:19-25. This is is both a present and a future reality. Your response should be one of joyful praise. The foolish, self-centered prattling of the atheist is drowned out by the shouts of praise to the living and true God.
Atheism, theoretical and formal, or the subtle, practical kind that tends to hide in our hearts is foolish. But, neither David nor Paul leaves you there. God’s grace in Christ is even more abounding. Rejoice!