Can An Atheist Have Faith?

I have often heard it asserted – as you may have as well – by many Christians that they don’t have enough faith to be an atheist. Alright, I admit it, I’ve said it too.

But if we are to break free from the temptation of the post-modern culture all around us, we cannot define what faith is based on human reason and understanding alone. We are told, ‘do not lean on your own understanding.’ in Proverbs 3:5. The problem with the secular definition of faith (and for that matter, anything that the world defines) is that it reduces the meaning of faith to simply ‘what you believe in’. But faith is something given to us by God (Eph. 2:8-9), and if given to us by God, then we must seek God’s definition of what it is. What is faith? Not, what do we think faith is? But, what does God say it is? And if faith is good, which it is, and every good thing comes from God (James 1:16-17), then we do not have the authority or license to reduce faith to a relative definition. It is the the opinion of this blogger, that an atheist cannot have faith, that is, faith that is called faith by God. Does God call it faith when someone is actually being rebellious because they want to believe that there is no God? Does the atheist, in himself, please God? The scripture says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6).

I just received a set of ‘Reformed Dogmatics’ by Herman Bavinck and I was excited to get them partly due to my interest in this topic. I have to say, I was NOT disappointed. I have been very interested in Bavinck for a little while now. Having seen this set on more than one bookshelf of friends who are in the ministry and inquiring as to the lucidity and comprehension of his writing, I became even more interested with the glowing responses that I was getting. In fact, I had one friend tell me, the only books on theology that I would ever need were, Calvin’s Institutes and Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics. That may be, but I think I’ll hold on to the others just in case!

Well anyway, I dug into Bavinck, volume four, as soon as I got it with my curiosity about to kill me. Now, I will tell you that in volume one (Prolegomena), Bavinck spends some time defining ‘faith’ as to how it is defined by the world and then also what is true faith as defined by the Bible, which is very good, but I found the excerpt below in volume four (Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation). He starts the quote off with, “Biblically speaking…..” which I must make the comment, that there is no other way in which we as Christians should ever be thinking.


Biblically speaking, faith is trust-filled surrender to God and His word of promise. In the new Testament, this trust involves acceptance of the apostolic witness concerning Christ and personal trust in Christ as Savior and risen, exalted Lord. In church history, however, as is the case of Rome, faith was often reduced to intellectual assent. Personal assurance was decidedly secondary and often lost altogether. For Calvin, faith was personal confidence in God’s benevolence towards us “revealed to our minds and sealed on our hearts” by the Holy Spirit.

The Reformation, however, did make it clear that knowledge was not to be set aside. Knowledge and trust, intellect and will, were both included in the understanding of faith.”

A self-professed atheist will generally claim that they are basing their belief system on intellectual reason and scientific method, but as Bavinck states above faith is not without reason, it is the fulfillment of it.


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