May 3: Psalm 14

May 3: Psalm 14

The biblical fool

76.76 D                     Munich (O Word of God, Incarnate), p. 129
Passion Chorale (O Sacred Head), p. 140

The fool in heart is saying, “There surely is no God.”

Corrupt and vile their deeds are; not one of them does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on sons of men abroad

To see which one has wisdom, if any seeks for God.

All far astray have wandered; they all to vileness run.

Not one of them is righteous, no, not a single one.

Have they of truth no knowledge, these evilworkers all,

Who eat like bread my people and on God do not call?

There shall they be in terror for God is with the just;

They shame the poor and needy but Yahweh is his trust.

Salvation out of Zion who will to Isr’el bring?

The Lord brings back His captives. Joy, Jacob! Isr’el, sing!

Psalm 14 is almost identical with Psalm 53. It begins with what the fool says in his heart—“There is no God.” Taking this verse as thematic, we may say that the present psalm explores the relationship of atheism to folly. “Fool” in Holy Scripture is a word rather of moral than of purely intellectual reference. Folly, in the Bible, is a thing deliberately chosen. What is wrong with the biblical “fool” is always a matter of the heart. If the fool does not understand, it is because he is intentionally blind; he is hard of heart. So what does this fool say in this hardened heart of his? “There is no God.” In the Bible, that is to say, atheism is a sort of ultimate folly, a denial of what is virtually self-evident. In our present psalm, indeed, the reasoning of the atheist is actually a mere contrivance for corruption – the atheist does not want to know God. By way of explaining the motive for saying that “there is not God,” our psalmist continues: “They are corrupt. They have done abominable works. There is none who does good.” (quoted by Paul in Rom. 3:10-12) The folly of the fool, then, is not born of atheism. On the contrary, the atheism is born of the folly. The atheist does not know God, because he has chosen not to seek God. The constant, unreversed cultivation of sin leads in due course to total blindness, even blindness to what is self-evident. (Reardon, p. 25-26)

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