The Folly of Atheism: Psalm 53


Psalm 53 (NIV)

The fool says in his heart,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
    there is no one who does good.

God looks down from heaven
    on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
    any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
    there is no one who does good,
    not even one.

Do all these evildoers know nothing?

They devour my people as though eating bread;
    they never call on God.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
    where there was nothing to dread.
God scattered the bones of those who attacked you;
    you put them to shame, for God despised them.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
    When God restores his people,
    let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.


This is the one psalm that is repeated in the Psalter (Psalm 14 and Psalm 53). This psalm is important in shaping and forming the worldview of the righteous. The Psalms are never content merely to outline the way of the righteous. The Psalms spend equal time helping us to understand the mind-set of the wicked.

In recent years, we have seen the rise of what is known as the “new atheism.” However, the new atheism is not much different from the old atheism. The atheists go to great lengths to dispel and dismiss a caricatured god, which all true believers would also reject. Atheism, in the end (as noted earlier), is fundamentally not an intellectual problem, but a moral assertion of our autonomy in a very lonely universe. The psalm wants us to understand that atheism robs us of all hope. Atheists live in a shockingly tiny universe that puts humanity at the center as the final measure of all things. In the worldview of the atheist, there is no final judgment, no final setting things right, no redemption, and no New Creation.

We need to remember that the central problem of our age is not too much stress, but too little hope. The Psalms usher us into a world of immense hope. God is prepared to part the Red Seas we face. God is prepared to bring his people into the Promised Land. God is prepared to rescue us from our own demise through the cross. God is prepared to judge the world and to set all things right. In Christ we have a final hope. This is the great confidence of the Christian. We are not left to our own resources. We are not merely the products of time and chance and the random emergence of particular DNA strands. We did not arise out of some primordial soup because of an errant ray of light. We were created in the image of God. We’ve been called to be stewards of his great creation. We stand in his light as the redeemed children of God. We are prepared to serve the poor, rescue the lost, pray for the sick, and play a central role in the redemption of the world. This is the great hope of the Christian, which this psalm points us to. We were all once biblically defined fools, not recognizing who God is, or discerning his great purposes. Now, we are people of hope, and our lives are aligned with his own great life!


Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.