Billboard or Bible: Atheism's Billboard Evangelism (Pt. 1)

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  • Wallace Henley Portrait
    (By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)
    Wallace Henley is an exclusive CP columnist.
By Wallace Henley, Special to CP
November 13, 2013|8:04 am

Atheism has a new proposition for you: There is no life after death.

"Enjoy life now – there is no afterlife," shouts a billboard appearing currently in Janesville, Wisconsin. Wayne Hensler, its sponsor, said in a Christian Post report that he hopes the sign will inspire other atheists to put up similar roadway messages.

Call it billboard evangelism. Passion is a mark of an evangelist, and Hensler by that standard is definitely an evangelist, because he's so passionate about his belief he's putting up his own money to buy the big sign.

Except, someone protests, "evangelism" is to be the proclamation of "good news" – the Gospel. That's the essence of the New Testament Greek word, evangelium, "good tidings". Thus, an "evangelist" preaches "good news", "gospel", according to Strong, Louw and Nida, Thayer, and a boatload of other Greek scholars.

But wait, Hensler's announcement to humanity might indeed be good news if you are a member of a fraternity at, say, West Virginia University, ranked by Playboy as America's top party school in 2013. (No, I didn't read it in Playboy, but in Huffington Post).

The "glad tidings" or "good news" announced by atheism evangelist Hensler is that a frat guy or anyone else can have at it because "no afterlife" means no ultimate accountability for the way one handles the gift of life entrusted to the person by the Creator – there being none, as other atheist billboards and bus placards have told us.

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Well, that settles that. We can all go about being our own gods, doing what we wish "as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else," the summa theologica of the atheist ethic (practiced by self-identified atheists either with true commitment, or nominally, or not at all, just like Christianity is or is not by self-called Christians).

But then again, why any ethic at all except for expediency? If a person is his own god, expediency is self-interest, which might justify actions ranging from charitable works because of the self-satisfaction it brings, to killing off several million of your fellow countrymen, as atheist (and former God-believer) Joseph Stalin's expediency demanded.

There are thus "good" atheists and "bad" atheists, just like in every other category of humanity.

Here's the point: Through their billboards, the atheists are shouting propositions (proposals of ideas or actions about which one must make a decision) to passersby. The Bible is also a collection of propositional truths, based on revelation from what billions across history have regarded as Ultimate Authority. So the Battle of the Billboards (Christians are rebutting atheist claims on billboards) signals that atheists now want to enter the War of Propositions in a big way: The billboards versus the Bible.

Consider a few more propositions asserted through atheism's billboard evangelism:

Religion indoctrinates. An atheist billboard depicts a small baby, and has it say, "Please don't indoctrinate me with religion. Teach me to think for myself." I am sure there are atheists somewhere who buy their children the works of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Stephen Hawking, the late Christopher Hitchens, and other notable atheists, and the writings of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Anselm of Canterbury, Blaise Pascal, B.B. Warfield, John Warwick Montgomery, William Lane Craig, Hugh Ross, Peter Stoner, Lee Strobel, Frances Schaeffer, Nancy Pearcey, and other giants of apologetics. Alas, some atheists are more like a beloved non-believing friend and journalism mentor of mine who told me, "I regret I never gave my children the option of considering belief in God."

"All religions are fairy tales." Let's pause a moment and contemplate the atheist "fairy tale" – that things popped into being on their own like Cinderella's fairy godmother. For atheism this is actually a self-defeating argument. One of the major reasons atheists say belief in God is non-rational is that it requires one to believe in aseity, self-creation. Reasonable people know nothing can arise from itself, says atheism. Aristotle noodled on this one as he contemplated the chain of cause and effect, and arrived through reason at God as the First Cause. Stephen Hawking, however, declared God unnecessary because he could theorize the void, "nothing", creating "something" on its own, implying that non-being created being, that non-mind created mind. This is aseity dressed in a lab coat. Why is the Bible's revelation of aseity a "fairy tale" and atheism's isn't?

"Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence." But the atheists have failed to provide the "extraordinary evidence", the belief-obliterating, debate-ending smoking gun regarding the non-existence of God. They demand "extraordinary evidence" from believers but not of themselves and their belief system. "You cannot prove the existence of God," they chant, apparently failing to remember that neither can one "prove" God's non-existence, which makes atheism a faith-system. Most people recognize a faith-based belief as a religion (since it is a doctrine about Ultimate Reality). Thus atheism falls into its own propositional trap that "all religions are fairy tales."

"There's probably no God, so stop worrying." At least this one approaches honesty in its concession that one cannot say with absolute certainty "there is no God". The assertion recognizes that the proposition can only be based on degree-of-probability, not (as we saw above) on conclusive evidence. However, far from freeing a reader from "worry," the proposition would only stir more angst. A thinking person will catch the term "probability" and immediately realize the inference: there is therefore a probability God does exist, stoking worry about just how great that probability is.

Christmas should celebrate reason instead of Jesus. Here's one you might be seeing as we approach Christmas – "You know it's a myth; this season celebrate reason." Great idea. Let's apply reason by examining the nature of propositional statements and the logic of atheism. Caution: People who want atheism to be true may discover that reason gives them little to celebrate.

So, in the next installment of this two-part series we will follow the billboard's admonition to "celebrate reason."

Wallace Henley's thought is forged through a half century seriously studying the Bible, examining and teaching comparative worldviews, as well as covering the tempest of the Deep South civil rights crisis as a young newspaper reporter and editorialist, and as an aide in the Nixon White House and U.S. Congress, and as an on-site observer of the impact of communism's state atheism, as well as in up-close encounters with belief systems in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and in academic studies at Samford University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and in writing more than a dozen books, the most recent, Globequake (Thomas Nelson), which examines theological, philosophical, social, political, and cultural change in our time. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.
 

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