Slightly Obsessed #136: What Is an Atheist?


Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

– Ephesians 2:12

ATHEOS, Atheist: godless; destitute of God; given up by God and excluded from communion with God*

What is an atheist?

The famous musician David Bowie once said:

I’m not quite an atheist and it worries me. There’s that little bit that holds on: ‘Well, I’m almost an atheist. Give me a couple of months.’**

The chance to decide ended for David Bowie on January 10, 2016, when he passed away from the ravages of cancer.

Bowie used the term “atheist” in its popular context, meaning someone who has rejected God’s existence and is therefore free to live without restraint or guilt.

The Biblical definition of “atheist” is much different. The apostle Paul penned the letter to the Ephesians, Gentile believers in Ephesus, who had formerly been pagans. Here the word for “without God” is atheos. These people had previously worshipped gods. They believed. Just not in the right sovereign.

According to Paul, an atheist is not someone who has arrived to a higher plane of consciousness and has no need for a god. He is a person who has been given up by God and excluded from communion with Him. It is a person lost, riding a wave of nothingness into oblivion.

There is a mournfulness about this Scripture. You can almost feel God’s grief.

Atheists are empty. Destitute. Hopeless.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I hope Bowie made the right decision in his final hours, because no one should live in spiritual poverty. God is always willing to fill that void. When the reality of our mortality shakes our world, when the questions outnumber the pat answers we’ve always conjured up, He is waiting to reveal Himself to us who are atheos, without God, in the world.

He will fill us with life and hope and a secure eternity. There is no need to worry in the night, when no one is listening to our bluster, and the fear outweighs the ego.

Are you an atheist? There is hope.


*Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, pp. 491-492



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