Atheists’ Children and Their God
- Explain the concept of common grace. What are the implications for apologetics?
Theologians speak of the grace of God in two categories; common grace and special grace. Special grace is that which is given to those who receive the gift of salvation. Common grace is that which God gives to all regardless of their spiritual condition. Farmers grow crops whether they are believers or non-believers because the rains come at the right time in the right amounts. The world operates according to predictable laws such that it can be studied and technology can be developed. Moreover, since actions have predictable consequences, they are meaningful. All of this points to a creator and sustainer of the world. Even children intuitively recognize this whether their parents believe or not.
What this means for apologetics is that we do not need to point out new information to the skeptic, but point to that which they already know. I once heard a college professor claim that people believe in God because they are socialized to do so. However, it seems to me that the opposite is true. Children seem to recognize God’s existence and need to be socialized to disbelieve (by skeptical professors.)
As Pearcey points out, Paul wrote about this in Romans (28):
We all suppress the evidence for God from creation.
Romans 1:18—[They] suppress the truth.
Romans 1:21—Although they knew God, they did not honor
him as God or give thanks to him.
Romans 1:28—They did not see fit to acknowledge God.
Pearcey rightly notes that this is a clear case of denial.
Denial is understandable for the one who notices the signs that God exists, yet does not know the Gospel. God’s existence, and his holiness, is terrifying news to someone who does not know that mercy is being offered.
We have our work cut out for us.