But perhaps the evidence for God is not clear, one might object. Or perhaps the human being just does not have the capacity for perceiving or understanding the revelation. That will not do, says Paul, for God has made the revelation of himself so clear that it has, in fact, been clearly seen and understood by all, so that they are without excuse for failing to seek God out and then praise and thank him. His words are: “What may be known about God [that is, from nature] is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (vv. 19, 20). According to these verses, the revelation of God in nature is not hidden so that only a highly skilled scientist may find it. It is open and manifest to everyone. A child can see it. There is enough evidence of God in a snowflake, a fingerprint, a flower, a drop of water to lead any honest member of the human race to believe in God and worship him. Every single object in the world shouts “God” to humanity.
Here is the second question: If that is so, if the revelation of God in nature is as clear as Paul declares it to be, why would any sane person reject it? Why would anyone be so foolish as to say, “There is no God.”
Romans answers this question too. In the verse immediately preceding the one I have quoted, Paul argues that people “suppress the truth” about God by or because of their “godlessness and wickedness” (v. 18). This means that they try to live without God because they do not like him. Everything about him is an offense to them. He is sovereign; they are not, though they wish they could be. He is holy; they are not. His holiness is a condemnation of their sin. He is omniscient; they are not. They find his knowledge of them to be unsettling. He is love; they are filled with hatred. He is gracious; they are ungracious. He is wise; they are foolish. They are so foolish that they suppress what they really do know about him and cry, often with great heat and sometimes even with great sophistication, “There is no God.”
The result, as both the apostle and the psalmist declare, is corruption. Paul unfolds it at length in Romans 1, showing three sharp downward steps in the progressive degeneration of the race. David says the same thing, though more succinctly: “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good (v. 1).
Hebrew, like English, has quite a few words for describing those who are unwise. They correspond to words such as simple, silly, simpleton, fool and madman.1 The word used in this verse is nabel, which embraces the idea of a foolish but also an aggressively perverse personality. It is folly which expresses itself in evil acts. There is a man in the Bible who was called Nabal. He was the husband of Abigail, who later became the wife of King David. Nabal was churlish and perverse, so much so that Abigail herself said of him, “He is just like his name—his name is Fool, and folly goes with him” (1 Sam. 25:25). Nabal perished suddenly and miserably. It is always this way. H. C. Leupold rightly says, “Atheism bears its proper fruit in rotten conduct.”2
1See Arno C. Gaebelein, The Book of Psalms: A Devotional and Prophetic Commentary (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux, 1965), p. 65.2H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), p. 139.