Years ago, somebody sent me a video by well-known atheist Penn Jillette, in which he was thrown into what was clearly a frustrating intellectual quandary. He marveled that anyone could believe the foolish stories in the book of Genesis. He particularly marveled that intelligent people with whom he was friends embraced the silly story of Noah’s ark and the Genesis flood.
I watched a few other videos made by him, and it was evident that even though he himself was intelligent (and likable), he hated God with a passion. Penn is an atheist who is so staunch in his beliefs, he crosses out “In God We Trust” from every dollar bill that passes his way.
He even went to the trouble of making videos about the Bible. In one, he twisted a verse and claimed it said something it didn’t, and then showed his disdain by kicking the Bible and throwing other copies of the Scriptures over his shoulder. He had questions, but it was evident that he wasn’t humbly seeking answers.
And so, this popular despiser of Christianity was left marveling about why intelligent people believed the “foolish” stories in the book of Genesis.
This marveling of “despisers” is addressed in Scripture. When Paul preached the gospel in Antioch, he said, quoting the prophets,
“‘Behold, you despisers,
Marvel and perish!
For I work a work in your days,
A work which you will by no means believe,
Though one were to declare it to you.’” (Acts 13:41)
Notice that the Scriptures say that despisers will “by no means believe” the thing that God has done, even if it was declared to them.
The proud are often offended by the word “believe.” They believe that faith is intellectually beneath them, even though all healthy human relationships, business dealings, and political alliances between nations rest on the foundation of faith. If there is no trust, there is no relationship. If I don’t believe you, it means I think that you are a liar.
The “work” of God referred to is that He has “chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27). He deliberately placed incidents in His Word that are an offense to the proud mind.
Who in his right mind would ever be so childish as to believe that Noah built a great ark and that all those animals came in two by two? Anyone with any intellectual dignity, with any pride of heart, would never stoop to believe such childish foolishness.
“If anyone with a humble heart studies the case for the Noahic flood, they will find great nuggets of evidence for its credibility.”
Such is the manifold wisdom of God. He has chosen foolish things to confound the wise.
Jesus warned that we must stoop to enter the kingdom of God. To be saved from death and a very real Hell, we must become as little children and simply believe the gospel, offensive though it may be to the human ego (Matthew 18:3).
As in Noah’s day, those who do not believe are shut out of the kingdom of God. Those who refuse to believe will be left marveling and will perish in their sins.
The irony is that the book of Genesis is a goldmine for intellectual scrutiny. If anyone with a humble heart studies the case for the Noahic flood, they will find great nuggets of evidence for its credibility.
The problem is that the proud attack Genesis with an army of straw men. If one crumbles, they have a multitude of others lined up for battle. They continue the fight, because they aren’t seeking the truth, but are trying to justify their own love for sin. Men still love darkness rather than light (John 3:19).
So, when I fish for men, I’m looking for those who are humble. I test the waters with three questions. The first is, “Do you think there’s an afterlife?” The second is, “Do you think you are a good person?” and the third is, “Are you afraid of dying?”
The way they answer those questions lets me know if they are humble or proud. And then I adapt accordingly. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5), so I do the same. The proud are given the Law, and the humble are given the gospel. The latter are those who will listen to how Genesis uniquely addresses the big questions about our origins. They will listen to how it tells us of our purpose, the reality of evil, the cause of human suffering and disease, the reason for death, and even the promise of life that is found in Jesus Christ alone.