‘All Thinking Men Are Atheists’

Posted on May 2, 2019


By David Ettinger

Deeply Held Conviction
The headline is a famous snippet of dialogue from the Ernest Hemingway novel A Farewell to Arms. It is uncertain as to whether or not Hemingway was an atheist, but the quote reflects a deeply held conviction of atheists regarding believers in the God of the Bible.

This sentiment, however, is not new as 1,900 years before Hemingway the apostle Paul wrote: “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing …” Indeed, atheists in general regard believers in the Lord Jesus Christ as foolish simpletons who thoughtlessly follow the Great Deception that there is a God who created all things, and never bother to question His existence.

Does the Bible teach that where atheists are “thinking men,” God expects His followers to be thoughtless automatons who blindly devote their allegiance to Him and dare not doubt or question? Let’s see.

Engaging the Mind
There are enough Bible passages to disprove Hemingway’s claims. It is clear that believers should be engaging and activating their minds at all times, particularly as part of their relationship with Christ.

  • Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
  • The apostle Peter urged believers: “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge” (2 Peter 1:5).
  • The apostle Paul wrote: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

It is clear that God insists upon his followers using their brains and improving them when it comes to spiritual matters. Paul says: “But he who is spiritual appraises all things” (1 Corinthians 2:15). Appraising, or judging, is the work of a thoughtful, active mind.

Furthermore, history – both long ago and now – is replete with brilliant, “thinking” men and women who believe in the God of the Bible. Some include those who set out to disprove the existence of God, investigated, and came to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Of recent vintage, popular author Lee Strobel comes to mind.

Also, numerous scientists of the past – Isaac Newton among them – devoted their lives and livelihoods to Christ. Today, there are many brilliant biologists, physicists, geneticists, mathematicians, professors, doctors, astronomers, and engineers who are committed believers.

Certainly these astute and accomplished “thinking” men and women do not fit the Hemingway mold. They are all individuals who were/are generously gifted by God and have used their gifts to the glory of their Creator.

The Reality
Far from the fallacy of Hemingway’s quote, it is not atheistic men and women who judge believers, but it is God who judges them. Paul writes:

For it is written, “I [God] will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness [from the world’s perspective] of the message preached to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:19-21).

At the same time, believers are to be merciful to unbelievers, particularly those who scoff at us and regard us fools. Remember, it is God who opens the eyes of individuals to believe in Him. Paul writes: “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14).  

Pray that God will open the eyes of all “natural” men and women that they may become those who “will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23)!