What Can an Atheist Know?
"You're being dishonest. You don't know hell is real, you believe hell is real." Zathras
Have you heard of Tadmor Prison? Do you know if it exists or where it is located? If you don't know anything about it, should you therefore say that someone who maintains it is real, is dishonest? Of course not.
In the natural world, we can't really "know" anything. There was a time when men "knew" that the earth was flat, or that there was nine planets or that the earth was millions of years old. Now they know that it's billions of years old, and they will think they know that until someone who knows better will convince them that they don't know.
We think we know that the sky is blue, but it's not, or that we know the direction of up and down, when we don't. Up is down, down-under. We don't even know if this life is nothing but a dream from which we will awake to reality.
So in a natural world, we can only "know" something to a certain extent--where we are as convinced as can be. But when God wants us to know something, we aren't talking about a natural realm. The equation changes. In the supernatural realm, nothing is impossible and God always has His way.
Even before I came to know God, I didn't doubt His existence for a moment. The amazing order of natural life--from the atom to the universe--told me that there was a super-natural-Maker. It is a scientific impossibility for nature to make itself, because nature would have had to have existed before it made itself.
I also intuitively knew that this supernatural Maker required moral accountability. But it wasn't until I was confronted with God's Law (the Ten Commandments) that I realized the degree of accountability--that He considered lust to be adultery and hatred to be murder.
The moment I acknowledged my sins, the cross made sense to me--I had violated God's Law, but Jesus paid my fine. That meant that God could legally dismiss my case and allow me to live. My death sentence was commuted by the mercy of God.
When I obeyed the gospel, repenting of my sins and trusting alone in Jesus Christ, I was made a new person overnight. It wasn't as though I had simply had a change of mind. It was a complete change of person. Ray Comfort BC died, and Ray Comfort AD came to life.
That was nearly 40 years ago, and I'm still shaking my head at the radical nature of the new birth. I suddenly loved God when I hadn't given Him a serious thought in my 22 years of secular life. I was brand new, had a peace I couldn't understand, and a joy that I couldn't express.
When I opened the Bible, its words came alive and I began to read specific details in this 2,000 year old book of what had happened to me. It explained why I felt brand new, why I had a "peace that passes all understanding" and a "joy unspeakable." It explained everything I had experienced when I "called upon the name of the Lord."
If I purchased a complex appliance that came with an instruction book that told me to follow 27 directions, one after the other, at the end of which the appliance worked, I could then "know" that the book was the correct instruction book. Any other conclusion would be irrational.
The Bible proved itself to be the Maker's Instruction Book that made the appliance work. It proved itself by explaining the supernatural experience of conversion, and it also warns of Hell...hundreds of times.
But there's an even greater reason we can "know" that Hell is real. We know that a fool denies that God exists (see Psalm 14:1), but there is something just as foolish. There are some who acknowledge God's existence but say that He doesn't care about right or wrong--that He has no concern for righteousness, justice and truth.
To believe such is to be guilty of violation of the First and the Second of the Ten Commandments. It is to make up a false image of God, one that says that God couldn't care less that Hitler slaughtered millions of innocents--that He is like a corrupt judge that turns a blind eye to injustice.
Such a belief couldn't be further from the truth. The Bible calls Him "the habitation of Justice," warning that He will "bring every work to judgment including every secret thing, whether it is good or evil."
The Bible tells us that we can supernaturally "know" certain things-"You will know that you have passed from death to life," "You will know the truth and the truth will make you free," "I know and believe and am persuaded..."
The knowledge that a converted person has is far more than an intellectual belief and even more than subjective experiential knowledge.
If you have the word of a Supreme Court judge, you have a high authority--you can pretty much rely on his or her word. If you have the word of a King, you have a high authority that you could certainly depend upon. But in the Bible we have the Word of God, above which there is no higher authority and therefore you can "know" that what it says is absolute truth. And the Word of God warns that there will be a Day of retribution, and that Hell is the just reward of the wicked.
So it would be disingenuous of me to say that I "believe" that Hell is real. I "know" it is, and will therefore spend the rest of my life "warning every man" as the Bible tells me to.
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