The functional atheist says with his mind “there is a God” while the intellectual atheist says with his mind “there is no God”. However, both agree with their hearts that the God of the Bible does not exist. Experientially both create a god with their mind, theoretically each god exists infinitely, but practically neither god actually exists. Take a look at the following video and you’ll see what I mean.
Here are a few noteworthy statements from the video:
1:16 O’Reilly says he doesn’t know anyone that believes Noah’s Ark is a true story
1:39 Maher says the Bible was written by God
1:43 O’Reilly states the Bible is allegorical
1:56 O’Reilly states the Bible is not to be a literal interpretation
2:05 Maher brings up a classic atheist argument, i.e. questioning certain “difficult” passages out of context. Here he makes reference to Deuteronomy. He must be referring to a commandment to keep the Sabbath holy, but the actual passage based on his description is from Numbers 15:32-36 and points back to the command of God to “put to death” those who profane the Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-17). In Numbers, a man was gathering sticks on the Sabbath and was brought before Moses for his violation of the newly established law. Moses, in being obedient to God, had the man stoned to death. The Sabbath-breaker was acting in clear defiance of God’s law, i.e. the typical “God doesn’t really mean it” mentality. His punishment was to set precedence that yes God really does mean to have His law kept, even to the smallest letter. God was perfectly just, perfectly righteous in punishing the blatant sin of the man who violated His law. Maher’s misunderstanding of this passage stems from the fact that he has not recognized sin in himself and does not realize that God will punish his sin in the exact same way, namely through death. The natural mind cannot discern the things of God.
2:49 O’Reilly again states the Bible is allegorical and asserts the “New Testament is what he believes” to which Maher replies you can’t pick and choose, both the Old and New Testaments were written by God. Just a note, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is allegorical. The Bible on the other hand is the Word of God, big difference.
3:22 O’Reilly makes reference to the “love half” of the Bible. This is actually a pretty typical view of the Bible within the Church today. Many see the “God of the Old Testament” as being harsh, mean, wrathful, and vengeful while the “God of the New Testament” is meek, gentle, pacifist, and loving. Nothing could be further from the truth. First God does not change, we say He is immutable. So there are not two “gods” of the Bible, there is one, unchanging God. Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Secondly the depiction of God in the Old Testament IS a picture of love. It shows how much God loved His people, Israel, and how He wanted them to love Him back but they refused over and over again despite God’s longsuffering patience with them. Finally, Jesus was anything but the peaceful pacifist that He’s so often depicted as. He came full of grace and truth, however in Matthew 10:34 He states, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” No one anywhere in Scripture spoke more of Hell and punishment than did Jesus. Throughout His ministry on earth he rebuked the religious Pharisees calling them vipers, wolves, whitewashed tombs filled with dead men’s bones and called King Herod a “old fox.” Fast forward to Revelation and the description given of Jesus is quite different than this pop culture meek Jesus that has become popular. Did He teach us to love, absolutely, but Jesus likewise rebuked, chastised, and condemned when necessary. (See Matthew 16:23, John 6:52-61, John 3:18)
4:17 Maher makes an excellent point that Islamic terrorists take their holy book seriously but Christians do not take the Bible seriously. Perhaps that is because most, like O’Reilly, consider it allegory.
It might be difficult to discern from the video which one was the actual atheist and which one wasn’t. By the way, this is exactly how NOT to have a conversation with an intellectual atheist. First of all, if you’re going to have this kind of exchange, at least know your Bible and know what you believe. The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3:15 to always be ready to give a defense for what you believe. It actually sounded like Bill Maher had a better knowledge of the Bible than did professing Christian Bill O’Reilly.
Bill Moyer is an intellectual atheist believing with his mind that there is no God. His heart would be in accord with what his mind believes and subsequently we would say he lacks faith in God. On the other hand Bill O’Reilly is a functional atheist, believing with his mind that there is a God. However, his heart does not know the God of the Bible, so he too lacks faith in God relying instead upon faith in his own factual knowledge functioning as though the god he knows, or has created with his mind, is the One True God. J.I. Packer makes a distinction in his classic book Knowing God as he states there is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Biblically we read of such knowledge in Mark 1:24 as an “unclean spirit” cries out to Jesus, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God.” What’s amazing in this passage is that even a demon, a worker of Satan, knows who Jesus is, while today so many men run around claiming there is no God, mired in intellectual atheism. Still others, just like this unclean spirit, have a functional knowledge of God even to the point of belief, but it more closely resembles that which James 2:19 refers to as demon faith, “even the demons believe, and shudder.” In the end, we can know all the facts about God, but if we don’t truly know who God is, as a Father, and Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then we are just as lost as an atheist. Perhaps the more important question to ask then is not, “Do you know God?” but “Does God know you?” Galatians 4:9 “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?”