If there was ever an illustration of the truths of Romans 1:18-23, this latest news item from National Public Radio is it:
Jesse Bering’s mother died of cancer on a Sunday, in her own bed, at 9 o’clock at night. Bering and his siblings closed her door and went downstairs, hoping they might somehow get some sleep.
It was a long, hard night, but around 7 a.m., something happened: The wind chimes outside his mother’s window started to chime.
Bering remembers waking to the tinkle of these bells, a small but distinct sound in an otherwise silent house. And he remembers thinking that those bells carried a very specific message.
“It seemed to me … that she was somehow telling us that she had made it to the other side. You know, cleared customs in heaven,” Bering says.
The thought surprised him. Bering was a confirmed atheist. He did not believe in any kind of supernatural anything. He prided himself on being a scientist, a psychologist who believed only in the measurable material world. But, he says, he simply couldn’t help himself.
“My mind went there. It leapt there,” Bering says. “And from a psychological perspective, this was really interesting to me. Because I didn’t believe it on the one hand, but on the other hand I experienced it.”
Why is it, Bering wondered, that even a determined skeptic could not stop himself from perceiving the supernatural? It really bothered him.
It was a very good question, he decided, to take up in his lab.
Bering says that believing that supernatural beings are watching you is so basic to being human that even committed atheists regularly have moments where their minds turn in a supernatural direction, as his did in the wake of his mother’s death.
“They experience it but they reject it,” Bering says. “Sort of override or stomp on their immediate intuition [cf. Rom 1:18--"who suppress the truth in/by unrighteousness"]. But that’s not to say that they don’t experience it. We all have the same basic brain. And our brains have evolved to work in a particular way.”
You can read the full article or listen to it here. Sadly, but predictably, when the article tries to come to some resolution on the matter, it basically throws up its hands by saying such answers are “As unknowable — ultimately — as God himself.”
Let’s listen to Paul again in Romans 1–
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.