Recently, comedian Norm MacDonald of SNL fame died after a lengthy, undisclosed illness. In the days that followed, I jumped down the YouTube rabbit hole of his comedy sketches, standup, and interviews. MacDonald was a weird comic often more content with the jokes that bombed in his dry delivery than ones that were more sure to bring the laughs. It’s as if he preferred inside jokes among a few friends than the adulation of a mainstream audience. Norm was a man who thought deeply and beyond comedy. In a way, I believe all comics are a philosopher of sorts who think deeper than given credit for, but Norm was on another level. He talked about his belief in God even as his dialogue was punctuated with vile humor and F-bombs. I really don’t know if his “beliefs” were devout or mere philosophical, but in one particular interview ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ou3-zq-qHJo&t=632s ) he made this statement.. “every person that has ever lived” intuits the God hypothesis, whether they admit it or not.
I’m fascinated with his insight because it’s quite biblical whether he read it there or not. In Romans 1, Paul writes of God’s judgement towards those who “suppress the truth”. He supports this claim with statements like “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
This is why Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3 why the world was “condemned already”. Whether we ever hear the news of Jesus Christ and his life, death, and resurrection, we are condemned as unrighteous and worthy of God’s wrath. God has revealed enough in his creation to show he exists and is the author of great beauty that a person would/should spend his whole life trying to find him. Not only the external creation is evidence of God, but so are we. The fact that we have bodies, intellect and reason reveals that someone infinitely greater must possess these qualities in order to create humanity. Norm MacDonald is absolutely right. We have this “intuition” that God exists and when we don’t follow it to see where it leads, we end up suppressing the truth like Paul wrote.
Everyone is quick to point to the neo-atheism of our day as evidence of truth suppressors. But that’s an easy diagnosis as the atheist is forthright about their lack of belief and difficulty in assigning meaning and purpose to a god-less existence. If society were to completely follow the atheistic philosophy to its natural conclusion, then society would cease to exist as it imploded on itself.
But the rest of us who are not as transparent still suppress the truth about God. Worse, those of us whose beliefs have moved beyond natural revelation to specific revelation find ourselves in the daily struggle to reveal the truth we naturally want to keep hidden. While the atheist heralds to the world, “I am accountable to no one and will live my like as I choose”, there are other truth-suppressors that are worse in a way. They herald “Jesus is Lord!” while living out the atheist’s herald. It’s what is called Functional Atheism. You proclaim the truth of God with your lips, but live as He doesn’t exist.
There are so many ways we suppress the truth about God. When we choose careers for money and power instead of those that are missional and purpose driven. When we push our kids towards activities that put them in the impossible position of being our personal trophies. When we self-medicate with food, drink, sex, and pleasure as if these things don’t require we keep coming back to them over and over. When we treat our spouses as prostitutes that only serve our selfish needs. When we overlay our political ideology with Christian theology as if they were identical. (avoid the temptation to assume I’m talking about the side of the political fence opposite of yours).
All these things fit the criteria that Paul wrote about in Romans 1 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”
The misplaced idolatry of money, power, and influence played out in our families, careers, and politics are indeed the “images resembling mortal man”. Taking good things that God has given us and making them ultimate is what suppressing the truth looks like.
No one is devoid of the intuition of the hypothesis of God, but because of the mercy of God revealed to us in scripture, we are no longer devoid of the Truth. God exists. He is Lord. He is ultimate. He loves us.