There are No Atheists In (or Out of) Foxholes: A Military Chaplain’s Perspective
In 2013, United States Air Force Chaplain (LtCol) Kenneth Reyes published an article that cogently chronicled the historical and aphoristic phrase ‘No atheists in foxholes.’. Immediately, the article was lambasted with an incendiary campaign that demanded the extraction of Chaplain Reyes’s post. Michael (Mikey) Weinstein from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) was expeditious in reviling the article by demanding its removal which subsequently led to the Air Force removing its publication. Weinstein called the article a “bigoted and religious supremacist phrase” and lauded himself with victory once the Air Force removed the article.
Weinstein’s vitriol was not surprising since he does not win in litigation; he is forced to rely on coercion. However, the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) interposed by persuading the Air Force to consider the transparent constitutionality and recurrent legal threats from the MRFF, which eventually caused the Air Force to reinstate the article. Victory for religious freedom and a loss for Weinstein!
Chaplain Scott Reyes’s article is a wonderful military depiction of perseverance that every member of the Armed Forces can relate to, especially if they have served during times of conventional, asymmetric or globalizing warfare. If a member of the Armed Forces is held captive during wartime operations as a prisoner of war (POW), apart from strategic interdictions and a battalion of ground forces, what else is a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine left with? Faith! According to George MacDonald:
How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to him because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.
Notwithstanding the nostalgic and judicious writings by Chaplain Reyes, his article fails to address the Biblical truth that there are no atheists in “or out” of foxholes. This article will present the antithesis to the absurdity of atheism by arguing that there are no atheists in or out of foxholes, because there is no such thing as an atheist. Everyone is intuitively aware of God’s existence as He is the necessary precondition to know or prove anything (known as a transcendental proof).
II. The Transcendental Argument
This article is not a categorical attempt to induce anyone to believe or even prove the existence of God. Why? Everyone knows God exists! Even if a person unequivocally denies the existence of God, their appellation of “atheism” cannot justify anything, let alone their objection to Him. This is why Scripture decries the person who contemptuously refutes the existence of God as a fool (Psalm 14:1). This is not an affront on someone’s intellectual acuity, but in a moral sense, for obstinately evading the tribunal God he or she knows exists.
Psalm 14:1 should never be interpreted as a conjecture, hyperbolic or even a theoretical illustration. Apart from God, it is impossible for anyone to make sense of their objections, moral absolutes, reasoning, knowledge, logic, or anything at all. When they do, they are engaging in activity that is inconsistent with atheism, and is consistent with the Biblical claim that there is no such thing as an atheist.
A. Presuppositional vindication
Defending the Christian faith (apologetics) is an injunction that wields a fruitful endeavor. Presuppositional apologetics is a Reformed modus operandi that commences and concludes with God, presupposes the veracity of Scripture, disproves the futility of human contrivance that obstructs truth, and argues that it is inextricable to deny the sensus deitatis (sense of deity) because it is intrinsically recessed internally which leaves everyone without reprieve. Cornelius Van Til was a proponent of presuppositional apologetics. Van Til’s apologetic can be concisely explained through this following excerpt:
The objective evidence for the existence of God and of the comprehensive governance of the world by God is therefore so plain that he who runs may read. Men cannot get away from this evidence. They see it round about them. They see it within them. Their own constitution so clearly evinces the facts of God’s creation of them and control over them that there is no man who can possibly escape observing it.
If he is self-conscious at all he is also God conscious. No matter how men may try they cannot hide from themselves the fact of their own createdness. Whether men engage in inductive study with respect to the facts of nature about them or engage in analysis of their own selfconsciousness they are always face to face with God their maker.
Christians must learn how to contend for the faith that was delivered once and for all the saints. A professing atheist will not be amicable toward any worldview that does not consort with their faulty trajectory. It is plausible that a professing atheist will slander or libel a Christian of using a presuppositional apologetic that is viciously circular. Dr. Greg Bahnsen provides a response of how a Christian should respond to a fallacious charge that a professing atheist will deem as viciously circular:
In the Christian worldview, however, the Christian is not engaged in viciously circular argument, a circular argument on the same plane. We appeal above and beyond the temporal realm. God’s self-revelation in nature and in Scripture informs us of the two-level universe. God is not a fact like other facts in the world. He is the Creator and Establisher of all else. His existence alone makes the universe, and reason, and human experience possible. The “circularity” of a transcendental argument is not at all the same as the fallacious ‘circularity’ of an argument in which the conclusion is a restatement (in one form or another) of one of its premises.”
A debate between a presuppositional apologist and a professing atheist will produce a juxtaposed effect. If both are asked about their scrupulous research on the infallibility of Scripture, the presuppositional apologist would say: “I believe the Holy Scripture is undoubtedly the only source of sufficient and irrevocable truth.” The professing atheist would say: “I don’t believe in Scripture because I need palpable evidence that everything recorded in it is true.”
Here’s the quandary: both are given evidence (Scripture), but there are two diametrically opposed conclusions. The affirmations brought into the evidence are their presuppositions. This is the contradistinction between a presuppositional apologist and an atheist: a presuppositional apologist (does not demand evidence for God’s existence) can corroborate their knowledge claims because of revelation from God, while the atheists cannot (demands evidence for God). The former justifies the very concept of evidence, while the latter does not.
If Scripture repeatedly calls the rancorous person a fool who adamantly rebuffs the notion of God’s existence, how should a Christian respond? Response: Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself (Proverbs: 26:4). Sadly, most Christians will attempt to placate the atheist with evidence. According to apologist and debater Sye Ten Bruggencate, providing evidence to anyone that denies God in an effort to prove His existence, is erroneous.
Here is why: in a criminal or civil court that adjudicates legal proceedings, whom is evidence distributed to? Evidence is given to a judge or jury. What does the judge or jury do with the evidence? They impose judgment. Ten Bruggencate offers a plausible argument: when evidence is given to a fool to substantiate the infallibility of Scripture and God’s existence, and the fool disregards them, they now become judge and jury over the immanent and transcendent glory of God who is a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts or passion.
Empowering a person with evidence to determine God’s existence or not will eventually lead to disaster. The same fool that demands inculpatory evidence for God to determine if He consorts with his or her credence or not, will also be the same fool that will euphorically feel elevated to dictate the statute of limitations on their own sins to the one true God that will judge them. An additional caveat: will a person’s authority change if they concede that God has met their standard of proof by examining the preponderance of evidence that was presented? No! They are still their own authority and judge that determines if God exists or not, because their emotions have assumed authority as the ultimate test of truth.
This article is not denying evidence as edifying to a Christian. The creation account, the worldwide flood, parting of the Red Sea, and the miracles of Christ: casting out demons, cleansing the lepers, healing a man born blind, healing Peter’s mother in-law, raising the dead, restoring an ear, walking on water, stilling the storm, turning water into wine, feeding thousands and resurrecting gloriously and miraculously are all captivating proofs. Do all of the aforementioned miracles need to be given to a person who demands proof for God’s existence? Absolutely not! According to Thomas Aquinas: “To one who has faith no explanation is necessary. To one without faith no explanation is possible.”
III. Unveiling the incredulity & falsity of atheism
What do math books have in common with professing atheists? They are both filled with innumerable problems. This is not a facetious statement but rather an asseveration. Professing atheists are not able to address the transcendental proof of God’s existence and are unable to justify their ability to know anything. Instead, they employ circular reasoning, equivocation fallacies, frigid speculations and extrapolating values to justify their destructive worldview since they cannot account for anything without first borrowing from the Christian worldview. According to Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck:
In an absolute sense, therefore, nothing is atheistic. And this witness of Scripture is confirmed on every side. There is no atheistic world. There are no atheistic peoples. Nor are there atheistic persons. The world cannot be atheistically conceived since in that case it could not be the work of God but would have to be the creation of an anti-god.
In addition, during the (Does God Exist?) great debate between Dr. Greg Bahnsen (Presuppositional Apologists) and Dr. Gordon Stein (Atheist Activist), Bahnsen presented the transcendental proof for God’s existence by devaluing the atheist’s presuppositions by elucidating:
The atheist world view is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist world view cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes.
A. Unable to account for, or prove anything
Professing atheists are volatile when discussing the transcendental proof for God.
They describe faith as a mystical faculty when everything they profess to believe in typifies faith while rejecting the God they know exists.
Because professing atheists reject a foundational belief system that starts and ends with God, they are left with interminable babble that does not prove anything, except the manifestation of human ingenuity and delirious superstition that is undoubtedly superfluous. Again, this is why the Bible calls the person who denies God a fool (Psalm 14:1). French Theologian John Calvin explains that the expression of fool is primarily added to those who: “as will shortly appear, stifle the light of nature, and intentionally stupefy themselves.”
A professing atheist will demand evidence for the existence of God. It is imperative that evidence is never supplied towards this heedless stipulation in an effort to satisfy that demand. Why? They know God exists and they already have the proof they need and so does everybody else who draws their next breath. When a professing atheist becomes disputatious with a Christian and they want to contemptuously dialogue, they have already unveiled their surmise that truth exists because it would be impossible to dialogue about truth, if truth does not exist. Christians should never attempt to expose an atheist’s distorted ideologies by coaxing them into believing God’s existence, because such an exercise is answering the fool according to his folly and denies an indisputable certainty that they already know (Romans 1:19-20).
An atheistic worldview of suppressing truth cannot account for the validity of strict principles. The universal, abstract, invariant laws of logic cannot be made sense of by atheists whose hypothesizing amounts to scientific guesses, not absolute truth. Considering the laws of logic conventional is nonsensical because different civilizations use different sets or principles of law. In addition, the laws of logic are never justified by stipulating or yielding to a consensus to dictate truth because not everyone will produce the same answer, and everyone is capable of inadvertent blunders and fabrication.
What are the dissimilarities between an atheist and a theist? The atheist cannot account for anything as they appeal to their autonomous reasoning, and seek to justify doing so with their autonomous reasoning. How do they know their reasoning is valid? Apart from revelation, they cannot. A theist (Christian) can account for the laws of logic because of a super naturalistic worldview that is consistent with universal, abstract invariant entities, and is justified by revelation. This is why an atheist has to borrow from the Christian worldview because they are impotent of justifying anything apart from God.
An atheistic worldview cannot account for moral absolutes because they have no justification for absolutes of any kind. Most atheists will say that they are absolutely certain that there is no such thing as absolutes, which is self-refuting babble. Why can’t an atheistic worldview justify moral absolutes? If an atheist denies the existence of God, they lose their appeal to absolute knowledge and nothing could be absolutely morally wrong. This includes: rape, incest, pedophilia, homosexuality, and even murder. Without any moral justification, a professing atheist will still insist that some things are in fact absolutely wrong but suppress the truth in unrighteousness about their only possible justification for such a claim. Why? Because atheists are infatuated with their sin and refuse to submit to God they undoubtedly know exists.
IV. Incontrovertible evidence of the only true God that everyone knows exists
The evidence that will be unveiled in this section is not to proselytize or supply proof to anyone who demands evidence to determine God’s existence. Anyone that contends with God’s existence cannot justify any knowledge claims about God unless they can justify knowledge. Apart from God there is no knowledge. This is why the Scriptures teach: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7). The purpose of this section is to corroborate the fact that everyone already knows, and for prayer that God will grant His elect repentance leading to a knowledge of truth (2 Timothy 2:25). The Westminster Longer Catechism (question 2) provides a model of rectitude that coherently delineates the existence of God:
Question: How doth it appear that there is a God? Answer: The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God (Romans 1:19-20); but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
A. Invisible Attributes
Everyone is aware of the power and majesty of God. General revelation is sufficient enough that nobody can efface themselves from the truth of an eternal and sovereign designer. There are always going to be incorrigibly rebellious men that will not prostrate themselves before God because of their hatred of Him. Nevertheless, the one who denies the existence of God by obstructing truth cannot escape His perpetual beauty, “because the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). The magnitude and supremacy of God’s superlative glory in general revelation will remind all men that they are without excuse:
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 (Romans 1:19-20).
B. Intrinsic Knowledge
All men by nature have a conscience awareness of the moral law because it is indelibly engraved in their hearts and imbued by God with certain attributes that men and women possess. This argument disfigures the atheistic trajectory of no moral absolutes because everyone is innately aware of the moral law. Any worldview that denies this fundamental truth is a trifling and incendiary device that is incoherent, and not illuminating. The apostle Paul provides a commentary which will explain why:
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them (Romans 2:14-15).
C. Servile dependency
Human life is wholly contingent upon God. Atheists should be in servile fear when they speak of God, instead of scoffing at the One they know exists. The Lord of hosts cannot only trample them with wrathful rebukes and punish all the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, but He is also the God who sustains everything to include the breath they use to slander Him. If an atheist draws their last breath and does not fall prostrate with their eyes weary and throats parched (due to mourning and genuine repentance), God will not overlook the executions of His wrath. Apart from the mercies of God in this dispensation of grace, there is no life (Acts 17:28).
D. Special revelation
As previously discussed, all mankind possess an intrinsic knowledge of God that is innately given to them by general revelation. God reveals himself by special revelation which is not given to all man, but only to those whom it reaches. There is another fundamental difference between general and special revelation which reminds everyone that they are without excuse for their sins (general), while Scripture (special) constitutes salvation. The Holy Spirit which propels the Word of God can illuminate a mind to see the beauty and wisdom of salvation.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
Some people in the military profess to be atheists. If evidence is distributed to the atheist, they will not be enamored with joy, but elevated as judge. In this case (atheistic argument), God is not tribunal, but on trial. The atheists will demand proof not penitence, and they will not obey Scripture, but obstinately suppress. In regard to God’s existence, please remember that atheists are not ill-advised, but intuitively aware. Pray that God will turn their: hatred into holiness, arrogance into augmentation, death into deliverance, and their suppression into salvation. For His Glory!
 Retrieved on April 9, 2016 from: http://www.jber.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123359099
 Retrieved on April 9, 2016 from: http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/press-releases/2013/HuffPost_Victory_Hatemail_7-24-13.html
 Please review article from the ACLJ that was retrieved on April 9, 2016 from: http://media.aclj.org/pdf/letter-to-colonel-brian-duffy.pdf
 Retrieved on April 9, 2011 from: http://www.jber.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123359099
 MacDonald, George. Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood. New York: Harper & Bros., 1867.
 This article is attributed to the careful research and scrutiny from my friend and mentor Sye Ten Bruggencate. Sye is a presuppositional apologist, solidified debater, conference speaker and contributor to www.proofthatgodexists.org.
 Van Til, Cornelius. The Defense of the Faith. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1967, 195.
 DeMar, Gary. Pushing the Antithesis: The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen. Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2007, 124.
 See 1689 London Baptist Confession (Chapter 2): Of God and of the Holy Trinity (1)
 Bavinck, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004, 56-57.
 The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Dr. Greg Bahnsen versus Dr. Gordon Stein. Segment One: I. Opening Statement (3)
 John Calvin and Translated by Henry Beveridge. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008, 13.
Chaplain (Capt) Sonny Hernandez is a US Air Force Reserve Chaplain assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. In April 2015, he was selected as the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Individual Mobilization Augmentee Company Grade Officer of the Year. Hernandez earned a Doctorate from Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The opinions expressed here are solely his and do not necessarily represent the views of any government, military, or religious organization. Sonny Hernandez wrote this article as a civilian on his own time on an issue of public interest.