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Elijah was an Atheist!  


I know Elijah is one of our Old Testament heroes and for me to label him as an atheist is tantamount to high treason in the Kingdom. But before you start gathering firewood to burn me at the stake, allow me this one opportunity to defend my position.  


Recently I was reflecting on the high drama recorded in 1 Kings 18 when Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal. For reasons that I can't recall, I found myself looking at the whole scene through the eyes of the prophets of Baal - something like a role reversal, if you like.  


Now, our normal perspective is through the eyes and ears of Elijah and that's as it ought to be. From that perspective there is one good guy (Elijah - the prophet of Jehovah) and 450 bad guys (the prophets of Baal).   But from the other perspective (i.e. if you were a prophet of Baal), there were 450 good guys and one bad guy. In the eyes of any of the prophets of Baal, Elijah must have not only appeared to be a bad guy but also an atheist. Elijah obviously didn't believe in the actual existence of Baal. He rubbished and ridiculed such a belief system.  


In response to Elijah's atheistic challenge, the good guys began to call on the name of their god so as to demonstrate his existence and power. They got right into their religious ritual and continued it with intensity until, exhausted, they gave up. Then came these simple but damning words, "..but still there was no sound, no reply, no response".  


I can almost imagine some of those 450 prophets saying to themselves "What is it with Baal? Here is an amazing arena of opportunity for him to demonstrate not only his existence but his power. If He would only do that, the atheist over there who exercises such influence in the high places of the kingdom would be convinced and become one of us good guys".  


Let's turn off the role reversal perspective and return to the normal transmission.   We now have one good guy who is hopelessly outnumbered by 450 bad guys. Well, not quite. You see Elijah now calls on the name of his God and, in stark contrast and glorious technicolour, his God answers by fire. And what 450 prophets could not accomplish with extended and intense religious activities, this solo prophet and his God did in so little time.  


There is something within my heart now that cries out, "Where is the God of Elijah?"  


To be honest, I think the Christian Church too often does its "religious thing" with gusto and enthusiasm in the eyes of an agnostic or atheistic world"..but still there is no sound, no reply, no response". Why is that the case? Is the problem on our end or God's end?  


Where are the Elijahs of the 21st century? Where are those who will rebuild the altar of the Lord that has been broken down? Where are those who will prepare the sacrifice? Those who will gather the wood? Where are those who will pray until the fire falls on the sacrifice and the people fall on the ground?  


Atheism can't survive in that kind of environment. It must fall on its face in faith or retreat into self-deception and dishonesty. Nor can mediocrity and agnosticism survive when fire is falling from heaven. It is just not possible to be lukewarm when the heat is on!  


Perhaps the words of Charles Wesley resound in your heart as they do in mine (Don't be put off by the old style. You will miss something very special if you do)


O Thou who camest from above,
the pure celestial fire to impart
kindle a flame of sacred love
on the mean altar of my heart.


There let it for thy glory burn
with inextinguishable blaze,
and trembling to its source return,
in humble prayer and fervent praise.


Jesus, confirm my heart's desire
to work and speak and think for thee;
still let me guard the holy fire,
and still stir up thy gift in me.


Ready for all thy perfect will,
my acts of faith and love repeat,
till death thy endless mercies seal,
and make my sacrifice complete.    

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