Psalm 53 (and 14) begin as follows:
‘The fool has said in his heart, There is no God.’
I read once not long ago that this is an inaccurate translation and should read rather as:
‘The fool has said in his heart, No to God.’
I believe that the difference and beyond that, the implications between the two are profound. To my way of thinking the first one suggests ignorance on the part of the fool. Clearly we can all cop to ignorance in our lives. There is nobody who cannot at one time or another in his or her life claim that they are not ignorant about something. We simply cannot know everything and we know that. And perhaps that makes us a fool about that particular topic of which we are ignorant. I suspect we become fools when we arrogantly think we know when we haven’t a clue. And sometimes our ignorance has a profound impact on our lives and at some later date we find ourselves berating ourselves for that ignorance as in “If I had only known”… hindsight and all that. But sometimes we cannot know and that is a fact of life. Sometimes we cannot know and we simply have to endure the consequences of our ignorance.
But the second translation, whereby the fool says ‘No’ to God, THAT suggests (very strongly I might add) willfulness. That implies choice. That implies knowledge and then a willful turning away, a willful, defiant dismissal, a thanks but no thanks to God.
I cannot help but carry around this feeling that God has set things up just right, with such exacting precision that somehow He has left it entirely up to us to either willfully choose Him or deny Him. In other words when I look around me at all that is here, the created universe, and the more I get to know of human nature, the more I learn of the ways that human beings interact with one another, the more I learn of our need for each other and our reliance on the created world, the more it becomes glaringly apparent to me that everything is connected, the more I realize just how much evidence has been given to us by Him. And yet there are so many who continue to say that there is no evidence for God and they continue to deny His existence. This I believe defines that willful turning away, that saying ‘No’ to God. And I cannot help but think that the second translation is exactly what the psalmist had in mind and probably wrote originally.