Why do the heathen rage?
On the face of it, the attitude of the unbeliever is quite irrational. If a Martian were eavesdropping on the conflict between believer and unbeliever, he'd assume that the unbeliever's creed must have something indispensable and irreplaceable to offer the unbeliever, something denied him by the believer's creed. He'd assume that the unbeliever's creed was a wonderfully life-affirming creed, whereas the Gospel must be a nihilistic creed. Otherwise, why would the unbeliever be so devoted to his creed and so opposed to the believer's?
And yet the truth is just the opposite. For the unbeliever, man is just a meat machine. He has no immortal soul. His very consciousness is a clever illusion. Morality is just a dirty trick played upon us by natural selection. Life has no ultimate purpose. When we die, all our loves and longings die with us. The benevolent philanthropist and the genocidal tyrant share a common oblivion.
Why would an unbeliever live and die for such a self-destructive creed? And why is he so fanatically opposed to the Gospel? The Gospel is like a match in the darkness, lighting our way out of the cave and illumining our footsteps lest we fall down a bottomless pit. Why is the unbeliever so hell-bent on extinguishing the flickering match-light? Why this passionate communion with death?
Warfield offers a striking psychological profile of the unbeliever:
"The sinner instinctively and by his very nature, as he cannot help believing in God, in the intellectual sense, so cannot possibly exercise faith in God in the fiducial sense. On the contrary, faith in this sense has been transformed into its opposite--faith has passed into unfaith, trust to distrust," Selected Shorter Writings 2:116.
For the unregenerate and the reprobate, God is an object of fear, for God is the sinner's judge. And like a suicide-bomber, the graceless sinner is prepared to blow up the courtroom in order to kill the judge, even if it means killing himself in the process. The more brilliant the unbeliever, the more elaborate the perfect crime--the cosmic murder-suicide.
The Christian apologist has written book after book defending the faith, while the unbeliever has written book after book attacking the faith. And when words fail, the unbeliever has resorted to more forcible means of suppression.
But in his unwitting way, the unbelieving is a living apologetic for the very faith he denies with every gasping breath. Unbelief is an enigma to itself. Unbelief can make no sense of an unbeliever. Only belief can make sense of an unbeliever. The unbeliever would rather die in a rage, like a poisoned rat in a hole, than eat the bread of life come down from heaven. This is the squint-eyed attitude, not of mere unbelief, but of sheer disbelief--of an impenitent rebel without a cause.