Vincible ignorance is lacking knowledge that is within the individual’s control and for which he is responsible before God. In Romans, St. Paul is clear that atheism is a case of vincible ignorance: “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.” Acknowledging the existence of God is just the beginning—we must also recognize several of his divine attributes. Atheists that deny this reality are, as St. Paul said, without excuse. They are vincibly ignorant.
Some people—even some believers—will be scandalized by this claim. Such is the state of our culture that even Christians are offended by the truths expressed in Scripture. We have so thoroughly bought into the notion that atheism is an intellectually respectable position that when we point out the truth (that atheism is a form of intellectual handicap) we are viewed as intolerant. But we Christians do atheists no favor by treating them as if they were simply “differently abled.” By ignoring their epistemic and metaphysical brokenness, we are shirking our Christian duty to truly show love for our neighbor.
Equally shameful is that we share a fair amount of the blame for creating the stumbling block of “new atheism.” We have no qualms about pointing out moral and political failings. Yet when it comes to matters of epistemic and metaphysical truth, we refuse to take a firm, Biblically justified stance. Why is that? Why do we feel we must treat atheism as if it were any more respectable than, say, a belief in the healing power of crystals? Have we completely abandoned the concept of intellectual virtue?