Why Doesn’t God Make Himself More Obvious?
“You say there are all these evidences for God, but I look at them, and every one of them can be interpreted another way. Why doesn’t God just prove Himself?”
Someone asked that a conference I was at last week. The speaker at the time, Sean McDowell (a frequent contributor here), answered by showing how many people disbelieved in Jesus, even when they had proof before their eyes. You’d think raising someone from the dead would be evidence enough. But when Jesus did that with Lazarus, they didn’t all fall down and worship Him. Some of them tried to drive Him from town, and to kill Lazarus.
Why is that? I think it’s because proof isn’t all we need. Proof is on the outside. We need something else on the inside.
Consider Lawrence Krauss, one of the nation’s leading physicists and most cantankerous atheists. I’ll use him as my example here, since he’s told us what would count as proof for him. He would believe God was real, he says, if something happened “completely inconsistent with the operation of the universe as we know it, something impossible. … For instance, if the stars rearranged themselves to spell a different bible verse each night. Or if the tree in my front yard started growing KJV bibles instead of crabapples.”
God isn’t going to do that. I know that, you know that, and Dr. Krauss has shielded himself quite well from having to worry about God proving Himself, because he knows God won’t do it, too.
But suppose God did do it. (We can learn something even by considering the impossible.) Then what?
From what I’ve read of Krauss’s writings, he would admit he’d been wrong, and that God exists after all. Then from denying God, he would move immediately to resenting Him.
God’s Goodness Isn’t Just a Matter of ‘Proof’
Bibles growing on crabapple trees wouldn’t make anyone love God or trust Him, which is what God really wants. He doesn’t just want people believe that He is, but that He does good for those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6). He wants us to love Him. Part of loving God is loving what is really, truly good.
To do that, Krauss would have to see more than the fact that God exists. He would have to see His goodness. And then he would have to appreciate that goodness for what it is — which doesn’t come automatically.
Real goodness isn’t so easy to face. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. He lived out God’s goodness in unmatched fashion, as the one perfectly other-centered person who has ever lived. He alone was “the man for others,” in Bonhoeffer’s words.
Which poses a problem: If He can do it, why can’t we? There’s exactly one answer: Because He was truly good, and we aren’t. That’s a painful pill to swallow.
I can handle it, but only because I know His love extends to me, and it comes with the mercy and grace of forgiveness. But that takes the humility of accepting my real need for His grace.
God can only force so much on us. Yes, he could force the knowledge of His existence upon us just as the sun forces awareness of itself on us during the daytime, or as much as we’re compelled to believe that 2 plus 2 equals 4.
God Cannot Force Love or Trust
God could make Dr. Krauss know His existence with the same complete certainty; He could “force assent” on him, as the philosophers say it, making it impossible for him not to believe.
But He cannot force anyone to love Him. Knowledge can be pressed upon a person; love cannot. A student doesn’t become false or inauthentic when she is forced by the facts to believe that 2 plus 2 equals 4. But God can’t force Krauss, or anyone else, for that matter, to love Him. Love must be freely offered, or it’s fake and ugly.
It goes the same way with trust, too: No one — no sane person, anyway — has ever said, “You’ve got to trust me. Trust me from the heart. Trust me as one who has your best interests always in mind. Otherwise I’m going to shoot you.” Real trust can’t be forced any more than real love can.
Even With Certainty We’d Still Face a Choice
So if God proved to Dr. Krauss that He exists, the famed physicist would still have to decide whether he wants God to exist. He’d have to decide whether he will bow to God’s rule over all creation; whether he will recognize God’s goodness; whether he will recognize his own need for grace in light of falling short of the truth.
God has given us plenty of evidence He’s real — as long as we don’t insulate ourselves from that knowledge, as Krauss did with his silly stars and crabapples. That’s important, but by itself it’s not enough. Getting the right answer to the question, “Does God exist?” isn’t the point. God won’t reduce Himself to being a mere true/false quiz answer. He wants us to know Him for who He is, and to love and trust Him for it.
That’s a discovery we make through personal encounter — including our encounters with all the real evidence God has given. We can know God, but not if we’re asking Him to show up as Bible verses sprouting on our trees. Do you want to know Him for real? Look for Him as He really is.