If God Has Done Such Great Miracles, Why Don’t More People Believe?

By Sean McDowell Published on February 18, 2017

Some time ago I was speaking on the evidence for intelligent design at a family camp in Michigan. Immediately after my talk — in which I discussed the evidence for God’s design of nature based on DNA, the universe’s fine-tuning for life, and more — a woman approached me and asked, “The evidence is really powerful. Do you think we will ever get to a point when people will have to concede there’s a God?”

This is an important question that I have been asked on a number of occasions. And it deserves a thoughtful response. Her underlying assumption seemed to be that if people hear the compelling evidence for design, then they would believe. In other words, unbelief is the result of simply not having enough evidence.

While many people have been drawn to Christ through encountering the evidence for God from nature, conscience, Scripture, the miraculous and more, conversion is not a matter solely of intellectual assent. The call to follow Jesus is not merely to logically believe certain facts, but to turn to God in repentance and to love God with your heart, soul, strength and mind. (Mark 12:28-34)

Why Not Believe?

The call to follow Jesus is not merely to logically believe certain facts, but to turn to God in repentance and to love God with your heart, soul, strength and mind.

If someone were presented with evidence for the identity of Jesus as the Messiah, why would he or she resist? While there are a number of different reasons, consider an example from Mark 3:22-30. In this story, the scribes were trying to trick Jesus by claiming that his powers came from “Beelzebub” (Satan) rather than God.

Jesus responds with a story about how a divided house cannot stand. In other words, if Jesus’ power were from Satan, why would he cast out demons? Such a divided house would crumble. And then Jesus warns them not to “blaspheme the Holy Spirit,” which, given the context, means claiming that Jesus is empowered by Satan rather than God.

Interestingly, the scribes do not question the power of Jesus over demons. In other words, they accept that Jesus did miracles and could cast out demons. Rather, they question the source of his powers, attributing them to Satan rather than God.

So, if the scribes saw the miraculous power of Jesus firsthand, then why wouldn’t they believe? In his commentary on the Gospel of Mark, James R. Edwards offers some helpful insights:

The malicious judgment of the scribes is evidence that faith and unbelief are not the result of proofs. There is a mistaken view abroad that if only we saw the undisputed miracles of Jesus we would believe — or believe more. The scribes, however, have seen precisely such evidence — but they do not believe. Faith, in other words, is not an automatic, inevitable, or necessary consequence of witnessing the acts of God. The words and deeds of Jesus are indeed evidence of God’s presence, but the evidence demands a decision from the beholder as to its source and significance. Faith judges that the person and work of Jesus stand in continuity with the character of God and hence have saving significance; disbelief judges that the person and work of Jesus derive not from God but, as the scribes suggest in this instance, from the devil.

These kinds of stories fill the Bible. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, but rather than believing, the religious leaders want to kill Lazarus and run Jesus out of town. (John 11-12:9) Even though Moses had done many miracles to rescue the Israelites, as soon as he delayed in coming down the mountain, they return to worshipping a golden calf. (Exodus 32)

Reasons People Don’t Believe

Given what Jesus asks of us, even when the evidence is available and powerful, many people will choose not to believe.

There can be many reasons people do not believe in Jesus — intellectual, moral, emotional, relational and more. But this passage in Mark makes clear that at least one reason is that Jesus demands a response from people that involves giving up power and worshipping him as God.

Given what Jesus asks of us, even when the evidence is available and powerful, many people will choose not to believe. After all, Jesus did say, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

 

Originally published at SeanMcDowell.org. Used by permission.

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  • Autrey Windle

    Following Jesus is simple but not easy by the standards our culture measures things by. I sometimes ask an agnostic or atheist acquaintance; What if the word of God is the truth? Usually the question is met with no answer and a look of confusion often comes over their face. I add a bit of challenge by saying; For myself, I can’t afford to gamble that it isn’t true. I figure it’s a win-win since if there is no God, I have lost nothing and since there is, I gain everything while I’m even still walking around. This confuses the unbelievers frequently. I have a much harder time with my ‘Christian’ acquaintances when I attempt to have a conversation about what they believe God wants for us and from us. They seem to agree that God wants good things for us, but seldom agree on what God wants us to remove ‘from’ our lives to follow Him. I think the non-believers think God wants them to give up everything; money, sex, deviant behavior, living in sin, etc. and the believers think if they go to church, tithe, say prayers and sing hymns that they don’t really have to get radical about giving up some of the other stuff that God says clearly keeps us from Him. I am pretty sure those ‘Christians’ are in for some surprises. I dream of a world where no one denies Christ or the authority of God Almighty, but the nightmares of our future speak a different reality to me. We still must keep carrying the message every day every chance we get, but prophecy is just as true as the reporting of the birth of Jesus. The end will come and after that there WILL be a world where all worship together the one true God. May God bless us all in the meantime.

  • Patmos

    Faith is a gift from God. 1 Corinthians 12:9 tells us this.

    • Hmmm…

      The gift of faith is for special application. Romans 10:17 brings the daily faith by which to live, and that depends on the application of the believer: No word; no faith. Little word; little faith.

      • Patmos

        If faith came so easily, then everyone who read the Bible would believe. Obviously that’s not the case. Romans 10:17 and the surrounding passage merely refers to the method by which the word is delivered, not the extent to which the switch of faith is turned on.

        I mean, did you not read verse 16? Who hath believed our report? If reporting was all it took, if the word by itself was all that was required, there would likely be no unbelief.

        • Hmmm…

          It’s not the word by itself; it’s hearing the word to the point that it goes from your head to your heart. There is receiving in there as well.

      • Patmos

        Notice too how in 1 Corinthians 12 it says the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. Did you catch that? Where it says “every man” and not just believers?

        By your own admission and demonstration you fall into the category of “Little word; and little faith”. Or maybe better put, little word, little understanding. There’s a reason Jesus said blessed are those who have not seen and believed. Or what? Do you think it’s somehow now works and not grace?

      • Patmos

        Another one:

        “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” -John 6:44

        Maybe it’s time to get over yourself and have the faith of a mustard seed. God will truly open up to you then, and when you are full grown you will be the greatest of herbs, and the birds of the air will come and nest in your branches.

  • Hmmm…

    Faith doesn’t come from miracles. Personal faith comes from hearing the word of God. Romans 10:17. There is a sense in that hearing of “hearing and hearing” the word of God.

  • m-nj

    The incorrect premise here is that humans need CONVINCING. Humans do not need convincing, they need to be CONVERTED. We are by nature enemies of God, spiritually dead, and unable to respond to the Gospel (Eph 2:2-10). The very example cited here of the Pharisees, who SAW the miracles, yet not believing Jesus was the Messiah, is proof that dead sinners cannot respond in faith to Gospel, no matter how much “evidence” is shown them. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” (John 6:44). “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you…”(John 15:16).

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