So if God really does exist, and wants people to believe in Him, then why doesn't He just show up, or give some sort of sign that He's there? Why does he leave it up to a 2000 year old book and crazy religious people to tell others about Him? I've heard many people ask these sorts of questions, especially those who doubt that God exists. They say that if God really wanted them to become Christians, he'd just show up and explain it all to them. However, if we look closely at the Bible, we can see that God doesn't just show up for some very good reasons. This article will investigate and try to explain what those reasons are.
God Gave Humans Free Will
The easiest explanation for why God doesn't visibly appear or do blatant miracles whenever we ask is because God gave us free will. God originally made humans not only to rule over Earth, but to have relationship with God Himself. In the Garden of Eden God would personally talk and walk with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8). As anyone who's ever had a relationship knows, the friendship is only valuable if the other person has a choice to like you or not like you. God did not make Adam and Eve to be little pre-programmed robots that would have no choice but to obey and love God. That would not be a real relationship, and their pre-programmed love would not be worth anything. In order for love to be sincere, there must be a choice to not love.
This is why God created the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It gave Adam and Eve a way to show they loved God by obeying his one commandment to not eat from the tree. However, they messed up, and made the wrong choice. God knew this would happen, but saw that the benefit of having creatures who could choose to love, rather than having to love, would outweigh the negatives of those who did choose to not love Him.
Absolute Proof of God Would Remove Free Will
So because God values individual freedom of choice, he will never do anything that would remove that freedom. I believe that in some cases, if God were to just show up and say "Here I am, yes the Bible is true, if you don't believe in me you're going to hell" would remove that freedom to believe or not believe in God. This would not happen for all people, but for some it might. In the Old Testament God regularly did huge miracles for the Israelites (i.e parting the Red Sea to help them escape Egypt (Exodus 14), or giving them miraculous bread in the desert (Exodus 16), or appearing as a pillar of fire/smoke (Exodus 13:21-22) etc.) and they still had problems with turning away from God. So God could very well show up to someone or do a miracle for them, and they can still say "No, I don't like you, go away.", but for others I believe it would in essence "force" them to believe in God. If they were forced to believe in the Bible (by the undeniable proof that God exists), they would most likely go along with what God says, although unwillingly, just to avoid hell. This is not what God wants - he wants willing loving followers, not people who grudgingly admit he exists and feel threatened to follow him.
So, in order for God to give people the choice to follow Him or not, there must be a way to not follow God. While some will certainly outright rebel against God, even though they know full well who he is, this is not the majority of people. Most people find it much easier to just decide to not believe in God, either because they don't want the inconvenience of having to go to church, or pray, or read the Bible, or just want to live how they want. If this class of people had absolute proof that God exists, they would most likely feel pressured to try to love and follow Him even if they secretly don't want to. God doesn't want that type of follower, and so will not give them proof that He exists.
There is Evidence if You Look For It
Believing in God is not an impossible task. God has given enough evidence that those who are truly searching for Him will find enough proof to make their faith reasonable.
Creation as Proof
"God's eternal power and character cannot be seen. But from the beginning of creation, God has shown what these are like by all he has made. That's why those people don't have any excuse." (Romans 1:20). Proof that God can be found in nature. While some people are emotionally affected by creation, and praise God for the beauty of a sunset or the forest, this is not the only way God uses nature to prove that he exists. Science is just as powerful of a tool as emotional reactions to beauty. For example, it is relatively well accepted that the universe had a beginning at the Big Bang. Before the Big Bang, there was nothing - not even empty space, or anything that could exist to cause the Big Bang. Therefore, the cause of the Big Bang must be outside the universe.
Lee Strobel investigates this line of reasoning further in "The Case for a Creator", and goes into much deeper analysis than I will here. Strobel concludes that based on what we know about how the universe was created, the creator must be "uncaused, beginning-less, timeless, immaterial, personal being endowed with freedom of will and enormous power"[p. 283]. The fact that this creator created a world which is able to sustain creatures that can learn to investigate their surroundings perhaps indicates that this creator wants us to learn about him. The laws of physics are constant and show the creator is logical and reasonable, and the huge variety and beauty of nature shows the creator's creativity and power. All of these fit with the description and characteristics of God in the Bible. I would highly suggest reading "The Case for a Creator" for more in-depth analysis of this topic. Another interesting book is "Shattering the Myths of Darwinism" by Richard Milton. This book gives very good questions about the theory of evolution and Darwinism which are not answered yet and points out other issues with the theory that do not make sense and are not scientifically provable. If Darwinism doesn't make sense, then a new theory is needed, and intelligent design may be it.
The Bible as Proof
It is true that the Bible will never be considered as "absolute" proof that God is truly who the Bible says he is. Trying to use the Bible to prove the Bible will always turn into a circular argument that goes nowhere. Therefore, the proof of the Bible must come from outside the Bible. There are many pieces of evidence - historical, scientific, and archaeological, which will back up what the Bible says. I won't go into all these proofs now because there are far too many to discuss here. However, some good sources I would suggest are:
- "Lord or Legend" by Gregory Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy (2007) - discusses the Bible as a historical document and analyzes whether what was written in the Gospels seems to be historically accurate or was just a story created by the disciples.
- "The Reason for God" by Timothy Keller (2008) - discusses some of the common objections people have against Christianity (why is there pain/evil in the world, how could God send people to hell, isn't it unfair that Christianity claims all other religions are wrong, etc.).
- "Handbook of Biblical Evidences" (1997) - The Facts on Jesus, Creation, and The Bible" by John Ankerberg and John Weldon - discussion about if Jesus really was who he claimed to be, discussion about evolution vs. creation, and discussion on the accuracy and validity of the Bible.
- "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" by Josh McDowell, Volumes I(1979) and II(1988) - very detailed analysis on supposed Biblical contradictions, the historical reliability of the Bible, discussion of prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, and all sorts of other interesting evidence for the Bible.
- "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel (1998) - summary of expert opinions on evidence that Jesus really existed, did claim to be God, was killed and resurrected, etc.
- "The Case for Faith" by Lee Strobel (2000) - similar to "The Reason for God" above, Lee Strobel interviews experts on Christianity to give answers to some of the toughest questions people have about Christianity.
Near Death Experiences as Proof
While this is somewhat less solid proof, it is still very interesting when added to the other sources of proof that the Bible is true. While not all people who have near death experiences see God, and not all see Hell either, some people have claimed to see Jesus, and others have claimed to end up in a horrible place that seems to match what Hell of the Bible is like. Some good sources to study near death experiences are:
- "To Hell and Back" by Maurice S. Rawlings (1982) - a medical doctor who became a Christian after witnessing a patient who had a near death experience. He analyzes many cases of near death experiences and records the experiences of many patients. Also discusses out-of-body experiences caused by drugs, UFOs, and various other phenomenon.
- "Life After Death - The Evidence" by Dinesh D'Souza (2009) - analysis of why life-after-death may very well exist, based on near death experiences, philosophy, theories of consciousness, and also analyzes Jesus' death and resurrection.
Personal Experiences as Proof
There is also the personal experiences of millions of Christians. Many people may have either experienced a miracle, or felt God's presence, or had an instant when they suddenly realized God was real and became Christians. It is different for everyone, and some people have had amazing conversion experiences while others were raised Christian and didn't really have huge experiences. Some people's lives have been completely turned around by learning about Jesus and kept them from going down a bad path.
Together, I find the evidence summarised above and my personal experiences provide a very solid foundation for my faith in God and Jesus. If you don't yet have reason to believe in God, perhaps ask a Christian you know who can give you a personal explanation of how they came to believe in God. They can tell you all the reasons they have found to believe in God and why it makes sense to them. There will never be definite proof that God exists and that Christianity is true because God wants people to have free will to believe or not believe in Him. However, Jesus says "The people who have faith in me without seeing me are the ones who are really blessed!"(John 20:29). Jesus knows that we will have to go on faith, and says that we who are Christians now are more blessed than those who actually were there and saw him doing his miracles. But as we have seen above, it is not an unreasonable faith, and Christians who have personally experienced God can know for sure that Christianity is correct and God does exist. We look forward to the day when we will be in heaven, and we will not need faith anymore.