Monday, August 31, 2015

“If God exists, then why does God not prove God’s existence to everyone?”

Musings about the question of the month of August from Socrates Café

By Dr. Norman Wise

“If God exists, then why does God not prove God’s existence to everyone?”


This question assumes the existence of God for the sake of the discussion.  There are many possible answers.

Ø Some would say that if there is no universal and clear revelation this is due to there not being a God or that if God exists there is no interest in communicating to human beings that existence.  

Ø Others would say that since there is no such universal revelation then this means that God cannot be a good God who desires all to know but would be limiting revelation only to a chosen few.  This would make God very tribal and restricted.  This would also make God unfair and lacking compassion.

Ø Still others would say that there is sufficient and clear revelation but that humanity has failed to pursue this revelation so the fault is not in God but in human beings.  They would doubt the idea that God has not give sufficient evidence to each person.  The issue would be what constitutes an objective sufficient revelation to fulfill God’s “responsibility” to communicate the Divine existence to humanity.

Ø Finally, some would also add that it is possible some greater harm would follow if God did provide some type of greater revelation of the Divine presence.   Assuming God is good and wise, in this case, God’s failure to provide this revelation must be because a greater evil would be produced.  One cannot deny that such a possibility might exist. 

Musings about this question

Now according to surveys anywhere from 88% to 51% of people on the planet today believe they have sufficient revelation from God to justify belief in him.[1]  Historically most people are not feeling that God has failed to reveal the Divine existence sufficiently to them.

Researchers suggest that belief in God and the afterlife may be a normal essential aspect of our humanity.  Oxford University concluded after extensive research around the world that religious concepts seem rooted in the very essence of human thought processes.  

Professor Roger Trigg, from the University of Oxford,  stated:

“We have gathered a body of evidence that suggests that religion is a common fact of human nature across different societies,”

“This suggests that attempts to suppress religion are likely to be short-lived as human thought seems to be rooted to religious concepts, such as the existence of supernatural agents or gods, and the possibility of an afterlife or pre-life.”[2]

It has also been suggested by leading geneticist Dr. Dean Hamer that there is a “God Gene” which leads people into an awareness and experience of the spiritual realm.  [3]  

If these studies are correct then one could argue that God has revealed the Divine Existence, not in some large scale and public visible revelation but in the very essence of our humanity at a psychological, social and biological level.  

In this case God’s revelation of Divine existence would be rooted in the very substance of our humanity and communities.  We would have an internal “program” that would make us aware of God’s presence that is functioning in the vast majority of people. 

So one answer is that God has placed a revelation of Divine existence inside of human beings and this is part of their core existence.   In this case God would not have failed to provide evidence of the Divine existence and therefore no unfairness or lack of compassion could be attributed to God.

One could also argue that human beings have failed morally to respond to this revelation responsibly and that is why there has been so much confusion and discord about the nature of God.   In this case the failure would be due to humanity and not due failure on God’s part.

This deep nearly universal feeling that there is a spiritual aspect to life is why a host of scholars have felt that the best description of humanity is “homo religiosus”.  [4]

This thought was also found in an early Christian writer in the first century A.D.  He said:

"19.. that which is known about God is evident within human beings; for God made it evident to every human being."  (Romans 1:19)

This philosophical and theological theory of God’s revelation seems to now be given support by some scientific studies.  

So in this situation the answer to our question, would be that God has revealed himself clearly in a very subjective way within the nature of human beings.   So God cannot be faulted at failing to provide a revelation to humanity.

It can also be argued that human curiosity about why there is something rather than nothing has led to the conviction of the existence of God from the universal experience of the physical universe.  At a very simple level the apparent order, beauty, and vastness of creation causes many people to understand and feel the existence of God or Creator.  

At a more sophisticated level people have developed detailed logical cosmological arguments.  [5]   These arguments have been held to have weight and significance by world-renowned scholars and would give intellectual validity to the more “gut response “ of the average human being to the cosmos. [6]

So at the level of just a naïve sense of God when experiencing some grand part of nature or from a logical meditation on nature, this could seem part of the clear revelation that many feel has been given to all humanity. 

Poets as well as philosophers often give this particular vision of God in nature to us.

Here is a poem that reflects this experience of God in nature.  It is called “I Sing the Mighty Power of God”.

 “I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise, that spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.  I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day; the moon shines full at his command, and all the stars obey.  I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food, Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good. Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye, if I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky. There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glories known, and clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne; while all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care; and everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.”[7]

Clearly this poet saw universal and clear revelation of God’s existence in the physical universe. 

A Jewish poet expressed this idea at about 2000 years ago. 

"1 The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard."  Psalm 19:1-3 NASB

The early Christian church in the first century believed in this testimony of creation to all human beings as well.   Here is an example of one of their early creeds on this topic. 

"20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."  Romans 1:20 NASB

So one can respond to this question that there has been an external witness of God’s existence in a response to the greatness of the physical universe.    Since all human beings experience the physical universe then all human beings have been given a clear revelation of God’s existence through the cosmos. 

There is also an argument that humanity has an inward moral code or conscience, and that this is evidence of the Divine presence.   The reason for this idea is the guilt associated with failing this inward moral witness has within it a metaphysical dimension for many of not only falling short of one’s own moral standards, but God’s will.   This moral intuition or conscience again seems to be acknowledged as functioning in the vast majority of human beings. 

In fact when a person lacks a moral conscience, we see this as a severe type of mental and emotional disorder.  So if we have this sense of a moral law within us then some would argue that this moral standard is something that God placed within us, as a further revelation of the God’s existence and will for people. 

An early Christian writer expressed this viewpoint in this way.

"14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,"  Letter to the Roman 2:14-15 NASB

So another revelation of God’s existence and humanities responsibility to God would be this moral intuition, which is seen to be part of the deepest core of healthy human nature.

So the argument here would be that at a very psychological and biological level God has given clear testimony to humanity of the Divine existence and this explains why the vast majority of people historically have accepted the idea of God’s existence.

Other thoughts

We must also understand that different people would set up different standards of what would qualify for a clear demonstration of the Divine existence. 

For some, just because of the pain and suffering in the world today no revelation would be able to demonstrate the existence of God.  There rejection of the idea of God is based on a philosophical and moral argument that all the revelation in the world could not budge.  Only if they received a sufficient answer to this question would they be open to any revelation of the Divine existence. 

So the struggle for some would be more complicated than simply seeing a revelation.  There would also be a question of how to validate this revelation sufficiently.   

In addition it would assume that the person would want to acknowledge the existence of God and not resist such a revelation for moral, psychological, or philosophical reasons regardless of the amount of revelation given.

So what would be a fair standard for God to establish that acknowledges the Divine responsibility to reveal and the human responsibility to respond to this revelation?

Let us say for sake of argument that God promises to reward those who seek for God with honest passion.  Seeking God would mean pursuing all the revelation that an individual has about a spiritual or metaphysical aspect of reality diligently and consistently.   

In addition God would only hold people responsible for that which they had available to them.   So one who had been given more dependable revelation would be held more responsible than if a person was given little revelation outside of the inward witness and the cosmos.

So those who seek truth about God will get truth about God.  God rewards those who seek for the true Divine presence with an assurance they will find God.  If a person does not seek they don’t find. 

Would that be fair?

In this case then whatever ignorance about God that exists would be due to people not seeking God.   The lack of revelation then would not be due to a failure on God’s part but on the part of human beings. 

If this was the case then one could explain the current level of revelation from God.   Humanity has the amount of revelation consistent with their passion for truly seeking God.  

Now some would say they have sought for God and they did not find God.   However, since seeking is a process all they can say is at the present time they have not found God.  The first part of seeking is looking and the second part may be finding.  It is possible that the person seeking today will find tomorrow.  Now if one gives up the search then one can question how sincere the search was in the first place. 

The mathematician and philosopher Pascal would reflect on this when he said:

“What can be seen on earth indicates neither the total absence, nor the manifest presence of divinity, but the presence of a hidden God,” ….“Everything bears this stamp.” [8]

In light of this then Pascal’s viewpoint is that it would reasonable to seek for the “hidden God”. 

“There are only two classes of persons who can be called reasonable,” ….“Those who serve God with all their heart because they know him and those who seek him with all their heart because they do not know him.”.[9]

In this case humanity would bear a responsibility to be seekers for truth about God and God would be responsible to provide this truth to those who sought in a sincere manner. 

The finding of that truth could take place in many different ways due to the unique nature of the person seeking.  But this then would tell us that the reason why everyone is not getting the same revelation is that people seek for God with different levels of intensity and also will find God in various ways depending on the uniqueness of their personality and experiences.  [10]

Concluding thoughts

“If God exists, then why does God not prove God’s existence to everyone?”

There is some evidence that indicates that God has provided a revelation of the Divine existence into the very biological/psychological core instincts of humankind.  If this is true then the answer to the question would be that God has provided such a revelation and the assumption of the question that such a revelation has not been given is denied to be true.   It would appear that for the majority of people historically and currently there is sufficient revelation to justify their acceptance of God’s existence.  

It is also possible that God has provided revelation or is willing to provide more clear evidence of the Divine existence, based on the desire for human beings to seek the truth about God.  The ignorance then of humanity concerning God would not be due to a lack of competence or character on God’s part but on moral failure to seek on the part of human kind. 

Both potential rational solutions provide us an answer to the question that does not demand us accept either that God does not exist or that God does not care.  Therefore, this question does not force us to accept an atheistic, agnostic, or deistic answer to the question.  A reasonable person can respond to this question from a Christian point of view.

It does make sense then to seek for God if we have not found God, because it is possible we may find God.

[1] The 88% ix looking at the number of people who are part of world religions while the 51% is arrived by a worldwide poll.

[4] The phrase, homo religiosus, refers to the idea that human existence is inherently religious. There is a long lineage of scholars that have proposed this idea, including Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), Soren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), William James (1842–1910), Mircea Eliade (1907–1986), Rudolf Otto (1884–1939), Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), Gerardus van der Leeuw (1890–1950), Karl Jaspers (1883–1969), Paul Tillich (1886–1995), Erich Fromm (1900–1980), Abraham Maslow (1908–1970), Erik Erikson (1902–1994), Langdon Gilkey (1919–2004), and David Tracy (1939–). The inherent religiosity, these and other theorists refer to, is not a person’s creedal beliefs or institutional commitments per se but refer to our existential drive toward transcendence, freedom, and meaning-making, no matter the differences of religious or a/religious backgrounds or convictions.  Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion,

[8] Blaise Pascal, Pensees, translated by William Finlayson Trotter, (London: Penguin Books, 1995), 142.

Loconte, Joseph (2012-06-04). The Searchers: A Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt (p. 190). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
[9] Pascal, Pensees, 132–133.

Loconte, Joseph (2012-06-04). The Searchers: A Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt (p. 195). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[10] This is actually the perspective of the writers of the New Testament.  Look at Hebrews 11:6 and Romans chapter 2. 

Testament.  See Hebrews 11:6 and Romans 2.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A proud young man came to Socrates asking for wisdom. He walked up to him and said, “O great Socrates, I come to you for wisdom.” Socrates, recognizing a pompous fool when he saw one, led him down to the sea and took him chest deep into the water. Then he asked him, “What did you say you wanted?” “Wisdom, O great Socrates,” said the young man.
Socrates put his strong hands on the man’s shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. “What do you want?” he asked again. “Wisdom,” the young man sputtered, “O great and wise Socrates.” Socrates pushed him under again. Thirty seconds, thirty-five, forty – then Socrates let him up. The man was gasping. “What do you want, young man?” 
Between heavy breaths the fellow wheezed, “Wisdom! O wise and wonderful…” Socrates jammed him under again – forty seconds passed then fifty – then he let him up. “What do you want?” “Air!” the young man yelled. “I need air!”  “When you want wisdom as much as you have just wanted air, then you will begin to find wisdom.”

Beyond outline to thoughts on "How Can I Find Truth?"

Socrates Café

Serious Questions to Ponder Series

Question 1:  How can I find truth?

One of the most basic questions we can ask ourselves is how can I find truth.  Every serious seeking for answers must face this issue early on in our quest. 

Ao what is truth?  There is much debate about what truth is as well as most every other topic under the sun.  What I mean as truth is that it corresponds to the actual state of reality and is not an illusion.  Reality is that which does exist as opposed to that which does not exist.  What “is” defines reality and what “is not” defines illusion.  Truth is reality or perhaps more accurately an accurate description of reality.  

So as I will use the term in this discussion, truth is an accurate understanding and communication of reality.  To seek truth is to figure out what reality is and adapt my thinking to it.  [1]

But how can I find truth?  As I see it there are two extreme options both of which can cause us to approach our search without real balance or hope of really defining reality.  

The first is lawless superstition. Superstition is beliefs without any possible rational basis that are use to interpret all of our experience and lives.  An example of superstition would be faith in horoscopes which believes we can determine the destiny of individuals by knowing the position of the stars.  A google search on “horoscope sites” comes up with 107 million so this show the extent of people still using this method to try to gain knowledge of the truth.  

The other extreme would be legalistic scientism.  Scientism sets up a dogmatic and limited approach that hold to the idea that only what can be discovered by the scientific method is real.[2]  On the one hand there is an effort here to avoid all superstition and hold the standards of finding truth so high that we avoid as much error as we can.  But one of the problems is that while the scientific method can be very useful in understanding some aspects of reality it seems clear that it is very limited in studying other things such as justice or love.  Many have argued that the scientific method cannot prove the scientific method since it is based on philosophical presuppositions that precede it.  For instance the reality of the actual physical world and the dependability of there being “laws” or “patterns” of behavior of the physical world that can be observed and predicted to respond in a particular way.  

A practical example of this struggle can be found in the Psychiatry in which the DSM 5, produced by the American Psychiatric Association which developed, clusters of symptoms and required a judgment call by the psychiatrist to define the clients problem such as depression.  The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMHH) promotes a new approach that is called the “Research Domain Criteria” in which a biological measure could be used to define all psychological problems.  The problem is that the “reality” of the needs of people are not always easily detected by the “hard science” of biology.   Dr. Victor Reus, professor of Psychiatry at the University of California expresses doubt about the use of genetic testing and biology alone to diagnose mental disorders:

"Trying to control all those different elements, and trying to put together a portolio of biomarkers to help either diagnose people or predict their course of treatment is, I think, not likely to be clincally useful." 

This points out the danger of what is called “reductionism” which while describing part of reality ignores another part.  The whole is greater than the parts. 

So what other options could we use in our quest to find the true nature of reality? 

One approach would be to use many different rational ways to seek the true state of reality.   There would be then an inductive weighing in of the evidence we could gather from various sources to try to comprehend the truth.  Some examples of this would be:

A.  Logic vs. the illogical -  A cannot equal non-A – Law of contradiction.  Something cannot be true and false at the same time.  No true paradox possible.

B.  Existential experiences which give us a “eureka moment” of insight into the state of reality. [3]

C.  Historical Occurrences

D.  Scientific discoveries

E.  Trusted Revelation from God.  Based on other conclusions such as there is a God who could be understood, then one could strive to seek what would be a careful evaluation of divine revelation about HIMSELF and other aspects of reality. 

F.  Metanarrative, which is a “big story”, that provides the most likely harmonization of the collected data.  The “Mega-Story “is an attempt to get a “forest” view of reality based on the information we gather from other sources.  [4]

So each of these approaches, which keeps us from wild superstition on the one hand and a reduction of reality by scientism on the other could be used by a person to seek the true nature of reality.

In conclusion, the search for how to find truth must itself be undertaken in an effort to find the “reality” of how human beings, limited as we are, can come to understand what exists.  Each of us must struggle through the process of determining how we will seek for the true nature of what actually exists and see through what are illusions.   This is a vital task for each person to take who desires to find truth. 


[1] For a discussion on the various understandings of truth we can look at

[2] “The principles and empirical processes of discovery and demonstration considered characteristic of or necessary for scientific investigation, generally involving the observation of phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis concerning the phenomena, experimentation to demonstrate the truth or falseness of the hypothesis, and a conclusion that validates or modifies the hypothesis.”

This raises the issue of the Philosophy of Science which tells us that the scientific method rests on a more basic philosophy which cannot be proven scientifically.

Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith by Clifford Williams

[4] The seven main “mega-explanations are:
1.     Physicalism or Materialism – The belief that everything is physical, or is necessitated by, the physical.  There is no “super natural” world in which God or other “spirit” beings exist.  Everything is ruled by and understood by the laws of physics and natural science.

2.     Pantheism – The belief that God is everything and everything is God.  In reality there is only one being that has an appearance of being many.  All is one and all is God. 

3.     Deism - A belief in God based on reason rather than revelation and involving the view that God has set the universe in motion but does not interfere with how it runs.

4.     Polytheism - The belief in more than one deity, especially several deities.  None of these deities are eternal, infinite, all knowing, omnipresent, or all powerful. 

5.     Theism - belief that one God created and rules humans and the world, not necessarily accompanied by belief in divine revelation.  This one God could have also created other “spirit beings” but these beings are dependent and under the ultimate control of the one God.  God is the source of morals, ethics, and ultimate justice for humanity.

6.     Nihilism - The belief that there is no objective basis for truth, objective knowledge about anything is impossible, and that life is pointless.

7.     Christianity - the world view based on the life, teachings, example, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus the Messiah/Christ.