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.

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