Friday, November 27, 2015

If there is a God, why doesn't God provide clear and undeniable evidence of existance?

Sam & Socrates discuss

If there is a God why doesn’t God provide clear
and undeniable evidence of existence?

Sam:  Good morning Socrates, how are you this morning?

Socrates:  Still drinking my first cup of coffee so things are getting better with each sip?  How about you?

Sam:  Been pondering a question.

Socrates:  Well that is always a good way to start the day.  So what question do you have your been musing about?

Sam:  If there were a God why would God not just provide clear and undeniable evidence to everyone of God’s existence?

Socrates:  That is a question that many have wrestled with as they have thought about God.   What are the possible answers?

Sam:  Well let me see: 

1.  No such clear and undeniable evidence exists because God does not exist.

2.  No evidence exists because God does not desire humanity to know of God’s existence.

3.  God does care about humanity.  If this is assumed then it could be that in some way if God did provide such clear and undeniable evidence of divine existence this would harm humanity.

4.  God providing such clear and undeniable evidence of divine existence would hinder some greater good from being attained.

5.  There is clear and undeniable evidence but humanity refuses to acknowledge it because of a lack of desire to know God or the ability to understand this evidence.

Socrates:  That seems a good place to start.  So let us look at each option.  Assuming that no clear and undeniable evidence exists of God being real, then does this prove that God does not exist?

Sam:  No, since the other options would indicate that such evidence does not exist but could be for many reasons ranging from indifference towards us to our indifference towards God.  So if any of these other options are true then God could still theoretically exist.
Socrates:  Also, while some degree of evidence seems to be lacking does this mean that there is no evidence of God’s existence at all

Sam:  No many have pointed to the contingency of the universe and the need of a necessary being, the evidence of design in the cosmos, existential experience of God’s existence, fulfilled prophecy, the resurrection of Jesus Christ and many other things as providing evidence for God’s existence.  

So if one found this evidence to provide a rational inductive argument to justify a conviction in God’s existence compelling, then God could exist, and also some reason that God chose to not provide such clear and compelling evidence to humanity.   [1]

Socrates:  So as long as a there is a possible rational reason for God not providing undeniable proof of the divine existence then the lack of this action by God to give such a demonstration would not require us to accept agnosticism or atheism as the only possible answers to the question of God.

Sam:  That would seem to be the case.

Socrates:  Then the next option we have is that a Creator God exists but there is lack of evidence of the divine existence simply because God does not have any interest in us or desire to make God’s existence known to humanity.  

Sam:  This perspective seems to reconcile the evidence for God’s existence and lack of undeniable evidence of that existence better that the last.  Here we can acknowledge the rational reasons to believe a Creator God exists and yet also understand why God seems hidden from us.  

Socrates:  Yet, we have here testimonies of answered prayers and claims of divine involvement, and even revelation.  Some of this testimony could be false but it is in such a large number of cases that it would be hard to think that none of this revelation and reports of God’s activity was true.   Even today it is reported that 51% of the people in the world believe in God and would feel that there is sufficient evidence for rational acceptance of God’s existence and even care for human beings. [2]  There is even rational defense for miracles and testimonies from modern Western nations that they do occur.[3]  So the claim that God has done nothing to make himself known would not seem to fit all the data and testimony we have historically or currently.

Sam:  So it would be hard to demonstrate that God simply created the universe and then refused to interact with us because of the extent and number of reports that indicate that people have encountered God in various ways.   So while God may not have provided concrete and universal evidence of God’s existence to each person,  it can be argued that God has provided some evidence of the divine existence and this would show a measure of concern for us to know about God.

Socrates:  So let us look at the answer that would say that such a concrete giving of evidence to humanity would do us harm.  

Sam:  I do not see how that can be?

Socrates:  Do you believe that if a person is given undeniable evidence and then rejects this evidence and works contrary to it that this is worst than a person who is given less evidence?

Sam:  What do you mean?

Socrates:  Let us say that a jury was given concrete and undeniable evidence that a person committed a murder.  They had videotapes, fingerprints, motive, and every amount of physical evidence you can imagine. In addition they had a signed confession from the accused person.  Yet, the jury felt that the victim deserved to be murdered and liked the personality of the murderer.  The jury declares the person innocent knowing that he/she is guilty.    Is that jury more accountable than a jury where the evidence is strong but not so absolute?

Sam:  The more knowledge a person has the greater the responsibility to act in accordance with the evidence.

Socrates:  Exactly, so let us assume that God would want the best outcome in providing evidence of the divine existence to us, and that God already knows the outcome of every possible universe.  If we assume a God who cares for humanity the only reason that such a divine being would not provide such concrete evidence is that the outcome would be to make humanity more responsible and yet not lead to a good response to this information.  In other words, the majority of people would not respond in a positive way and therefore be in greater moral guilt.

Sam:  But why would that be the case.

Socrates:  Do we always do what we know to be the right thing to do?

Sam:  No, many times we fail to act consistently with our highest ideals. 

Socrates:  The whole problem with ethics and morals is not so much that people don’t know what is right or wrong but even when they know what is right they don’t do it.  People do not always listen to their conscience.  So why do we think they would respond positively to greater evidence concerning God?

Sam:  I see what you mean.  Our moral problems are not so much caused by confusion about what we believe to be right or wrong but by our failure to do what we would say is the right thing to do.   So if this included the proper moral response to God, which would be absolute surrender and obedience, then those with greater revelation would be more morally responsible. 

Socrates:  That would seem to be the case.

Sam:  The other idea which is connected to this one suggests that some greater good might be lost if such concrete revelation was given. 

Socrates:  I think that we could imagine such a situation.  It is even possible that the process of needing to seek God and process information might actually lead more people to a deeper faith than if everything was handed to them on a silver spoon.   We value what we have to seek more than what we are simply given. 

There could also be other factors that might actually mean that more people respond positively with partial evidence instead of absolute evidence since it does not seemed forced on them.    Kierkegaard, argue that the only way that God could get the relationship God desires with humanity is by giving us less open evidence of his existence. [4] So in such a situation a God who cared about us would not provide absolute concrete evidence to every person. 

Sam:  So one could have in such a situation a God who cares for humanity and yet not provide concrete evidence of the divine existence. 

Socrates:  This is at least theoretically possible.

Sam:   That leads us to one other possibility and that is that God has provided clear evidence to humanity and we simply have refused to acknowledge it or accept it.  I don’t know how we could consider this a possibility.

Socrates:  It has been argued from natural theology for a long time that the universe itself presents clear evidence of a Creator. [5]  At an existential and experience level many people feel that the order they see around them is best explained by a Creator.  The argument has also been made that our moral conscience is evidence of as an ultimate moral judge. [6] 

In this case the argument is not that God has failed to provide sufficient and even compelling evidence but that humanity has suppressed this evidence because of a desire to avoid God’s existence.   So one could argue the problem is not with God but the problem is with humanity’s honesty with the evidence that does exist.

Sam:  So a God could exist that cares for humanity but who would not give us any more evidence than we have about the divine existence.  The fact that more evidence has not been given is not an indication of God not existing or that if a God exists, that God does not care enough about us to give us adequate evidence of the reality of the divine existence. 

Socrates:  I think this is a reasonable conclusion 

[1] The Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibniz: (Library of Philosophy and Religion) by William Lane Craig
The Kalam Cosmological Argument by William L. Craig
The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer by J. P. Moreland
How to Think About God: A Guide for the 20th-century Pagan : One Who Does Not Worship the God of Christians, Mortimer J. Adler
How to Prove There Is a God: Mortimer J. Adler's Writings and Thoughts About God by Mortimer Adler , Ken Dzugan

[3] Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life by Eric Metaxas

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