Why is evidence for God so sparse? If God wants a relationship with us and knows hell awaits those who don’t know him, why doesn’t he make his existence obvious? This Problem of Divine Hiddenness may be the most powerful challenge against Christianity.
The evidence we need for God wouldn’t be merely an ancient holy book like all the others, and it wouldn’t be anything as ambiguous as the clouds parting just as you wondered if God existed. It would be truly convincing, such as everyone in the world having the same dream on the same night in which God clearly summarized his plan. You could convince any thinking person that you exist; surely an omniscient god a billion times smarter could do it, too.
Christians often respond that this threatens our free will. C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters explained it this way: “[God] cannot ravish. He can only woo.” This caution against coercion might apply if the issue were faith in Jesus as savior, but that’s not the question. The question is simply, does God exist? No party to a relationship “ravishes” by simply making their existence known, and the Bible makes clear God doesn’t mind giving the evidence. He appeared as smoke and fire to the Israelites during the Exodus. Jesus performed public miracles like healing people, multiplying food, and raising the dead. And consider the apostles—did seeing the miracles of Jesus make their belief counterfeit? Did Paul’s Damascus road experience, during which he saw a vision of Jesus, disqualify him from being a proper believer?
Fifth-century bishop Augustine urged Christians, “Do not understand so you may believe; instead believe so you may understand.” But why? You don’t pick a belief system first and then select facts to support it; it’s the other way around. You follow the facts to their logical conclusion and then believe that. The alternative is a trickster god who gives only vague clues to the most important truth.
Faith is central to Christianity today, but that’s only because there’s nothing better. If God made himself obvious so Christianity were the only religion backed by a real god, faith would be pointless, and Christians would instead vigorously point to the clear evidence in the world proving that they had been right all along.
Another Christian response is to say that everyone already has enough evidence. Paul said disbelievers are “without excuse,” but there is nothing to raise Christianity’s claims above those of other religions. Nonbelievers are justified in demanding evidence, and here again the Bible is supportive. God participated in Elijah’s contest against the priests of Baal, he helped Moses perform miracles in front of the pharaoh, and he proved himself to Gideon. If Christians are sensibly skeptical for demanding evidence of other religions’ miracle claims, disbelievers are justified in making the same demands of Christians. A God too aloof to even make his existence obvious contradicts the claim of a God who wants a relationship. He can’t be both.
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Augustine (d. 430) was a bishop in Hippo, Algeria. He was an important early theologian and was made a saint.
Damascus road experience: The Bible states that the apostle Paul, while on the road to Damascus, Syria, saw a vision of Jesus. This converted him from a persecutor of Christians to a believer. The term can be used for any dramatic reversal in attitude.
[God] appeared as smoke and fire to the Israelites during the Exodus: Exodus 13:21.
Jesus performed public miracles like healing people, multiplying food, and raising the dead: Matthew 8:16, Matthew 14:13–21, and Mark 5:21–43.
Paul’s Damascus road experience: Acts 9:3–22.
disbelievers are “without excuse”: Romans 1:20.
God participated in Elijah’s contest against the priests of Baal, he helped Moses perform miracles in front of the pharaoh, and he proved himself to Gideon: 1 Kings 18, Exodus 7:8–, and Judges 6:36–40.