Why doesn’t God just show himself?
Despite the scientific and philosophical arguments for the existence of God presented on this website and elsewhere, some readers may still be haunted by a persistent question: If he is more than just an imaginary big-daddy-in-the-sky, why does it seem that God is hiding from us? It stands to reason that the inability of anyone to produce a unicorn is a pretty good reason not to believe in unicorns. Why shouldn’t the same standard be applied to God? And if he doesn’t have a physical body, why won’t he at least produce an obvious sign that he is there…like the words “I am God, I am here” written in big flaming letters in the sky? Roy A. Varghese comments in The Wonder of the World: A Journey from Modern Science to the Mind of God:
“Once you understand what is meant by the concept of God, you understand immediately that the Infinite is not something you can see physically. In order for you to see something physically, it must have shape and size and color. It must reflect light and work its way through our sensory channels until it is registered in the brain. But if you apply these attributes to any being then it can no longer be thought of as infinite. Consequently, we cannot seriously expect God’s face to appear on a hillside. And if the words ‘I exist, signed God’ were to suddenly appear in the sky, this would not prove anything one way or another since there is no way to verify the source of the message.”
Further, in his book Disappointment With God, Philip Yancey reminds us that God has a problem: All of the impressive displays of power in the world will not force us to love him. And if God could force us to love him, it would not really be love. Love is not love unless it is freely chosen:
“Power can do everything but the most important thing: it cannot control love…In a concentration camp, the guards posses almost unlimited power. By applying force, they can make you renounce your God, curse your family, work without pay…kill and then bury your closest friend or even your own mother. All this is within their power. Only one thing is not: they cannot force you to love them. This fact may help explain why God sometimes seems shy to use his power. He created us to love him, but his most impressive displays of miracle—the kind we may secretly long for—do nothing to foster that love. As Douglas John Hall has put it, ‘God’s problem is not that God is not able to do certain things. God’s problem is that God loves. Love complicates the life of God as it complicates every life.’”
In short, it all boils down to free will. God’s decision to not force himself upon us is a display of the free will (to accept or reject him) which he has granted us. God makes his existence very apparent, but keeps a low profile so that we can easily choose to reject him if we wish. He chooses not to force himself upon us because he does not want us to be his puppets.
Why would God want to seek to be in relationship with puppets?
Yancey makes this point clear by quoting a parable written by the 19th century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard:
“Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden. The king was like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents. And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden. How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist—no one dared resist him. But would she love him?”
“She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage…that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal…For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal.”
And to be in loving relationships with people, it turns out, is exactly what God seeks. If one takes the time to review the Bible, one will quickly see that many of the stories told share this underlying theme. From God’s pursuit of the Jewish people in the Old Testament to Jesus’ command to “seek first His kingdom” in the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament, the Bible conveys that God is seeking people who will seek him.
…Indeed, the vast beauty and richness we experience in nature, human relationships, art, music, culture, etc. can be compared to “love letters” that God sends us.
But all of this is not to say that God remains hidden. Rather, it is to say that he communicates his presence using subtle intimations so as to not be forceful. One such intimation is that of beauty. Indeed, the vast beauty and richness we experience in nature, human relationships, art, music, culture, etc. can be compared to “love letters” that God sends us. Dean Overman notes in his book A Case for the Existence of God that beauty is one of God’s ways of pointing us toward truth:
“Physics Nobel laureates Paul Dirac and Richard Feynman were convinced that mathematical truth can be recognized by its beauty. Beauty points toward truth. Dirac was more concerned with beauty in an equation than whether the equation matched an empirical experiment because he had discovered that beauty was a more accurate indicator of truth. He credited his sense of beauty with allowing him to find the equation for the electron that, coupled with Maxwell’s equations, forms the basic foundation for the very successful quantum field theory of quantum electrodynamics. Almost every contemporary physicist knows that beauty is the fundamental indicator of truth in his or her analysis.”
“Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose also emphasizes that aesthetic criteria, not only in visual appearance but also in inherent mathematical qualities, are extremely important in his discovering truth. He notes that a beautiful concept has a greater likelihood of being true than an ugly one.”
Fortunately, though, one does not have to be a physicist or mathematician to recognize this beauty. Overman continues:
“Consistent with Penrose’s idea that a more perfect and more real world has a more profound and more beautiful reality, the beauty of music seems to come from a more sublime reality….We are bathed in beauty in this world from so many different perspectives and manifestations. Our universe is wondrously and beautifully elegant. As I have repeatedly stated, it did not have to be this way; it could have been a chaos in which there is no ability to comprehend its order and no ability to do science or mathematics. You and I behold a universe that is like a great work of art made with love. What is the source of this beauty?…As Plato noticed, beauty is suggestive of another reality, a more real and even more beautiful reality.”
One is compelled to wonder, if the universe is nothing but the mechanistic result of blind chance, why then is it imbued with so much beauty? And why does beauty so clearly point us toward truth? Atheists allege that we are nothing more than “survival machines,” glorified robots that exist for no greater reason than passing on our genes. What survival value, then, does the ability to appreciate the beauty in music and in nature, for example, provide? Was our prehistoric ancestor who appreciated the beauty of a sunset somehow less likely to be eaten by a lion than our prehistoric ancestor who did not? If beauty is not a divine expression of love, than what is it? Why did “survival machines” develop the ability to comprehend higher mathematics and physics…not to mention the beauty and order of the universe revealed therein? Did this ability somehow help our primitive ancestors escape predators or obtain food? Reasonable answers to these questions cannot be furnished from within the framework of a mechanistic, purposeless, atheistic view of the world. Hence, the atheist must engage in what C.S. Lewis referred to as “willful blindness” to avoid such unsettling questions.
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Meeting God is actually a much more common experience than perhaps most people realize, as the above video demonstrates.
Please read (and view the videos at) my post titled Has Anyone Met God and Returned to Tell About It? in order to examine the powerful evidence for God’s existence that comes from near-death experiences.
Those interested in pursuing a relationship with God are encouraged to visit the website: