A few days ago I published a piece by a Christian apologist who goes by the handle “Mighty Timbo,” on the topic of why Mormonism is false. He has a web site devoted to Christian apologetics, so I thought I’d stop by and see what kind of defense he has to offer to the kind of disproofs he levels at the Mormon church. And I found this.
One of the more common questions we get from Atheists is “If God is actually real, why doesn’t he prove it? Why doesn’t God show himself and eliminate the faith?”
That’s certainly a valid question and if you’re a Christian you may have asked it yourself at weak spiritual moments.
I’ll get to his answer shortly, but first I want to point out that he has the question really, really wrong. First of all, if God were to show up, it would not eliminate the faith, it would eliminate the doubt. There are all kinds of people who show up all the time, and yet I have no faith in them whatsoever (and a bunch of them want to be President of the USA, apparently). True faith is a confidence that is built up by repeated real-world experience, and God’s being here would only help that. Mighty Timbo is confusing faith with gullibility—the willingness to believe what men tell you in the absence of real-world confirmation and/or presence of real-world contradictions of the things they say.
Secondly, the real question is not, “Why doesn’t God prove Himself?” (though that’s not a bad question). The real problem here is that the God of the Gospels is presented as an almighty, all-wise, all-knowing, and all-loving deity Who wants a personal relationship with each of us badly enough to literally die for it. If such a Being existed, with that kind of power, and that sort of desire, we would not be learning about it from some third-party web site like Mighty Timbo’s. God would be here with us, right now, not to “prove” Himself, but because that’s the most direct and effective way to achieve the real, personal, two-way relationship He allegedly wants. And being all-wise and all-powerful, He’d get what He wants, because by definition there’s nothing powerful enough to prevent Him from having His own way. Even if you presume that some people will reject Him and that He is too nice to impose Himself on them, He’s still going to be here for the ones who are willing to have a personal relationship with Him.
So the real question is not “why doesn’t God show up to prove Himself?” but rather “why don’t we see God behaving in real life as though He cared enough to show up and say ‘Good morning,’—let alone suffering and dying horribly for us?”
Mighty Timbo’s answer seems a bit light.
I think the real answer to the question is that God hasn’t made a point out of hiding himself from anybody. From day one he walked with Adam and Eve in the garden personally, then, rather than being faithful to that relationship and trusting the God of the whole universe they defied him. It doesn’t seem like knowing him personally did a whole lot of good.
Say that again? Knowing God personally doesn’t really do a whole lot of good? That seems a bit counter-evangelical, doesn’t it?
The old testament is littered with God’s clear encounters with his people (and his miraculous provision for them) only to be followed with his people’s rejection and faithlessness. God showing himself to people has only had a limited, short-term impact (in-terms of their faith) at best.
There’s two things we can learn from this: when God goes away, faith falls away as well. So why does He keep going away? Remember, the thing God wants most, the thing that’s supposedly the whole point and purpose of all of history, is this personal, intimate, two-way relationship with each and every one of us. And yet the Bible tells us that time and time again God ran away from this relationship, to the detriment and damnation of the very people He supposedly wants to be saved.
A real, omnipotent, omniscient, and all-loving deity would not leave behind such an ambivalent record when and if He ever did show up in real life, even if—contrary to His own alleged motives and desires—He spent most of the time avoiding the very relationships that are supposed to be the whole point. A much more reasonable explanation of God’s failure to have a more positive influence on Old Testament history is that these so-called appearances are merely legends, and that God did not show up in the past any more than He does today.
There’s only one way to know the difference between what’s true and what isn’t. Truth is consistent with itself, and thus whatever is not consistent with itself, and with reality, is not the truth, by definition. Men can tell us stories about a God who loves us and wants to be with us, but the reality is that we only encounter this God in the stories told by men. We don’t find God showing up in real life, acting as though HE believed what the Gospels say. Therefore we have a choice. We can believe what men say, and call it faith (even though it’s gullibility). Or we can believe what we actually find in the real world.
A real God would know that, and would act accordingly.