"If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank."

- Woody Allen

"We get into the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking."

- Albert Camus


The previous chapter presented a rationale for believing a creator God exists.

Here we explore the nature of what our relationship would be to such a God...if that God is as described in the Bible.

This is also the first section that discusses (briefly) the nature of evidence: how much do we have, what is enough, and why isn't there more.

1. Our relationship to God.
2. How he's revealed himself.
3. How clear the evidence?
4. Enough evidence?
5. Why are there atheists?

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Him asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.

But He answered and said to them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.'"And in the morning, 'There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? "

An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah." And He left them, and went away.

- Matthew 16:1-4 NASB



God, evidence, and atheists


"I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principle enemy of the moral progress in the world." 1

- Bertrand Russell

"The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity, and humanity." 2

- John Adams

3.1 According to the Bible, what is our relationship to God?

The Bible describes God's relationship with humanity to be like a parent-child relationship in many ways. A newborn infant knows little of the parents who gave it life. Such an infant may be wholly unaware that those same parents also provide for its every need.

The only way the infant may come to know its parents is for the parents to make themselves known to the infant. The infant is totally unable to bridge what may appear to it to be an infinite gap between itself and the parent, even if the parents are just around the corner. Or the parents might be right there, only the infant does not yet know how to recognize them. Perhaps likewise, the only way finite created man may recognize an infinite Creator God is for God to make himself known to man.

3.2 Has God made himself known to us?

Humanity does not possess all knowledge. While this makes it impossible for strong atheism to proclaim, "God does not exist", it doesn't prove God does exist. Positive evidence which would could be that which he has left behind in reaching down into the cradle of earth to make himself known to us.

God has made himself known to humanity through history, creation, and his appearance on earth in the person of Jesus Christ. The cumulative written record of this is called the Bible. God has given us the Bible in order that we may know him as he desires to be known.

Biblical christianity is unique among worldviews in this way: Christianity is a relationship with God in which God seeks after incapable and ignorant man. Other systems of thought usually portray man as seeking after God; the helpless infant struggling for the impossible. Most don't reflect the demand that the greater must search out the lesser. Only the Bible speaks so respectfully of a creator God who is truly the spiritual parent of his children.

Regardless of whether or not human beings desire to have the same closeness to God that he desires to have with us, we are undeniably sinful. It was mankind's willful choice to disobey God to which the Bible attributes our initial separation from him; choices we continue to make every day. Our separation is also the source of our inability to perfectly sense and follow the leading of his Holy Spirit. That is why it is important to note that Scripture says God provides his Spirit for us - to help compensate for our spiritual deafness and unbelief.

3.3 How clear do we need the evidence?

Evidence supporting the Bible's believability and the existence of God is not absent, it is abundant. Of course, several reasonable challenges at this point include asking:

So why do we have to read the Bible and study history for proof of these things?

If the Bible explains the only true salvation, why doesn't God do something to make that obvious to us?

And if these things are so important and so real, why don't we see crystal clear evidence for them?"

The answer to these questions begins with asking this in response: What is your definition of clarity?

Without possessing all knowledge, nothing can be proven beyond all doubt. That is the basis for stating that it is impossible to prove anything with 100% clarity or certainty. For example, if we demanded to have notarized confirmations of the absence of every possible contaminant our food could ever contain, and vowed not to eat until then, we would starve to death. No one can provide this level of assurance. Therefore, every time we bite into something without having subjected it to a hundred congressional investigations, we are accepting as truth merely the reasonable certainty that it is safe.

We act on what we know. You and I are not choosing to die of starvation because we lack total knowledge of all food contaminants. We might read a product label, or inspect our food, but we continue to eat based on faith - a faith based on the available pieces of data which indicates the food in our hand is reasonably safe.

Although the acceptance or denial of Christianity and the Bible is a commitment of potentially eternal consequences, this decision must also be made based on what we know. Physicist John A. Bloom reveals that

scientists have found long ago that they can learn more about the universe by studying the evidence which is available than by abandoning a topic until the data are perfect and the conclusions drawn from them are philosophically irrefutable." 3

We will never know everything. What we do know is that the Bible informs us God has given us sufficient evidence to know he exists, and to be held morally accountable to him as Lord. Taking that to be the case, let's now consider the matter of sufficiency.

Has God truly left sufficient evidence to believe in him?

3.4 How much evidence is enough?

"If God has given us evidence of himself and salvation, and I don't see it, then hasn't God failed? Hasn't he failed to give us enough evidence?"

History demonstrates that no matter how clear the evidence or how much of it is provided, some people will claim it's not enough. That goes for religion, politics, and everything else. More evidence by itself will never convince every single mind because we are more often subjective rather than objective. We tend to filter our beliefs through our own personal preferences to incur lifestyles of maximum pleasure.

Chuck Swindoll describes this problem as one of allowing our lifestyle to shape our theology, instead of allowing theology to shape our lifestyle. As a result of this misdirection, consciously or not, most people remain the god of their own life, indifferent to the potential existence of any divine authority over them. Superficially, we might claim that we have not seen enough evidence for God, but really, how much is enough?

The freedom we have to be able to choose between belief and rejection in God categorically rules out the possibility of ever coming across that undeniable miracle for which many people claim to be waiting. For example, if a Bible were discovered on Mars or Jesus dropped in as a guest on Oprah, wouldn't those still leave room for doubt (special effects, fraud, etc.)? "Too obvious," some might say, "too unbelievable."

By contrast, what if very subtle events and circumstances seemed to align in an answer to a prayer or restoring someone's faith (as in the movie "Signs")? Let me guess -- not obvious enough?

For some people, no amount of evidence will ever be enough because a big key to belief is motive. Three popular motives as to why people resist the gospel are the same motives that move the stock market: hope, want, and fear. People simply by nature . . .

1) hope things will go their way without having to make any substantial investigation of facts and claims, or...

2) want to believe that their lifestyle and worldview, whatever they may be, are fine with God exactly as they are, or...

3) fear some misconception about God and the Bible, or fear they're incapable of enjoying or living any kind of life other than what they have right now.

But of all motives people have for protecting their disbelief in God, pride is number one and the most difficult to overcome. Sometimes pride is exhibited boldly, as in a stubborn refusal to believe one could possibly be accountable to any being other than themselves. Other times, a person's pride is more subtle, like insisting that they need more evidence than is available, or demanding a personal miraculous experience before they'll believe.

These same motives were true in Jesus' day. Many people quit following Jesus after having seen him perform one or more miracles. Other people decided to quit after hearing some of his hard teachings. But in contrast, Peter's response to those same teachings speaks for everyone who concedes to the truth of Christ: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life," (John 6:68 NIV).

The point is that you don't have to blindly hope in Christ. You don't have to because there are facts by which you can be assured of who he is. You don't even have to want the lifestyle, you just have to believe the truth. God will enable you to live and want a follower's lifestyle in time; probably in less time than you think.

No one should let fear or dislike of a Christ-centered life be an emotional roadblock that hinders an objective consideration for the truth of God and the Bible. Nor should one allow pride or arrogance to so close their mind that they refuse to see or obey the same God who is revealing himself right before them. Obedience will come and it will not be the result of anything harsh or invasive like brainwashing or indoctrination. It will instead be the gentle response you'll freely offer as you learn of and realize the awesomeness and love of God.

The written evidence given to us to learn of this love is comprised of the Old and New Testaments (Christ came in fulfillment of the Old Testament or old covenant, and his ministry established the new covenant, which is documented in the New Testament). These together are God's total written revelation to humanity. This is more than sufficient proof to believe in him. Even concerning the evidence of the Old Testament alone, Jesus himself prophetically recounted: "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead." (Luke 16:31 NASB).

3.5 If there is a God, why are there atheists?

This question is interesting to consider and is actually the title of a book by R.C. Sproul. The ancient argument being restated here suggests that God is either:

A.) not omnipotent because he cannot make everyone believe, or

B.) not loving because he will not let everyone believe and thus allow some people to become condemned to hell.

The questioner (Epicurus in this case) presupposes God's motives to be either impotent or evil, while ignoring the possibility that God might have greater intentions in mind. God is self-sufficient and is in no way dependent upon our belief in him. God reveals himself to us not for his own benefit, but for ours.

God's sometimes low profile brings attention to our own true character. This is like the parent who knows the real child comes out when no one is around to keep a restraining eye on them. We may say, "Yes, Dad" when he's standing right there, but what do we say when he leaves the room? When we forgot he's listening?

Let me put it this way: How do people drive on the highway when there's a police car behind them compared to how they drive when there's no cop around?

Unlike the earthly authority figure, God doesn't need to leave the room or park behind a billboard to know our hearts (Job 34:22-23). Thus life might be witnessing far more to us than to him. By being allowed to act freely, perhaps we mature into seeing ourselves as God already does. If this is the case, when Christ eventually returns to judge all the world's inhabitants, living and dead, his case will be open and shut.

We are right now being allowed to testify through our own lives our innermost selves and intentions.

Another reason God may not react to each sin instantly just as we commit them is because that would not make us good. Neither would it allow us to complete this testimony called life. It would only scare us into acting good and, in God's own words, "Was I not silent even for a long time so you do not fear Me?" (Isaiah 57:11b NASB).

In this light, perhaps God's intent is not to force belief upon every last man that he exists, but to allow us to respond freely according to our individual desires to the grace and love that he has shown us.


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NEXT: Christians: biased, bigoted, intolerant, and judgmental?

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