I’ve sometimes heard people say, ‘If God exists then why doesn’t he just show himself?’ I think that for many of us this is probably one of the most important questions to address. Even when we don’t vocalise this ourselves, I’m sure that this question underpins many of our doubts, even if we don’t realise it.
An over-simplistic scientific rationale
Today, more than ever, our knowledge and beliefs are underpinned by a scientific rationale. I use the term ‘scientific’ here loosely. Scientific methods rely on observations to prove reasoning and belief. In other words, a scientist will typically create an unproven theory, for example, ‘The universe is full of dark matter’ or ‘No mass can travel faster than the speed of light.’ Eventually, this theory is shown to be either correct or incorrect by observations of the real world. This is an excellent technique for discovering and testing knowledge and has been used to demonstrate many discoveries, from the existence of Oxygen in air to the existence of elementary subatomic particles, e.g. Quarks. The former is well within the resources of the typical school science lab, whilst the latter requires a large investment of time and money.
Whilst demonstrating the existence of Oxygen in air is fairly straightforward, we need to be a little more open minded when demonstrating the existence of elementary subatomic particles. We can no longer rely on general observation and must instead rely on complex theories and expensive equipment. Likewise, it would be very wrong to assume that God does not exist simply because he is not typically demonstrated through simple observation.
Relying on the beliefs of others
However, the question ‘Why doesn’t God just show himself?’ still causes doubt, even to those that are content to accept scientific theories that are barely observable. I believe this might be due to two reasons. Firstly, the rationale of some of the people that state that God exists might not seem to be as carefully and rigorously thought out as the theories of the professional scientist. I believe that it is very easy to align our own beliefs with the beliefs of those that have thoroughly investigated a theory when we lack the time or motivation to investigate the theory ourselves. If we doubt the thoroughness of that investigation then it is too easy to doubt the theory itself.
God may not want his existence proven
The second reason, and more relevant to this topic, is that we attribute a superior intelligence and power to God. Many Christians will respond to the question ‘Why doesn’t God just show himself?’ by saying that God has demonstrated his existence through the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, if we then assume that God has a simple desire to be believed whatever the consequence and we recognise that God’s existence through the witness of Jesus is not universally accepted then we’ll attribute his failure to be believed as evidence of his nonexistence.
I believe that this is flawed reasoning. In the topic, God doesn’t want his existence proven, I argue that there might be legitimate reasons for God to be selective about who he demonstrates his existence to. I argue that our action in response to an unsubstantiated belief reflects our deepest motives. If an unproven God tells us to love our enemy and we chose to do that then our actions are much more significant than if they are a reluctant attempt to obey a proven God. Doubt gives us the freedom to make different choices and ensures that those choices reflect and shape our characters.
Instead of letting the question, ‘Why doesn’t God just show himself?’ stop us in our fascinating journey of discovery we should careful consider what evidence there is for God’s existence and let that shape our beliefs instead.