So in my conversations with Atheists, Deists, And The whole spectrum Of Skeptisism. I see a very common claim being brought up. This Claim, or statement if you will, goes like this.
"God knows exactly what evidence would convince me, so when god wants me to believe I will believe "
This of course could appear as a cop out from the Skeptic. Putting all the work on God, thereby allowing themselves to no longer search or to discover. How ever, coming from the Skeptic Mind, this is a Logical and Fair Statement to make. It in fact brings up a good Question, “Why doesn’t God give me the Evidence that I need?” Very similar to the “Why doesn’t God just appear right in front of me?” Question.
Now, of course we could say that God does not simply want us to Believe, but that He also wants us to Follow Him. And we could say that There may be convicing evidence for us already, we need to examine our own doubts, Skeptisism, and view on evidence. But, again this being a Logical and Fair statement from the Skeptic, I wonder how we could and should respond to such a statement? Logically and Fairly of course.
Thank you all, and Any Thoughts, would be much Appreciated of course!
Hi, Devon. Thank you for this! This is a great question. I don’t know if I have a great or satisfying response for you, but I do have some thoughts. What I hear when I read the claim you bring up is that the person really is not seeking truth nor really wants to. I could be wrong in that, but if I’m not, the person who says this could have all the evidence in the world staring him/her in the face and not even recognize what is there. It brings to mind John 18:38, which I’ve also heard Ravi point out, when Pilate had Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, standing right in front of him, and he asks, “What is truth?”
Thinking of how I have spoken with atheist coworkers in the past, I think I would ask the person what difference it would make to him if God gave the evidence that person thought necessary and convinced him. What would change for him? Based on and depending upon the response, I might ask how important, then, the person thinks the existence of God is for him as an individual and for the world to look further into his views and understanding and perhaps give me a bit more about where he is in his search for truth.
Added to this, you brought up “putting all the work on God.” This might be a good point to bring up, too, to someone bringing this up. Maybe ask if he/she thinks we have responsibility in seeking out truth. One avenue of response that comes to mind in light of that is the fact that God wants relationship with us. Relationships take two. God has provided us with evidence of His presence, as you’ve pointed out, in all of creation. He sent His son to suffer and die for humanity so that we could be reconciled to Him. Is it fair to ask for more evidence without first exploring what God has already given?
Last, the claim assumes that if God isn’t giving the “right” evidence that the person needs to be convinced, then God does not want the person making the claim to believe. This does, as you have pointed out, put the responsibility of the person’s belief on God, which, in that case, makes an assumption about free will, I think. If a person’s belief is up to God, could it truly be referred to as belief?
In regard to the question, “Why doesn’t God give me the Evidence that I need?,” that question assumes the person knows what he needs. If, indeed God exists, and He is the Creator and we are merely the creature, how are we able to rightly discern what we need in this matter? Wouldn’t our Creator know better than we what we need? If so, how, when we say “this is the evidence that we need to be convinced,” could we really know that?
I am not sure if this is the “right” approach or quite gives you what you are looking for here, but I think I would be asking questions along those lines. Determining where a person is in her search for truth will change how we respond to her (or him).
Hope this is at least a little helpful. Let me know your thoughts!
@Dev Great question! @psalm151ls made some wonderful points about the importance of relationship and the nature of free will. I do think there is a distinction between how we understand unbelief and how we approach the unbeliever. Regarding unbelief, I think the Bible makes two points very clearly.
all people will be held accountable for the knowledge they possess rather than knowledge they do not possess
God has given sufficient evidence for people to reach out for Him, but people suppress the truth because of unrighteousness
Regarding how we share Christ, I think the Engel scale is helpful. We first need to understand where the other person is at in their journey and use wisdom in how we approach them.
Additional Resources on Unbelief
Matthew 11:21-22 -“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
Luke 16:31 - “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Matthew 13:13-15 - This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
Romans 1:18-23 - The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Pascal’s Approach - God has given exactly the right amount of evidence
In “Christianity for Modern Pagans” Peter Kreeft examines Pascal’s work. One argument Pascal makes is that God gives exactly enough light for the righteous to find Him and for the wicked to reject Him.
"He gives exactly the right amount of light. If He gave less, even the righteous would be unable to find Him, and their will would be thwarted. If He gave more, even the wicked would find Him, against their will. Thus He respects and fulfills the will of all.
If He gave more light, the righteous would not learn humility, for they would know too much. If He gave less light, the wicked would not be responsible for their wickedness, for they would know too little."
MacDonald makes a great point - parables are understandable to those with a pure and honest heart. A person whose heart is not right with God, no matter how intelligent, will only be hardened by them and incapable of perceiving their intent through action no matter how intelligent.
"This will help to remove the difficulty that the parables are plainly for the teaching of the truth, and yet the Lord speaks of them as for the concealing of it. They are for the understanding of that man only who is practical–who does the thing he knows, who seeks to understand vitally. They reveal to the live conscience, otherwise not to the keenest intellect –though at the same time they may help to rouse the conscience with glimpses of the truth, where the man is on the borders of waking. Ignorance may be at once a punishment and a kindness: all punishment is kindness, and the best of which the man at the time is capable: ‘ Because you will not do, you shall not see ; but it would be worse for you if you did see, not being of the disposition to do.’ Such are punished in having the way closed before them; they punish themselves; their own doing results as it cannot but result on them. To say to them certain things so that they could understand them, would but harden them more, because they would not do them; they should have but parables–lanterns of the truth, clear to those who will walk in their light, dark to those who will not . The former are content to have the light cast upon their way; the latter will have it in their eyes, and cannot: if they had, it would but blind them. For them to know more would be their worse condemnation. They are not fit to know more; more shall not be given them yet; it is their punishment that they are in the wrong, and shall keep in the wrong until they come out of it. ‘You choose the dark; you shall stay in the dark till the terrors that dwell in the dark affray you, and cause you to cry out.’ God puts a seal upon the will of man; that seal is either his great punishment, or his mighty favour: ‘Ye love the darkness, abide in the darkness:’ ‘O woman, great is thy faith: be it done unto thee even as thou wilt!’
I actually did talk some more about this, and I remembered something that is important. God does not just want Belief for us, like you said He wants a Relationship. God could appear before all Atheists and Show them evidence and proofs to get them to Believe. But, non of those Atheists could ever end up Following God.
I put it this way “You can be open to Belief, but not open to Truly Following.”
I also thought that because God wants Belief and Relationship, He is going to work in the Skeptics life to not only convince them and bring them to,belief, but to also Bring them to a Place of Surrender and Following Him. And let’s face it that later part is a lot harder then the first part.
That’s why even one who is seeking, could only really be seeking belief and not A Relationship.
Frank Turek comes to mind when having situations/conversations like this.
I would ask them “If Christianity were true would you become a Christian?”
Their answer might surprise you. God does make himself known to those who are truly seeking him and I believe he knows of those who wouldn’t accept any evidence no matter how great it was simply because they don’t want God. So maybe they don’t see any evidence because God knows none will convince them anyway. There are people who would say No to the question above because they don’t want Christianity to be true. Its hard sometimes to think there are people like that but there are.