Boy, I have my work cut out for me on this post. In the last edition, the focus was on prayer. We found that prayer is indeed reliable but it is not the object of the atheists’ demand as the request suggested. Basically, assurance that prayer works comes in the assurance that God hears you; prayer is a communication tool not a healing device. At any rate, the request was satisfied.
As we continue examining “If God Would: ”, we move on to the comment made by Lee, “If he appeared to me. Not in a drunken state, but face to face…”. Let’s be real for a moment: that. would. be. AWESOME! No, seriously—totally epic! However, there are a couple inherent problems with this request. Before we can ask God to show his face to Lee, or anyone else seeking the face of God, we should first ask, “What does God look like?”.
It’s a fair question—especially for Lee and his cohorts. How is anyone to claim God hasn’t shown up without an idea of what God looks like? How does Lee know God hasn’t shown up and he just didn’t recognize him? Or, better question, can God actually show up? God says in the Bible, “…you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exod 33:20).
I suppose their is a rational argument to be inserted here: If God is all-powerful AND he can’t do something (namely, show himself face-to-face with Lee), then he is not all powerful; he has limitations. This is a false dichotomy. For example, it is not my lack of strength which prevents me from stealing candy from a baby. Similarly, it is not God’s lack of ability preventing the event from transpiring. Rather, it is his love of you, Lee (and anyone else reading this). Anyone who has ever glimpsed the sun on a shiny day knows their are limits to the human eye’s ability to see bright objects. Therefore, it is not God’s inability, but ours. “Can’t he show himself in a way we can see him?”, you may retort. Yes! But, that does not satisfy the condition of the request. If God showed himself through a loving neighbor, or a friendly blog writer *wink*, would he not be dismissed? So, we must address the request inside the limits of human abilities.
Well this is problematic.
Lee’s request seems impossible. I will dissect more of this dilemma in a bit, but before I do, I want to examine two people who have encountered God. The first is David.
He was a young man when we first read about him. He was the youngest and was left behind to take care of the family farm when his older brothers were called to military service. This was a frightening time everyone. Much of the community was involved in the war—it was just over the mountains. The neighboring forces were advancing. David could hear the war cries from the field. But David was young, ignorant, and naïve, but also bold, courageous, and trusting. So without thinking about consequences, David joined his brothers on the battlefield, perched on the hills staring at the impressiveness of the encroaching warriors. They were outnumbered; they were out-sized; they were afraid—but not David.
In his youthful folly, David sought the commander of the army, the king (Saul). “Why aren’t we attacking?”, he asked; “Isn’t God on our side?”
As the story plays out, David rose to the occasion and saved the Israelite’s from the tribesmen of Gath (Philistines). David put his hope and his trust in God and was credited with saving God’s people. The people would go on to sing praises to David, “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.”[i] God showed up big time in David’s life (at least according to the Bible) and David became known as, “a man after God’s own heart.”[ii]
Given the closeness of David and God, it should be at least a little surprising to find out this is the same David who wrote in the Psalms 13 & 22 (and many others), “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”(Ps 13:1-2). And again, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.” (Ps 22:1-2). Certainly of all the OT characters, David would not plead for God to show himself. Certainly David would not be desiring for God to ‘show his face’. But he did.
There are many theories why David wrote these words, but they are all irrelevant to the case I am presenting. This is not the place where I claim biblical authority. What I am showing here is that desiring to see God is a problem that CAN be reconciled. David went on to write in those same Psalms, “But I will trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”(Ps 13:5), and “When you appear for battle, you will burn them up as in a blazing furnace.” (Ps 22:9a). David wanted to see God, but he had enough evidence, enough experience, and enough wisdom to know that God was still in control—when God was ready, he would come. God shows up on His time, not ours.
The second character I want to showcase is Jesus’ disciple, Thomas. It was after the resurrection; the disciples went to Thomas and said, “Jesus is alive!” Thomas replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25). Jesus did show himself to Thomas and said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and believed.” (v 29). With this idea in mind, there really is no reason to assume God will just show up and make a personal appearance. With this in mind, God must be assuming there is adequate evidence that one can believe without seeing. After-all, Thomas wasn’t criticized about needing to see until after the profession was given by his friends—people he (should have) trusted.
Therefore, based solely on biblical understanding of God, no one can see God’s face, a longing to see God’s face is an acceptable position to hold, yet there is enough evidence that will suffice for not actually seeing the face of God. From this perspective, I could call it a draw. But, hey, I live in America—we hate ties!
Recently I met a friend named Paul. Paul shared with me a concern. “If God has decided the level of proof that he is willing to give, but created my brain to require more, then I guess I’m predestined to hell.” Paul makes a great point, one that bothered me as I researched why God doesn’t/can’t/hasn’t/won’t show his face to those who deeply desire to believe. That’s when I came across William Lane Craig talking about morality[iii]. WLC presents this argument:
- If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist
- Objective moral values do exist
- Therefore, God exists.
(Hang on Lee and Paul, don’t get ahead of me) I lay this out for reference not as proof text that God exists (though if you were honest, objective morality certainly holds weight). During WLC’s defense he laid out several objections raised to his premise #2. Some of those are (I picked the most creative): absolute relativity (I like this one for its irony), evolutionary benefit (then why must we teach children to be good?), and morality is a program—we actually live in the Matrix (I’ll let you sit on that one). Here’s the point. Every one of these alternatives do indeed challenge objective morality and consequently the existence of God. However (and this is big so don’t miss it). However, every other possibility is based on LESS evidence. What do I mean? Here, let Loiuse Antony, an atheist philosopher, say it better than I can:
“Any argument for moral skepticism will be based on premises which are less obvious than the existence of objective moral values.”
What does that mean? It means that although there are many arguments against God, God is more reasonable. But, just in case you were throwing a red-flag, a review on the field, consider this: God’s existence isn’t just understood by objective morality. It carries over into origins, too. According to LiveScience.com[iv], there are seven (scientific) theories to the origin of life.
- Electricity – a spark spontaneously created life from hydrogen and other molecules
- Clay – provided a means of organizing chemicals into patterns
- Submarine Hydrothermal Vents – concentrated molecules together
- Ice – protected organic compounds from luminosity
- RNA – stores DNA and proteins
- Simple Beings – less complicated life evolved into current models (billions of years)
- Panspermia – life came from other planets
The same skeptic mentality applies—every alternative requires more faith than believing in a Creator, God. Out of the seven listed above, only one actually addresses beginning life; every other option just posits “where” or “materials required”, but doesn’t come close to offering “why” or “how”. But even the lightning/electricity theory has serious problems because scientists know that the Earth wasn’t hydrogen rich in its early, formative, years (let alone the question where did lightning come from) So, any low likelihood of chance, or abiogenesis (something from nothing), is even lower than reasonable—it’s unlikely. To answer Paul’s question, if God knows how much evidence the brain requires, He has provided more evidence for His existence than for any other plausible alternative. But don’t just take my word for it. Here is converted atheist, Anthony Flew:
“…we have all the evidence we need in our immediate experience and that only a deliberate refusal to ‘look’ is responsible for atheism of any variety.”[v]
Therefore, the problem is no longer, “If God would show up”, the problem is, “If you would stop grasping at straws”. God has shown up. He is visible in the abundant life that surrounds us all. He is true to his word, “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature [Creation and morality, added]—have been clearly seen…so that people are without excuse.
If God would show up…all conditions satisfied.
[iii] William Lane Craig, “Defenders Series: Moral 3 & 4”, Reasonable Faith. Presented Feb. 21, 2016. http://livestream.com/reasonablefaith/events/4814084/videos/113118721