God and CSI, Take 2

psycho with knife

At our house, conversations about ID usually aren’t about “identification.” It means “Intelligent Design.”

My husband Ray’s entire education is in science, including a Ph.D. in molecular biology. Early in his Christian walk, learning there was evidence against evolution lit a fire under him that has only grown in the 35 years since. Today, he is thrilled by advances in science that on an almost-monthly basis reveal more and more evidence that an intelligence is the only reasonable explanation for many aspects of the natural world.

But that doesn’t sit well with people who don’t want to be accountable to the God they know perfectly well is there, but spend endless hours and countless books (and YouTube videos) denying it.

The anti-God attitude was well known to the apostle Paul, who said in Romans 1:19-20, “. . .that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

Eventually, it poisoned the very core of most science today. The early scientists like Galileo and Newton made important discoveries about the Creation because their starting point was a belief in an intelligent, orderly Creator who wove orderliness into His creation. They believed that the orderliness and principles of the natural world were knowable because our God is knowable. But then, Darwin’s theory of evolution allowed people to embrace science without buying into the “God part” of it. Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) said that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” And today, it is now assumed that the very nature of science excludes anything supernatural. This has nothing to do with the evidence and everything to do with people’s hearts.

When we “X” God out of our thinking, we feel free to redefine things any way we want, since we no longer feel beholden to His view of reality. I was thinking the other day that if Las Vegas decided it didn’t like its crime statistics, all it needs to do is define crime away. Can you imagine if the city went to the CSI investigators and said, “You know all those dead bodies you deal with? From now on, you need to find a natural explanation for those deaths.”

And the CSI people would say, “But most of the deaths we investigate aren’t naturally caused. They are caused by human beings.”

LV: Not any more. If all people die from natural causes, then we’ve done away with crime. And we are totally committed to doing away with crime in Las Vegas.

CSI: But we’re committed to following the evidence no matter where it leads. If the evidence implies a killer, we can’t say it’s a natural death.

LV: Our commitment is eliminating crime. If you can’t come up with natural causes for these deaths, we’ll bring in CSIs who can.

CSI: So when we find someone face down on a desk, with a wound indicating something long and sharp was stabbed from the back of the neck into the victim’s mouth. . .?

LV: Keep researching until you find a completely natural explanation. And stop using needlessly prejudicial words like “victim.” There is no more crime in this city because we have declared it so. Your findings have to be consistent with the new city policy.

And that’s what it’s like to be a scientist these days. Don’t believe me? Watch Ben Stein’s movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed .

And go “Arrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!”

 

This is a revised version of the blog post originally published on October 7, 2008


God and CSI:

gun and bullets

At our house, conversations about ID usually aren’t about “identification.” It means “Intelligent Design.”

My husband Ray’s entire education is in science, including a Ph.D. in molecular biology. Early in his Christian walk, learning there was evidence against evolution lit a fire under him that has only grown in the 35 years since. Today, he is thrilled by advances in science that on an almost-monthly basis reveal more and more evidence that an intelligence is the only reasonable explanation for many aspects of the natural world.

But that doesn’t sit well with people who don’t want to be accountable to the God they know perfectly well is there, but spend endless hours and countless books (and YouTube videos) denying it.

The anti-God attitude was well known to the apostle Paul, who said in Romans 1:19-20, “. . .that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

Eventually, it poisoned the very core of most science today. The early scientists like Galileo and Newton made important discoveries about the Creation because their starting point was a belief in an intelligent, orderly Creator who wove orderliness into His creation. They believed that the orderliness and principles of the natural world were knowable because our God is knowable. But then, Darwin’s theory of evolution allowed people to embrace science without buying into the “God part” of it. Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) said that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” And today, it is now assumed that the very nature of science excludes anything supernatural. This has nothing to do with the evidence and everything to do with people’s hearts.

When we “X” God out of our thinking, we feel free to redefine things any way we want, since we no longer feel beholden to His view of reality. I was thinking the other day that if Las Vegas decided it didn’t like its crime statistics, all it needs to do is define crime away. Can you imagine if the city went to the CSI investigators and said, “You know all those dead bodies you deal with? From now on, you need to find a natural explanation for those deaths.”

And Gus Grissom would say, “But most of the deaths we investigate aren’t naturally caused. They are caused by human beings.”

LV: Not any more. If all people die from natural causes, then we’ve done away with crime. And we are totally committed to doing away with crime in Las Vegas.

GG: But we’re committed to following the evidence no matter where it leads. If the evidence implies a killer, we can’t say it’s a natural death.

LV: Our commitment is eliminating crime. If you can’t come up with natural causes for these deaths, we’ll bring in CSIs who can.

GG: So when we find someone face down on a desk, with a wound indicating something long and sharp was stabbed from the back of the neck into the victim’s mouth. . .?

LV: Keep researching until you find a completely natural explanation. And stop using needlessly prejudicial words like “victim.” There is no more crime in this city because we have declared it so. Your findings have to be consistent with the new city policy.

And that’s what it’s like to be a scientist these days. Don’t believe me? Watch Ben Stein’s movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed when it comes out on DVD in a few days.

And go “Arrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!”

This blog post originally appeared at blogs.bible.org/engage/sue_bohlin/god_and_csi on October 7, 2008.


“Evidence for God’s Existence? I Think Not!”

universe

I have just read your article on the existence of God. There are SO many mistakes (and assumptions) you have made that I don’t know where to begin:

A “Just Right” Universe?

Of course our planet is ‘just right’ to sustain life. If it were not we would not be here! There are billions and billions of galaxies, each galaxy has billions of stars, and each star has many planets. So although the chances of life occurring are slim, because there are so many opportunities for it to occur, the chances are that it will almost definitely occur somewhere.

The Nagging Itch of “Ought”

This is to do with moral values. Not Christian values, but just plain humanitarian moral values. We know that in order to survive, social chaos is a bad thing. We don’t need a Supernatural all knowing God to tell us this. Common sense tells us to do to others what you would like them to do to you. Do you seriously believe that without God it is impossible to make moral judgements in the interests of mankind? Don’t forget that although we evolved from apes, evolution itself is driven by natural selection, genes that enable us to survive live, and those that don’t die. Obviously murdering, stealing, cheating etc, will increase the odds of that happening to you. Therefore it is not in a species’ interests to have these characteristics, therefore they die out. We have evolved moral values, they were not bestowed upon us by some god!

Evidence of Design Implies a Designer

Have you not never heard of evolution? Evolution is the non-random development of species through time, through random mutations in its DNA. That means that if it mutates in a bad way, the creature dies. If the mutation is beneficial to its survival then it lives and passes it ‘new’ genes on to the next generation. The process can take millions of years to evolve simple self replicating molecules (which can and do occur) into a diverse range of species. And hence give the appearance of design.

The Reliability of the Bible

HA!

Reliable and Bible are not two words I use together in a sentence very often! The Bible is full of holes and contradictions, it is the most inconsistent book I have ever read. If you don’t believe me have a look at the enclosed text file!

Jesus: The Ultimate Evidence

Jesus? The only evidence that can be found to suggest that he even existed. Is yes… in the Bible! Which insistently was written by unknown authors over 150 years after he (supposedly) died. It was also written in a different language than Jesus himself would have spoken!

Thank you for writing. You asked no questions, but only made statements which show me that you have not done much research, but you do have strong opinions. Therefore, I will not attempt to answer your comments since I am sure your time is as valuable as mine, and I doubt that you’re interested in anything that would contradict your opinions.

I did look at your list of contradictions, and they do not trouble me at all since there is a rational explanation for them. The majority of them are like the contradiction my children experienced when my husband called me “Sue” and they called me “Mommy.”

But thank you for writing.

In closing, you might want to consider Pascal’s wager: Either Christianity is true or it’s false. If you bet that it’s true, and you believe in God and submit to Him, then if it IS true, you’ve gained God, heaven, and everything else. If it’s false, you’ve lost nothing, but you’ve had a good life marked by peace and the illusion that ultimately, everything makes sense. If you bet that Christianity is not true, and it’s false, you’ve lost nothing. But if you bet that it’s false, and it turns out to be true, you’ve lost everything and you spend eternity in hell.

Quite a wager. . . and every one of us makes it, either consciously or unconsciously.

So, _____, since you haven’t checked into the things you confidently assert are true (for example: your statement that there is no extra-biblical evidence for the existence of Jesus. Check out the historian Josephus), are you willing to bet your life and your eternity that you’re right?

Sue Bohlin
Probe Ministries

Pascal’s wager? You are asking me to believe in God, just in case he is real! If that has to be my reason, then I am not really believing in him, am I? I look at the evidence, if it convinces me then I will believe, if it does not, then I do not believe. Going by Pascal’s wager I would have to then subscribe to every earthly religion going, (just in case) their god happens to be true, regardless of any evidence! This of course is not feasible.

Asking me why I don’t believe in God is like being asked why I don’t believe that a giant invisible pink unicorn called Dodo created the universe! While it is possible, I see no reason to assume so. . .

Let me ask you a question:

I have done nothing wrong. I lead a good fulfilling life, I am certainly not ‘evil’ just because I don’t hold a strong belief in any god(s).

If you were god, as in creator of the universe and all life etc, would you condemn me to burn in hell for all eternity simply for not believing in you?

I have done nothing wrong.

By whose standards? Yours, or God’s? Even by yours, you’re telling me you have never lied, have never done anything that fell short of your own standards of how people should treat each other, have never done anything you needed to say “I’m sorry” for?

If you were god, as in creator of the universe and all life etc, would you
condemn me to burn in hell for all eternity simply for not believing in you?

No, _____, YOU would be condemning yourself.

Look at it this way. You are an astronaut and you are doing a spacewalk. You decide you don’t like NASA’s ridiculous restrictions about wearing a bulky space suit and staying tethered to the space shuttle, so you decide you’re going to be your own boss and not submit to them. You break the tether and take off your space suit.

Is NASA condemning you to die from lack of oxygen and the freezing cold of space? No. . .they are the source of life to you out there in space. They’re the ones keeping you alive as long as you stay connected to their technology. YOU would be condemning yourself to die.

God doesn’t condemn anyone to a hell separated from Him for eternity. He did everything in His power to make it possible for us to be reconciled to Him. But He does not override our choices, and if you choose to cut yourself off from the only source of life, then you are condemning yourself to eternal death. It’s your choice, not God’s.

You may not want to believe in God, _____, but that doesn’t stop me from praying that He will reveal Himself to you in such a personal and intimate way that you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is there and He loves you more than you can imagine.

Sue

He did everything in His power to make it possible for us to be reconciled to Him. But He does not override our choices, and if you choose to cut yourself off from
the only source of life, then you are condemning yourself to eternal death.

You are contradicting yourself. God, as you define him is all powerful. Therefore nothing is beyond his ability! Right?

Therefore there is plenty that he could do (if he existed) that would convince me of his existence. For example if he appeared in a puff of smoke and perform a few miracles, etc. I might just believe him. However, I am forced to rely on evidence such as the Bible! Which to me is not very convincing! On top of this, I am faced with another dilemma, there are other religions, preaching their own beliefs, which are all just as equally feasible as yours! This is why I remain unconvinced!

You are contradicting yourself. God, as you define him is all powerful.
Therefore nothing is beyond his ability! Right?

No, that’s not true. God cannot contradict Himself. For example, He cannot create a boulder so big He can’t move it. He can’t create a round square. Those sorts of things are logical contradictions. God is logical.

Therefore there is plenty that he could do (if he existed) that would convince me of his existence. For example if he appeared in a puff of smoke
and perform a few miracles, etc. I might just believe him.

You know what? You could come up with any number of hoops for Him to jump through and still not believe. The problem isn’t that the evidence isn’t good enough, _____. The problem is a heart that refuses to accept the evidence that’s already been given. You and Carl Sagan have a lot in common.

Even mentally disabled children can see the evidence of God’s existence and believe in Him. The problem isn’t intellect; it’s a heart issue.

However, I am forced to rely on evidence such as the Bible! Which to me is not very convincing! On top of this, I am faced with another dilemma, there are other religions, preaching their own beliefs, which are all just as equally feasible as yours! This is why I remain unconvinced!

Only on the surface. No other religions explain reality as well as Christianity, but again, until you truly examine them all with an unbiased eye, and not dismiss them unexamined, it will remain a heart issue.

And that’s why I pray for you.

Your friend,

Sue

© December 2000 Probe Ministries


“This World is Far From Perfect”

I just read your article about evidence of God’s existence. I just want to say that this world is quite far from being perfect. A perfect world would be a world free of racism, hypocrisy, and genocide just to name a few. If God had made a perfect world it would have been a world free of these things. And the section about Jesus being the “proof,” well there is no proof of there being a Jesus except the Bible which may be false also.

You are so very right. This world IS quite far from being perfect. However, this isn’t the world that God created. That world was absolutely perfect, with no racism, hypocrisy or genocide. But Adam and Eve chose to go their own way and disobey God, and when they did they plunged the world into awful consequences they could never have foreseen. A world of ugliness and hate and violence, in addition to the evils you mentioned. In fact, as I watched the attacks on the World Trade Center, I thought what a horrible parallel it was to how God must have felt when His beautiful, perfectly-working world was devastated and defaced by sin. We call it “the fall,” and as I watched both towers collapse I thought what an apt description it is of what happened to our world back in the Garden of Eden.

This, however, does not change the fact that our world is perfectly designed to sustain life. What hurtful things happen on the earth, and how the earth was fashioned and placed here with just the right parameters to support life, are apples and oranges. Completely different issues.

Concerning there being no proof of Jesus’ existence, well, I guess you haven’t really seriously examined that, or you would have discovered that there is more evidence for the existence of Jesus than for most other famous people in the ancient world. I’m sorry, I can’t take your criticism any more seriously than the young man who came up to me after a conference and told me he didn’t believe he existed. I can take YOU seriously, and I do, but not your charge. It won’t hold water. There’s a whole discipline called “history” that would prove your charge to be groundless. At the very least, allow me to suggest you read my colleague Michael Gleghorn’s article Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources.

Sue Bohlin
Probe Ministries


“A ‘Just Right’ Planet?”

Sue:

I enjoyed reading your article entitled “Evidence for God’s Existence” on probe.org. I found it to provide interesting insight.

I found your comments regarding a “just right” earth particularly intriguing. You stated that our “just right” planet is clear evidence that is was created by “a loving God.” As someone who has witnessed the fury of mother nature more than once, I am compelled to ask — do you include volcanic eruptions, floods, tidal waves, and earthquakes in this “just right” view of God’s creation of the earth?

I find it very hard to believe that this planet we live on is as “just right” as you portray. I have seen massive landslides that buried charities, churches, and brothels side by side without regard. I have seen so many God-fearing people struck by flood and other natural disasters that I cannot help but fail to understand how the earth can be so “just right.” Think about how many innocent children suffered for days, even weeks in immense pain and agony, buried under rubble in an earthquake, before finally dying. Are such tragedies really part of a “just right” design?

I recent read a research paper from the American Oceanographic Institute regarding some really cool bacteria — they live 2 miles deep in the ocean near hot thermal vents in the ocean floor where no light has ever penetrated. The water temperature there reaches 800 degrees or more and contains highly toxic and poisonous chemicals (well – to humans at least). These conditions are not so different than you might find on other planets in our solar system. I know that one day we will land spacecraft on other planets and find, in the most hostile environment imaginable, living organisms thriving in places we never thought possible.

Like you, I marvel at the intricacies of the world (and universe) we live in — it truly is a wondrous place. William Paley is well-known for his “watchmaker” theory — he, too, marveled at our universe and was so overwhelmed at it’s complexity that he said that someone MUST have engineered it — for it could not possibly exist without a designer.

I offer you this challenge, then — let’s apply Mr. Paley’s own logic to God himself. Surely you will agree that God himself is far more complex and intricate than the universe is. By Mr. Paley’s logic, something so complex MUST have a creator. Therefore, someone or something MUST have created God, since such complexity cannot exit without a designer. I submit that Mr. Paley is simply a victim of someone in need of a reason — we all want to have a reason. Some of us can accept the fact that we don’t yet know where the universe came from. Others, like Mr. Paley, are so desperate to explain things that they will simply make something else up which is immune from question to explain that which they cannot.

I say these things not to inflame you or attack you. I simply seek knowledge, thought, and interaction with people of differing viewpoints than my own. Perhaps one day I will come to agree, perhaps not. But I find that speaking to everyone I can, becoming their friend, and agreeing to disagree to be very fulfilling in my life.

Hopefully you will take a few minutes to talk with me and we will both go our ways with a little more knowledge and insight than we started with.

I have received quite a few e-mails from people who disagreed with me in this article, but none that were as gentle and reasonable and sweet-tempered as yours! It says something about your character, methinks. . . . <smile>

Two answers. First of all, concerning the horrific destruction that gets unleased in nature: according to the Bible, which gives us information we couldn’t know otherwise because it’s information from “outside the box,” this world is in a state very different from the one God originally created. After sin entered the world courtesy of the first human beings, the whole world was plunged into a state of corruption, decay and destruction that spawned natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts. (And then you add the HUMAN disasters that are a result of moral corruption and decay that spawned atrocities like the Holocaust and Sept. 11!—But that’s another story.)

At the risk of belaboring the point, allow me to offer an illustration. My sister-in-law is an extraordinarily gifted cake decorator in Chicago, and I live in Dallas. She wanted to share one of her creations with me, and was told by a mentor that if she packed a cake with the right precautions, she could FedEx it to me and it would arrive intact. Apparently, the folks at FedEx didn’t know that, and when I opened the box it was a mess of crumbs and broken sugar flowers. It still tasted wonderful, and evidence abounded for its original beauty and glory, but it got ruined between Chicago and Dallas. Her heart sank when she learned what had happened to it, not only because of the waste but because her hopes for pleasing me with the cake’s original condition were dashed. I think it’s an illustration of how it grieved God for His beautiful earth to be ruined by the mishandling of the people into whose hands He had placed His creation to be good stewards, because their sin caused all manner of destruction not only between people but also on the earth itself. The fact that the cake was ruined after it left my sister’s hands didn’t detract one bit from the gifted design and skill that went into creating it in the first place. I still contend that God’s design is “just right,” even though the world doesn’t function as perfectly as it did when He first created it.

Secondly, concerning the idea that someone or something must have created God: as you move backward in discerning cause and effect, there must eventually be an Uncaused Cause in order for anything to exist at all. At some point there has to be something or someone who has always existed who is responsible for causing other things to come into existence, because nothing comes into existence on its own. Thus, at some point there had to be an Ultimate Causer (or Ultimate Cause) that has always been here. Because if you can go “beyond God,” so to speak, to a time when there was nothing and no one in existence, then there would be no way for God to come into existence without a cause. There MUST be an Uncaused Cause.

Hope this helps you to understand where I’m coming from!

Most respectfully and cordially,

Sue Bohlin
Probe Ministries


Why Isn’t the Evidence Clearer? – The Truth of the Scriptures

Written by Lou Whitworth

[Note: “Why Isn’t the Evidence Clearer?” is the name of a chapter in the Probe book, Evidence for Faith: Deciding the God Question, an excellent collection of articles on Christian evidential apologetics. The chapter (pp. 305-17) was written by John A. Bloom (Ph.D. in physics, Cornell University, Ph.D. in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Dropsie College, and now Associate Professor of Physics at Biola College). This essay is an edited and condensed version of the chapter as found in the book. For the documentation of this material, please see the original. The book was edited/compiled by Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, who holds eight earned degrees in philosophy, law, and theology.]

Sometimes unbelievers complain, “If God really exists, why isn’t the evidence more plain and simple?” “Is God tricking us by making us hunt and search for answers?” They say, “Why isn’t the evidence for the God of the Bible clearer?” That is, why isn’t the evidence for the truth of the Scriptures so obvious and undeniable that virtually everyone would acknowledge it, repent, and accept Christ as personal savior?

In his book, Contact, Carl Sagan satirically asks why God doesn’t place a glowing cross in the sky at night to serve as irrefutable proof of Jesus’ resurrection? One could extend this line of thought further and ask why God doesn’t have His own television channel and toll-free “hotline”?

Despite Sagan’s ridicule, he has a legitimate point. Why must we read a two-thousand-year-old book and study ancient history for proof of the existence of God? Why isn’t the evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible made obvious to everyone, no matter how rebellious or blinded by sin? What we are really asking is, “Are there any reasons for the evidence to appear obscure other than the possibility that the God of the Bible doesn’t exist?” This question should be addressed seriously, and, as we do so in this brief discussion, I think we will find that the answer is more profound than many realize.

There are two reasonable demands for any set of evidence. First, the evidence should be clear enough to be intellectually sound at the same level of certainty one uses in making other important decisions. Second, the evidence must be clear enough to select one set of claims over another (that is, clear enough to select Christianity over other religions).

Some are tempted to apply the rule that “the more critical the decision, the clearer the evidence must be.” They demand that the evidence for Christianity must be extraordinarily and especially clear to win their allegiance. The problem with this standard is that it assumes that there are no consequences to the decision. If, however, there are cataclysmic consequences to the observer, he will have to settle for “sufficient evidence, or the most trustworthy evidence.”

The more appropriate rule is: “The more severe the consequences, the less we should take risks.” Therefore, even if biblical Christianity has a less than one-in-ten-million chance of being true, we should accept it because the possibility of an eternal Hell is such a great torment. If the available evidence shows that biblical Christianity is “the most trustworthy” of all religions, then we are on even firmer ground.

For the balance of this article, we’ll be looking at this issue of the clarity of the evidence from several perspectives. We’ll consider the scientific and historical perspectives on this question; we’ll attempt to look at it from God’s point of view and from our own human vantage point. Finally, we’ll summarize the results of our analysis in light of God’s grace and our human accountability.

The Scientific Perspective

The chief task of the scientist is to comb through “raw” data and attempt to extract useful information from which he constructs a hypothesis. He then tests the hypothesis against the original data and against new data from experimentation. Often the data are inconclusive or ambiguous preventing a rigorous conclusion. However, abandoning the research and pronouncing that no one can ever discover the answer is poor methodology. The fact is that the natural order rarely produces ideal data, and nature appears to be more far more complex the more we know about it. Is it logical to expect the Creator to be less complex than His creation?

The scientist should have a healthy skepticism and desire careful experimentation. However, the extremely skeptical position we mentioned aboveCarl Sagan in demanding a glowing cross in the sky as proof of Christ’s resurrection is not scientific. It is like not believing in galaxies unless someone has one in his laboratory. Some people may refuse to believe in the authority of the Ten Commandments because they aren’t written on the surface of the moon, but those same people would consider a person an idiot if he said he doubted the authority of the periodic table because it wasn’t written on the surface of the moon. The point is that clarity is relative, not absolute; thus skepticism must have practical limits.

In addition, the clarity and conclusiveness of experimental data must be judged relative to competition, that is, alternate explanations. In our case, the clarity of the evidence for the truth of biblical Christianity would be obscured by competition from other belief systems if any of them had comparable evidence to support their truth claims. Scientists have learned that they cannot wait for irrefutable data.

The Historical Perspective

Arguments against the Bible based on a “Why isn’t it clearer?” foundation can appear stronger than they really are because of the distortions inherent in recording history. For example, a casual reading of the Bible might lead one to the conclusion that miracles were a daily occurrence in ancient Israel. Thus the absence of similar miracles in modern times could lead one to assume that “God is dead” or that those events which the ancients thought were miracles were only natural events which were not understandable at the time.

In fact, a close study of the Bible indicates that miracles were rare and mainly cluster around four specific points:

  • Moses and the Exodus
  • The time of Elijah and Elisha
  • The lives of Jesus and the Apostles, and
  • The still future Second Coming of Christ

The clusters of miracles appear in conjunction with some new aspect of God’s plan or new revelation and seem more prominent than they really are because of the historical compression of the biblical record.

God’s Perspective

We have been looking at the question of why the evidence for the truth of the Bible isn’t clearer, and now we will look at this question from God’s perspective. In other words, could God have reasons for not making the evidence so striking that even the most sinful and rebellious person would see it and repent?

First a few observations about God. Ancient thought often held that the gods made man because they were in need of servants. Much modern thought argues that God made man because He was lonely or did not have anyone around to love or appreciate Him. However, the God of the Bible is in no way dependent upon mankind even for love or worship. That He reveals Himself at all is for our benefit, not His.

But even if He reveals evidence of Himself only to benefit us, why isn’t He more forthright about it? This much seems clear: If He made His presence or the evidence too obvious, it would interfere with His demonstration, which is intended to draw out or reveal the true inner character of mankind. We know from several passages of Scripture that this is part of God’s purpose for maintaining a relative silence. For example, in Psalm 50:21-22 we read, “These things you have done, and I kept silence; you thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you, and state the case in order before your eyes.” From these statements we come to see that God is not struggling desperately to gain man’s attention. Actually He is restraining Himself in order to demonstrate to human beings something about our inner character, or tendency to evil. We might call this “the Sheriff in the tavern” principle—people tend to be good when they think they are being watched by an authority. If a sheriff wants to find out or reveal who the troublemakers are in a tavern, he must either hide or appear to be an ineffective wimp, otherwise the bad guys will behave as well as everyone else.

Of course we should not push this analogy too far: unlike the Sheriff, God doesn’t need to see men’s evil actions in order to accurately judge them. Moreover, He has not stated His full reasons for allowing men to demonstrate their evil intent through their actions. The point we are trying to make here is that there are reasons that we can understand that may explain to some degree why God has chosen to run the world the way He has.

So why isn’t the evidence clearer? To use another analogy, it is because God is like a good scientist who doesn’t want to disturb His experiment by intruding into it. The problem of disturbing an experiment while measuring it is the bane of the experimental sciences in that any and every measurement changes and thus distorts to some degree the system it measures. Of course God is not running an experiment because He already knows the outcome. It is more like a demonstration with the results saved for Judgment Day.

The Human Perspective

We have been dealing thus far in this essay the question of why the evidence for the truth of the Bible isn’t clearer, that is, overwhelmingly and inescapably clear. Now we want to examine this question from man’s viewpoint, that is, the human factor that is involved whenever a person tries to judge the quality of the evidence.

In Romans 1:1-8 Paul wrote that God has given human beings sufficient evidence that He exists. However, some people cannot bear to think that there is an authority or power greater than themselves, especially one that they cannot control and to which they should be subject. We should not be surprised, therefore, when we find that many people often distort the evidence that God has already given them (yet keep demanding more).

Given this tendency on the part of man, how clear does the evidence have to be before people would universally recognize the existence of the God of the Bible? Would a cross in the sky actually be sufficient to convert Carl Sagan? Would the performance of an undeniable miracle in a scoffer’s presence be enough? However impressive such feats would be, the records of history show that most people choose to ignore whatever evidence they have, no matter how clear it may be.

During the wilderness wanderings, the Israelites, who had personally observed the miracles in Egypt and who were being fed and guided daily by miraculous means (manna and the pillar of fire), repeatedly rebelled against the God-directed leadership of Moses. The miracles performed by Elijah and Elisha were not sufficient to convert he Northern Kingdom of Israel to unperverted forms of biblical worship. In the New Testament Jesus healed the lame and the blind and even raised the dead, yet the Jewish leaders, who could not dispute the genuineness of His miracles, wanted to kill Him.

In His account of an unnamed rich man and a poor man named Lazarus, Jesus Himself makes our point clear: The rich man, now in hell, pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers so they will not face the same torment that he is experiencing. Abraham replies, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

From the human perspective, why isn’t the evidence clearer? Because God knows, and has already demonstrated, that no matter how clear He makes the evidence, it will never be sufficient for some. More evidence by itself will not convince people whose minds are already emotionally attached to an opposing view, because people are not always rational. The mind is all too often the servant of the desired fantasy.

Is God frustrated and defeated by the fact that man is so sinful he will not pay attention to God no matter how big the flag is that God waves in front of him? Only if we assume that God’s purpose in giving evidence is to convert everyone.

God’s Grace and Man’s Accountability

In this discussion we have observed that the God of the Bible does not intend to make His presence so obvious that it curbs the actions of evil men, and that most men will ignore whatever evidence they receive anyway. This being the case, why does God bother to give any evidence at all? Why doesn’t He hide Himself even better? From the Bible we deduce that God gives the level of evidence He does because He is both a gracious God and a God who holds men accountable for the evidence they receive.

Some people will repent on seeing even a low level of evidence; for others a higher level is required. Some people will get much more evidence than is needed to convert others but still not repent. Despite the varying levels of evidence to which people are exposed throughout various times and cultures, God states that He has given each person enough so that they know better than to continue doing evil. Given the willful rejection of the evidence which they do receive, God is not obligated to provide more.

At the very least, the evidence which God gives includes His glory as seen in nature, evidence which in our day we tend to obscure by ascribing it to less personally demanding causes like “chance” or the “laws of nature.”

However we might personally feel about it, God says that He has provided evidence clear enough that every human being is morally responsible to respond to it. The evidence He has provided is sufficient; therefore, He is saddened but not frustrated that many do not respond. Those who choose to ignore His evidence will have to answer to Him and it is not an enviable task—somewhat like arguing with a Judge over a speeding ticket: How can we say we did not see the sign when the Judge himself posted it? How foolish would we be if we tried to argue that we saw the sign but thought it was too small and too quaint to take seriously?

This points out the main purpose for miracles and biblical evidence: they are warning signs to get us to pay attention to the message associated with the sign. A traffic sign may simply advise us to slow down around a curve, but it may also warn us that a bridge is out ahead. We would be foolish indeed to accelerate past a “Bridge Out” sign because the sign seemed a little too small or too old. But the warning God gives through miracles and biblical evidence is far worse than a bridge being out. Man is accountable to God, and there is eternal torment ahead for those who brush aside God’s warning signs and refuse to repent.

On the other hand, humble seeker for truth will find that the evidence is indeed sufficient. Why? Because the biblical data, when compared to that offered by other religions or by atheism, is clear enough to show that the God of the Bible really exists and that His warnings should be heeded.

In Matthew 12:38-39 the Pharisees challenged Jesus by demanding that He perform a sign impressive enough to force them to believe His warnings. But God does not feel obligated to cater to the egos of the morally and sexually corrupt who bend whatever evidence they receive to suit their own ends.

These demands express a sovereignty over God at the opposite extreme from repentance. Should we expect God to jump through any hoop we set up to please us? Is God so insecure that He needs our approval? Yet some people deal with the Creator of the universe as if He were a dog. But in spite of such attitudes, God provides sufficient evidence for self-centered people.

© 1994 Probe Ministries.