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In this answer I commented that Christians believe that "God does not show himself as this would take away free will", to which I was answered "The only reason he would not show himself it's that it would utterly destroy us to behold him."

Which one is correct (if any)?

Examples of proof without doubt:

  • He could encode the Bible in the digits of π (making it a statistical, logical and mathematical miracle).
  • Put His "trademark" in the rules of logic, or in our DNA.
  • Write Schroendiger's law in the Bible.
  • Make an exact, impossible to forge, prediction or series of predictions, which are then correct, but impossible to make for a non omniscient human.
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closed as not constructive by Caleb Oct 28 '11 at 21:20

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Both are acceptable. I just want to know why he doesn't show himself through proof. Whether this is through a mathematical or convincing visual proof is irrelevant to the question. If there are separate answers then you can specify that in your answer. –  Sklivvz Sep 2 '11 at 8:40
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God has shown Himself to me beyond a reasonable doubt, for all values of "reasonable" that I consider to be, well... reasonable. –  Flimzy Sep 2 '11 at 13:38
    
Your "Examples of proof without doubt" involving the Bible remind me of this question. –  stoicfury Sep 21 '11 at 19:16
    
Since π is irrational and thus infinitely precise, we could, in theory, discover a series of digits that encodes the bible. Now whether that would be a miracle or just mathematics is open to interpretation. –  Andrew Vit Oct 1 '11 at 5:14
    
Asking "why" God does or doesn't do something according to your subjective definitions doesn't make a good SE question, particularly without any framework for whose doctrines would be acceptable here. The debate to answer ratio pretty much demonstrates that. See also: What makes a good focused question? –  Caleb Oct 28 '11 at 21:37
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9 Answers 9

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Because God decided faith was an absolute requirement in His kingdom:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is Hebrews 11:6 KJV

Actually, Jesus is apparently frustrated with those who desire the type of "sign" you suggest:

And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. Mark 8:12 KJV

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While this is clearly the kind of answer I am looking for, I feel it's a bit unsatisfactory: "Why can't we have proof?" "Because God" doesn't really make me understand. Not that I can expect to understand, but it feels a bit... incomplete... :-) –  Sklivvz Sep 5 '11 at 13:46
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I think it is important to consider how you would react if God did exactly what you asked for, in an unmistakable way. While doing so consider the many times in the Bible where Jesus healed people. The Pharisees saw this and knew (or should have known) they were dealing with the Christ. Yet they plotted to kill Him. They would have seen the evidence for Christ's resurrection, but continued to persecute the apostles.

The human heart has a natural tendency to want to get away from God. Jeremiah 17:9 says it is "deceitful above all things, desperately wicked." Will you suddenly love Him and want to dedicate your life to serving Him if you get what you asked for? If not, why should God bother?

If so, I pray that you do receive what you are looking for. Indeed God did just that to Saul/Paul, a Pharisee who became His greatest servant in the church age.

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Great points Micah. (And welcome to the site) –  Caleb Sep 5 '11 at 19:46
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I guess I'm going to have to expand on my little rant :)

The Gospel we find in Scripture is all about the good news of God revealing Himself to and reconciling us to Himself. This is quite the opposite of hiding himself. We still have free will to reject the evidence -to turn our backs on his revelation- but this is not at all the same thing as not having been provided the evidence we need for to know and trust Him.

I said that to behold God would destroy us. There are numerous passages that show how imperfect limited men cannot behold God himself without being destroyed. One example would be Moses encounter with God1, another would be what the prophet Isaiah experiences, even haven seen a vision rather than the real thing he feels he has been undone2. Because of His holiness and our unholiness there is a chasm between us. Think about this question: would God's perfect nature be tarnished if it came into contact with sinfulness or would the sinful thing be destroyed?

Although it is not part of your question, it would be unthinkable to touch this subject without mentioning Christ for although no-one has seen God, God has chosen to reveal himself through His Son3. He is the image of the invisible God4 and we have seen him5! Through Him we can be reconciled with God6 and enter His presence7.

Lastly, your example of "proof without doubt" is something that would specifically make me doubt ... it smacks of human tampering. However he has done much more than this -- His fingerprints are scattered all through creation8. He gave nature laws that govern it that point us directly to him.

  1. Exodus 33:18-20 (ESV) Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.

  2. Isaiah 6:3-5 (ESV) And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!

  3. John 1:18 (ESV) No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

  4. Colossians 1:15 (ESv) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

  5. John 1:14 (ESV) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

  6. Colossians 1:21-22 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him

  7. Hebrews 10:19 (ESV) Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,...

  8. Romans 1:20 (ESV) For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

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To be honest, Jesus is not very convincing as proof--unless you already believe! :-) I don't think I like to think that God would get "tarnished" if he came in contact with us. After all, He does that a-plenty in the Bible. Why not today? –  Sklivvz Sep 4 '11 at 21:17
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@Sklivvz: Not to trivialize faith in Christ, but think about the logic for a minute. If I was trying to sell you on on my special blend of coffee there would be nothing quite like sitting you down and making you drink some of the brew itself. –  Caleb Sep 4 '11 at 21:27
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@Sklivvz: Today is no different than "Bible times". We only enter the presence of God through the blood of a perfect sacrifice. It's not really up to you to write the script based on what you think you'd like to think. God isn't like Burger King or whichever joint it is that advertises "have it your way", he pretty much says it's all about Him. He gives lots of grace but his grace leads us to repent, not keep running out own way. –  Caleb Sep 4 '11 at 21:33
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Jesus is an historical figure, certainly not someone I can chat with :-) So, I wouldn't really count that as valid proof. –  Sklivvz Sep 4 '11 at 21:50
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@WhatAboutJohn3_17: Pet peeve: Rev 3:20 is talking about Christ standing at the door of his church, not at the heart of an individual. The point you're trying to make is valid but that's not really a proof text for it :) –  Caleb Sep 5 '11 at 19:48
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God has revealed Himself beyond reasonable doubt - otherwise requiring faith would be unjust. We can argue about what constitutes reasonable, but according to the Bible, there is enough evidence.

Rom 1:18-20 NIV The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men 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 men are without excuse.

(Emphasis mine)

If creation weren't enough, what about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who was confirmed dead, sealed in a tomb, and yet appeared to more than 500 people after he was raised to life, and the eyewitnesses were willing to die horribly rather than renounce what they believed (would they have resisted to death for what they knew to be lies?)

1Co 15:4-8 NIV that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (5) and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (6) After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. (7) Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, (8) and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

(Emphasis mine)

And finally Thomas who refused to believe until he saw and touched the crucifixion scars, believed.

I disagree with the proposition of the question that God has not provided evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

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-1 for calling all non Christians unreasonable... –  Sklivvz Sep 4 '11 at 11:39
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@Sklivvz - Please point out exactly where I called all non Christians unreasonable? I said God provided evidence to show His existence beyond reasonable doubt. This position is supported by the Scripture I quoted. This is a site for QA regarding Christianity, and the main basis for discussing these questions is Scripture, is it not? –  Bork Blatt Sep 5 '11 at 6:51
    
I do not object to the use of the Bible. I strongly object to forgetting that there are lots of non Christians not believing the evidence you call reasonable. Therefore, either the proof is not reasonable, or the people disbelieving it, are. –  Sklivvz Sep 5 '11 at 7:21
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@Sklivvz - Those are not the only two options. Not all people have heard the evidence - this is why the church has missionaries, and every Christian is called upon to be a 'witness' - interesting word in this context. People who have not had exposure to evidence cannot be expected to weigh it - and therefore I am not calling non Christians unreasonable. This question begins with the assumption that no evidence exists to prove God's existence without reasonable doubt - the conclusion has already been reached. How can any evidence convince you otherwise unless you revise this assumption? –  Bork Blatt Sep 5 '11 at 8:42
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Anyone who's served on a jury knows that the range of what constitutes "reasonable doubt" is pretty huge with only 12 people in the room. Make it a (much) bigger room, expand the pool to 6 billion, and you'll have a range from total credulity to solipsism. If your definition of God includes some sort of fairness, then the requisite self-disclosure should include all 6 billion, including those who thoroughly doubt their own existence. If He clears the bar for the most stringent standard, the credulous will be deafened by the roar (how cruel is that?) and if He falls short of the standard for the last one, it will be terribly unfair to that last one. IMO this question is a much subtler version of the "rock that's too big to lift" question -- since an assertion and a negation are included in the question, "Yes" and "No" can never simultaneously answer both.

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I think there's a big range of proof that could be given, starting from no proof, total faith (what we actually have today) and total proof, no faith (what you are suggesting). I claim "reasonable" sits somewhere in the middle. Could you expand your answer so to analyse that as well? –  Sklivvz Sep 4 '11 at 21:19
    
@David: So you are doubting that God as an almighty being could prove to us that he exists? So because of that he doesn't even try? –  vonjd Sep 4 '11 at 22:11
    
Great analogy for the logical problem buried in this issue! (And welcome to Christianity.SE) –  Caleb Sep 5 '11 at 19:44
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To answer each part (see comment thread at question) of your question in turn:

Manifestation of God: Christians believe Jesus was God on Earth in human form (John 1:1) as evidenced by His radical teaching, physical miracles and the witnesses to His resurrection. (Incidentally, these witnesses were prepared to be tortured and put to death, rather than admit He was not resurrected.)

Logical proof of God: CS Lewis provided this argument to explain why he rejected atheism:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?

A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such a violent reaction against it?..

Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if i did that, then my argument against God collapsed too--for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies.

Thus, in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist - in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless - I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality - namely my idea of justice - was full of sense. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never have known it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.

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I don't see how this answers the question. The question is basically 'why doesn't god make it obvious he exists?'. The Bible does say God appeared on earth, but that still leaves reasonable doubt (other religions also have books that report similar miracles). –  CiscoIPPhone Sep 2 '11 at 10:28
    
@CiscoIPPhone - you are referring to the first part (manifestation) of my answer, right? The second part (logical proof) still stands? Regarding the first part, indeed the miracles and teaching rely on the validity of the Bible (that people witnessed to Him on pain of death after His resurrection also does, but to a lesser extent, because Christians being thrown to lions in the first centuries can be verified outside the Bible). If you have a question regarding the validity of Bible, please submit it and I'll do my best to answer it to your satisfaction. –  Wikis Sep 2 '11 at 10:45
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I'm not questioning the validity of the bible, but any book (alone) does not constitute evidence (beyond reasonable doubt) that the things described in the book (god) are actually real. Christians being eaten by lions doesn't show that god is real. –  CiscoIPPhone Sep 2 '11 at 10:57
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The second part of your post isn't logical proof that god exists. It's proof that CS Lewis can destroy his own argument as to why he thought god can't exist. There's a pretty clear distinction there. –  CiscoIPPhone Sep 2 '11 at 11:04
    
just to elaborate a little on my last line. Where he says "But if i did that, then my argument against God collapsed too". That particular argument against God collapses, but there are many other arguments against God that are still standing. It's like me saying "God can't exist because I don't believe jesus died on the cross". Then I find evidence that jesus died on the cross. It destroys my argument, but isn't evidence that god is real. –  CiscoIPPhone Sep 2 '11 at 11:13
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I think you demand the same thing the Apostles demanded. It is important to see that Jesus himself endorses a critical stance.

Thomas the Apostle speaks (John, 20, 25):

"I won't believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.

Jesus endorses this attitude and bothers to get back to Thomas to give him proof (John, 20, 27):

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!

And finally (John, 20, 29):

Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me.

So the Bible makes it very clear that Jesus wants us to not just be gullible but to demand proof. Neither of the Apostles was prepared to believe without a proof and Jesus respected that and had this very story been incorporated into the Bible for us.

EDIT

But what about the phrase right after:

blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Isn't Christ himself saying to believe on faith?

You have to be very careful here: Jesus is saying this after he gave proof and he is saying this only unto him, i.e. Thomas, who believes already because he has the evidence right before his eyes; Jesus is not saying this unto us or to anybody else or in general!

So this part is one of the clearest and most unambiguous parts in the Bible. Christians have to take Jesus' word literally here and not try to interpret it as it seems convenient. I even think it is one of the most pivotal parts of the Bible!

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But what about the phrase right after: "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." Isn't Christ himself saying to believe on faith? –  KronoS Sep 2 '11 at 13:02
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Just to get you straight… I can't believe in Christ fully until He visits me and proves his existence? –  KronoS Sep 2 '11 at 14:13
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I fear this is the only legitimate interpretation, proved by the word of Thomas (the other Apostles had seen the resurrected Jesus before) and endorsed by the deed of Jesus, written down in the Gospels. Christians have to take the Bible seriously even when it doesn't seem convenient. I really see no leeway here. Sorry. –  vonjd Sep 2 '11 at 15:03
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Unfortunately I disagree and feel that this is very contradictory to the Christian belief. In no way has every true believing Christian seen Chriat with their own eyes… they base their belief upon faith in the witness of others. Hence the reason why He says: "blessed are they that have NOT seen and yet believed. " we have to exercise that faith in Jesus Christ. –  KronoS Sep 2 '11 at 17:31
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I have no problem citing the other part too - you said I should no copy and paste but obviously I have to for you: Thank you for your remark. You have to be very careful here: Jesus is saying this after he gave proof and he is saying this only unto him, i.e. Thomas, who believes already because he has the evidence right before his eyes; Jesus is not saying this unto us or to anybody else or in general!!! –  vonjd Sep 4 '11 at 18:41
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As Hebrews says, "Anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him."

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. That God is not seen visibly does not mean there is no evidence for His existence. There is ample evidence for His existence, and as the alternative, atheism fails to explain the origin of time, space, and matter along with a ton of other things.

The question actually assumes that God does not show Himself beyond a reasonable doubt, but I believe He actually does. God does show Himself to mankind beyond a reasonable doubt--just not beyond an unreasonable doubt.

Reasonable doubts are satisfied by creation, fulfilled prophecy, the resurrection of Jesus, and many other things.

Unreasonable doubts will one day be answered as well when every knee will bow and every tongue confess, yet God does not show Himself completely to allow people to reject Him.

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Why do you assume the existence of the universe proof of the existence of the Christian God and not, say, the induist pantheon or FSM? –  Sklivvz Sep 7 '11 at 19:57
    
I mentioned several things that satisfy reasonable doubts. Creation is evidence that a Creator of some sort exists. Prophecy, the resurrection of Jesus, and many other things give evidence that Christianity is true. –  Narnian Sep 7 '11 at 20:00
    
If God had shown reasonable proof to humanity as you say, how do you explain that 70% of humanity is not Christian? –  Sklivvz Sep 7 '11 at 20:06
    
We could also ask, "If God has shown reasonable proof, how come anyone is not a Christian?" The answer is the same. Yet, at the same time, more and more people all over the world are confessing Jesus as Lord. People in the darkest places of the world who even hate Christianity are coming to Christ in droves. answering-islam.org/Testimonies/index.html The Bible will likely be translated into the language of all people by the end of this century. In 2000 years, a small, persecuted sect of Judaism led by commoners has gone to every corner of the earth... and it's not finished yet. –  Narnian Sep 7 '11 at 20:15
    
Sorry, but this is completely off topic, please answer my question, and don't proselytise. –  Sklivvz Sep 7 '11 at 20:22
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For me the key to the answer is that there is only exactly one person to whom God can show Himself so that I have no reasonable doubt left: that's me. There are people who bear witness that He did so to themselves. This is good to know, but couldn't possibly solve my doubt[1] I take it as quite too serious and consequential a difficulty to judge on hearsay (of strangers) only. So if you happen to be one to whom God did not (yet?) reveal himself there possibly isn't anything else you can do but doubt His existence.

I think the only one who'd be able to answer the question is God himself. (By which he'd reveal himself to the OP "beyond reasonable doubt" I think...)

I'm not aware of a promise that He'd do so to a given person at (before) a given point of time (before the end of the world).

This makes me wary about some points that came up in the discussion above: (Disclaimer: really comments would be more appropriate for the following, but I'm new here and not yet able to comment).

I'd like to pick up Bork's quote and emphasize two further half-sentences:

Rom 1:18-20 NIV The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men 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 men are without excuse.

Seems to me, only someone who knows the truth can suppress it. In other words, this is about consciously rejecting God. Also the 2nd part makes statements about people to whom God has made plain what can be known about him by humans. As I understand that it simply doesn't apply to people who did not yet find God (as I see it, it would be more preciset to say: whom God did not make find himself / let himself be found). I do not suspect the OP of posting a misleading question, so I assume that he didn't experience anything like God revealing Himself to the OP. So IMHO these verses don't help answering the question.

By the way, I take a similar view about the blessings: If Jesus states that if you believe in God without having seen him, you are blessed, that

  • doesn't say you cannot be blessed if you didn't see him
  • neither does it say that you forfeit the blessing if you ask for a personal proof
  • neither that you won't eventually get your personal convincing proof
  • but neither is there a promise of such a proof.
  • actually, I think the blessing by God (grace/mercy) produces the faith (necessary condition!)

So taking up the coffee metaphor from above, people tell of cups of coffee being handed out, but it looks like the OP didn't get one so far. Which may be encouraging the OP to ask for one for himself, but unless he gets it that is not all that helpful.

I personally don't even know whether I ever did get one (if I didn't I do reasonably well without the coffeine, if I did, I didn't realize it was coffee), but iff you ask me to I could try to pass on the word of your asking for your personal cup of coffee. I don't think that is necessary anyways because I believe they know if you'd like to have one - whether or when they serve you is a completely different question, though. You'd need to tell me, though: trying to get a coffee for someone who doesn't like it in my opinion is not only useless but positively rude - so I'd never do it. ;-)

[1] Personally, I happen not to doubt His existence.

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Welcome to Christianity.SE. Please take a few moments to read our FAQ and maybe check out the meta site as well. The privileged system is in place on SE sites partially in order to maintain strict adherence to the QnA format. We're kind of anal about keeping the signal to noise ratio down, this isn't a traditional discussion forum. Please refrain from abusing the system by using it in ways it wasn't designed to work. Would you consider editing this answer to be a full stand along treatment of this question instead of a mix discussion thoughts? –  Caleb Oct 29 '11 at 12:21
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