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Jesus, before He was risen to heaven, left the task of evangelism to his disciples and Christians. Since men are fallible and are not all-powerful, they are taught to pray and rely on God in their evangelical work. The question is, since God is all-powerful and omniscient, why can't God persuade all mankind, in their free-will, to believe in him?

According to Romans 1:19-20, God tries to reveal himself to his people.

What may be known of God is manifest in them for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:19,20).

However, God is also a loving God, and by that virtue, God should be trying hard to convince every person to believe in him. The fact that some people cannot be persuaded seems to signify either that God is not all-powerful, or He does not want to.

(Note: this question assumes this is possible without conflicting with mankind's free-will, as God can assess each individual's knowledge/personality/character and convince them through multiple mediums such as people/nature/experiences).

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Are you looking for the perspective of a particular denomination? Because this seems like something that could have many different answers from the point of view of different Christian denominations. –  Matt Gutting Jun 10 '14 at 2:37
@MattGutting I'm looking for mostly a reformist/protestant point of view (i.e. Calvinist), but all views are welcome and equally interesting. –  enosan Jun 10 '14 at 2:43
In my view, your assumption is incorrect, so your question goes off track from there. –  bruised reed Jun 10 '14 at 6:29
What makes you think God isn't trying hard to convince every person to believe in him? –  DJClayworth Jun 10 '14 at 14:42
@DJClayworth: I think for an omnipotent being He could try a little harder ;-) –  vonjd Jan 19 at 17:20

1 Answer 1

I think the verses you quote are actually the answer:

What may be known of God is manifest in them for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:19,20).

In other words, God already made it obvious in nature that He exists, so why would He waste His time jumping through hoops to prove it to people who simply despise the idea of His existence because they want to live without moral law and are simply recalcitrant in their "unbelief"? Francis Bacon says concerning the idea contained in these verses (The two books of Francis Bacon: of the proficiency and advancement of learning, Divine and Human, Page 86):

And as concerning divine philosophy or natural theology, it is that knowledge or rudiment knowledge concerning God, which may be obtained by the contemplation of His creatures; which knowledge may be truly termed divine in respect of the object, and natural in respect of the light. The bounds of this knowledge are, that it sufficeth to convince atheism [of God's existence], but not to inform religion: and therefore there was never miracle wrought by God to convert an atheist, because the light of nature might have led him to confess a God: but miracles have been wrought to convert idolaters and the superstitious, because no light of nature extendeth to declare the will and true worship of God.

Furthermore, as we consider further the quoted verses, we find that they already know that God exists, for "God is manifest in them." There is no such thing as an atheist, only an anti-theist. Verse 21 shows it even more:

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:21 KJV)

So they knew God, but they rejected Him. Further, it says in verse 25 "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie" (NIV) and one cannot exchange what one never had.

And again, in verse 28 "Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind," (NIV) so it becomes clear, again, that there are no atheists, only anti-theists. They had the knowledge of God's existence, but did not consider it worthwhile to retain, and so they threw it away. Should God now jump through whatever hoops they demand in order to convince them that the knowledge they already have is worthwhile to retain?

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I have to comment on this. I have seen the kind of answer where Romans 1:19-20 is quoted and things left there. But it is rather clear that all humanity has been exposed to nature, what with its homosexual primates and rapist dolphins, killer cats etc. I am not sure how this clearly shows a person that there is one God and He does not want homosexuality, etc. The vast majority of societies were polytheistic. This suggests that it was blingindly obvious and everyone just ignored the evidence because they wanted to keep sinning. Even Jesus' disciples didn't realize everything. –  Gregory Magarshak Jun 10 '14 at 3:47
@Gregory Magarshak, Only perverts study the mating habits of animals in detail. Everyone else goes for a walk in the park, or visits a mountain and says "Wow, there must be a God! And obviously God is not some jackel-headed chimera nonsense like the Egyptian priests claim." "Even Jesus' disciples didn't realize everything" -- exactly. Its the people who seek to be so wise who become the fools (as Romans 1 says) whereas "out of the mouth of babes God has ordained praise." (Psalm 8:2) –  david brainerd Jun 10 '14 at 4:00
So are you saying it was blindingly obvious that there is only one God and that there is a law which includes things like men shouldn't have sex with men, and it's impossible to follow this law perfectly and there is an afterlife with heaven and hell and the only way to get to heaven is to realize that God will make a provision in the future to reconcile you to Him through something? All while living in a polytheistic society? And the only reason people did all that polytheistic stuff wasn't because they really believed it, but because they enjoyed parties until missionaries finally arrived? –  Gregory Magarshak Jun 10 '14 at 5:33
@Gregory Magarshak, Even polytheists acknowledge a sort of uber-god above all the others who they made out to be more spiritual. But they chose to worship the fleshly and bestial gods rather than he, because they wanted to live that way. I think that's the argument in Romans 1. You should note also that Romans 2 basically argues that the moral law can be kept, that even Gentiles who do not have the written law can keep the things of the law, and that those who acknowledge God and "who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality" will be given "eternal life." –  david brainerd Jun 10 '14 at 5:53
@Gregory Magarshak, The rest of what you argue there doesn't begin until chapter 3, and there are clearly some points where its hard to reconcile with what was said in chapter 2. For in chapter 3 Paul must rescind the idea of anyone being able to keep the things of the law and accuse everyone with a universalizing of "There is none righteous, no, not one..." But I think the better argument is that a redeemer is needed not because it can't be kept, but because people didn't keep it although it could be. –  david brainerd Jun 10 '14 at 5:55

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