Yesterday, we had a great discussion in our Foundations of Apologetics study group.
The lecture outlined some of the major arguments for God's existence and their limitations and usefulness. The main point in this lecture was that we cannot give the skeptic the absolute intellectual justification he is looking for, but we can show him that Christianity is the best explanation for the "clues" we have been given. No one is able to prove or disprove God's existence beyond a shadow of a doubt, but we do have enough to be able to point towards God. Arguments alone will not convince someone, they are best used to sweep away obstacles. The lecture also looked at how humanity's quest for beauty only reveals that we are innately seeking something this finite world cannot satisfy and that our longing is a signpost pointing us to God (Eccl. 3:11). In addition, it explained how our dreams and aspirations are elicited by God to show the futility and hopelessness of our present situation without God and how our imaginations inventing beautiful worlds only discloses the inadequacy of what we have here. Near the end, the speaker mentioned that God not only exists, but utterly transforms; our testimonies provide the best evidence for God's existence. Anyway, there was much covered and as much as I would love to share it all here, I just wanted to share a thought that struck me at work today as I was contemplating what we discussed: the reason we aren't given absolute proof.
If God decided to come down to our world tomorrow and show His Heavenly glory for all to see, would the whole world welcome Him? Think about this. With absolute proof, I do not believe everyone would enjoy God's company as He wants us to. The atheists/agnostics/skeptics/humanists/etc. would receive the absolute proof they supposedly want, but they would no longer have a choice to disbelieve. The free will they take for granted will be lost forever. They would have to worship the God they did not want to believe in. Perhaps a portion of them would sincerely surrender at this magnificent revelation, but would they all? Would someone as furiously misotheistic as Richard Dawkins become even more infuriated for being shown to be wrong?
Many atheists would try to make people believe that God is a dictator who only wants to control our lives. However, that only reveals a lack of understanding on their part, for if God had absolute power over us - if He was the tyrant they like to paint Him as - then they would be under that rule as well. The key element of Christianity that they overlook is free will. Last month, in a cordial exchange of comments on YouTube, one atheist asked me if our free will becomes null and void because of the threat of Hell. To his understanding, God allows us to do as we please, but if we don't do what He suggests, then we will suffer for all eternity. However, God gave us free will so that we would worship Him with authenticity; He would not be worthy if He created beings He forced to worship Him like robots. Besides, Hell was meant for Satan and his fallen angels. Apparently, a third of God's angels was not enough for him, so he caused the fall of man to take even more beings away from God as he can, because he knows his time is coming... but I digress...
A despot demands unwilling obedience by all his subjects. No one unwillingly obeys the Lord. It is true there are those who are forced to attend church, but no one can make their personal choice to believe in God for them. They may appear as they are obeying God against their will, but they are either genuine believers or are hiding their disbelief. Their parent(s) may not even believe, but go "just in case" or to uphold an image. The point is that we do not worship God because He has an ego and demands it, but because - as the Creator of the universe - we understand He is more than worthy of our praise and only wants what's best for us. We have a God who wants to be obeyed as a parent; out of love and not fear. The "fear of the Lord" as mentioned in Scripture is not a feeling of terror, but an attitude of respect and reverence towards God and a healthy dread of displeasing Him. Just as we fear hurting those we love and appreciate, we fear the Lord and hold Him in high esteem. Without this fear, we think nothing of the evil in disrespecting and disobeying our parents. So, we do not fear God as one under submission fears a dictator, rather we acknowledge that a disposition of heart without God will lead to bad behaviour.
There are two things that atheists must understand. The first is that "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb.11:6). We do not have conclusive evidence, but we do have "clues" that point us to the Source of all there is. The biggest clue I can think of is the mark our God has left in the timeline of our history. Each passing day points us backwards to the cross, which in turn points us upwards to God. For the serious skeptic searching for answers, I would suggest looking into the historical fact of Christ's resurrection (Michael R. Licona's work is a good place to start). I am well-aware that this is still not enough for most and God also knows (Luke 16:31). Even so, He still raised Christ so that we may come to not suppress the truth. We know that only by believing is our relationship with Him genuine. With absolute proof and no faith, it would be impossible for the "atheists" to please themselves. God desires us to joyfully accept Him, not to unwillingly have to. Now, there is absolute certainty that only God gives personally in encounters. If we genuinely request a revelation, He will give us assurance. I do not only believe this because His Word tells us so, but I know because He did it for me. The second thing atheists must understand is that "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" (Rom. 1:20). All that we see around us point us to a Creator. Even though we are without excuse, God knew that, in our rebellion, we would still make excuses. We may not have the clear proof our limited minds seek, but we do have enough as a signpost to make faith inexcusable. Before the 20th century, our human nature just indisputably accepted God throughout our history. It was imprinted as truth in our hearts. Only in the last century were there deliberate, combined efforts to permanently eliminate God. All these attempts collapsed and God still lives on, because we cannot control the One in control. We have an eternal, living God and He wants all to seek Him, find Him, and enjoy eternity with Him.
So, the next time atheists ask you to give them proof that God exists, you can ask them if they are really sure they would want it. Would they be happy if they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that He does?