I've recently been wrestling with a concept I've heard many times from those who don't believe in or are undecided about the existence of God. I'm sure many have heard this argument as it is commonly used by atheists and agnostics. It's a logical argument that goes something like this:
If God exists, and wants me to worship him, and wants me to obey his commandments, how can he expect me to have faith in him enough to do those things, and at the same time give me intelligence, and logic, and reason and not expect me to consider these my best qualities that I should expect an omniscient God to appeal to first? The only way God can logically expect me to worship him and obey his commandments is if he makes his existence obvious, and not through the supposed "testimony" of others, but to me.
Of course, I've heard this argument stated in different ways but the point is the same: How can an omniscient god expect me to worship him and obey his commandments if he doesn't appeal to the highest of my mental attributes and makes his existence so obvious to me that I can't deny it?
Aside from other flaws in such an argument, I'd like to present what I consider to be the biggest flaw in and the best response to such an argument. I'll call it the God's Two Options reply, until I think of a better, more sophisticated-sounding name.
When it comes to making His existence known, God's only two options are these:
- Make His existence known only after we exercise faith in Him.
- Make His existence so obvious to us that we cannot deny it.
Despite whatever objections one may have to the first option, an analysis of the second option proves to it to be the least intelligent, logical, and reasonable of the two, and impossible. If God were to make His existence so obvious to us that we couldn't deny it, He would destroy our agency and force us into righteousness. As obvious as He makes His existence seemingly known to many, anything short of an impossibility of denial requires the difference in certainty to be made up by faith.
We must remember that we aren't talking about a mystery person that one party expects another party to use faith to believe in. We are talking about nothing less than God, and if God exists, than He is the most perfect, most righteous, most just, and most omniscient of all beings, and the creator of man. If this being exists, than His existence can be known, scientifically speaking, but if He were to make it so obvious that it can't be denied, not following an act of faith, the agency of man would be destroyed and the soul would be forced by that obviousness into righteousness. Since we have not been forced into righteousness we know that the purpose and will of God is not to do as such. So what is His purpose and will? As is easily observable, the world is filled with many ideas trying to answer that very question. What His purpose and will is not, as is just as easily observable, is to force us into righteousness. So as much as God may want us to worship Him and keep His commandments, His true purpose and will can only be brought to pass by the faith of men in His existence, and men acting on that faith, which, I believe, through the agency of man, God may then make His existence known.
Many religions in this world make claims of having evidence of the existence of God. But the only reasonable expectation of such claims is that they fall short of proving the existence of God. Further, if God exists, and His existence is certainly not impossible, then the path to believing and knowing in the existence of God must begin with faith, which faith, if true faith, can lead to ascertaining the existence of God and his will.
In his book What's So Great About Christianity, Dinesh D'Souza provides for us a slightly different take on the above:
"Atheists sometimes express their bafflement over why God would not make His presence more obvious. Carl Sagan helpfully suggests that in order to dispel all doubts about His existence, 'God could have engraved the Ten Commandments on the moon.' Pascal supplies a plausible reason for what he calls the hiddenness of God. Perhaps, he writes, God wants to hide Himself from those who have no desire to encounter Him while revealing Himself to those whose hearts are open to Him. If God were to declare Himself beyond our ability to reject him, then He would be forcing Himself on us. Pascal remarks that perhaps God wants to be known not by everyone but only by the creatures who seek Him."
And thus we have an intelligent, logical, reasonable response to those claiming that if God exists, He should make his existence obvious, instead of first requiring faith.