The Coyness of God

Over at Bad Catholic (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2012/11/an-imperfect-god.html) One of Mr Barnes’ readers there asks the plaintive question:

If God tailors his interactions to suit his audience, then why are atheists wrong to ask for definitive evidence of his existence? Thomas got it. Why can’t I?

While it sounds like a complaint, it is actually an honest question, and merits an honest answer. Here, to the best of my admittedly limited abilities, is mine:

First, you are asking the wrong question, and second, the answer is right in front of you.

First, you ask for a proof of God’s existence, but even the devils in hell know He exists. Merely knowing He exists is not what He wants, and, ultimately, not what you want either. God is love and want to share that love, and wants your love in return. Now, your current ignorance of His existence protects you from the realization that an omnipotent omniscience stalker is surrounding you at all times and also forms the basis of your being. If you were aware of God and were not in love with Him, you would go mad or go to hell in the vain attempt to escape Him. Rather than confront you with this painful choice, God leaves the question of your belief in Him in your hands. If you love Him, then you will see abundant evidence He exists, an embarrassment of evidence. But not before.

Second point, suppose you were God and you wanted to make your existence clear to people. What would you do? Write the Ten Commandments in the sky in letters as bright as the sun? Men would call it a natural phenomenon. Appear in the flesh? Men would call it a mass hallucination, and say that the witnesses were lying or deceived or dreaming. Perform miracles, grant prayers, heal the sick? God and His saints have done all these things and continue to do them, and men ignore it, or write it off as crackpottery. So what could God do to prove His existence in a fashion so certain and so clear that it could not possibly be denied?

He could bypass the entire complex apparatus of belief and disbelief and create mankind with an innate longing for God, a longing so obvious and so prevalent that no culture lacking religion appears his history. He would then place a Holy Spirit in the heart of any believer and simply grant the believer belief. It is a certainty that is prior to any sense impression and does not depend on sense impressions. For me to doubt God would be akin to doubting my own existence: I can imagine it as an entertaining philosophical word-game, but it is not a question that has any real meaning.

The certainty of which I speak, God would then simply make available for the asking. He would grant the gift of innate, intuitive, unquestionable knowledge of His existence to anyone who asks, and this grant is available to anyone, smart or foolish, mad or sane, virtuous or vicious, young or old. Anyone.

Just ask. You will be answered. Knock. The door will be opened.

Ah, but you might object at this point that this method of intuitive certainty is not open to scientific verification. It is not certain enough. Such an objection is frivolous on two grounds: first, scientific reasoning is less certain, not more certain, than intuitive certainty. Look at the history of science, and look at the question of solipsism. You know that solipsism is nonsense, but it cannot be proved by science; you know that self-deception is morally wrong, but it cannot be proved by science. You do not know the origin of the universe, as the scientific debate over the question has changed several times since Newton’s day to this.

Second, to say that an omnipotent and supernatural being is defective because he does not abide by the arbitrary regulations the scientific endeavor imposes on itself for reasons of procedural clarity is risible.

God, if He does exist, does not do things as we will, but as He wills. A god that could only be discovered, like the moons of Jupiter, by peering through a spyglass, is not worth worshiping.

 

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