Ruminations

Why doesn’t God prove His existence with miracles to everyone?

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Wouldn’t it be easy to disprove atheism by having all atheists see a genuine, undisputed miracle? It doesn’t even have to be all of them, it could just be one very well-documented and reliable miracle to a large enough group. After all, the denial of the existence of something can easily be nullified by producing the existence of that thing.

You can say that miracles can always be reinterpreted by the people who saw them, let alone by those after them, who saw nothing. Or that something could be unimpressive to even warrant interest, let alone fall into the category of miracle. The opposite is true too: something completely natural could seem supernatural, only for the later generations to realize the truth. For example, the 1st century Greek engineer, Hero of Alexandria, built mechanical doors that could open on their own. When people saw temple doors opening by themselves, they ascribed the cause to the supernatural.

It is true, sometimes we can be numbed to something spectacular simply by the fact that we’ve seen it so often before. Some exact aspects of cell division are still unknown, for example. Quantum Mechanics and String Theory have even more mysteries and unknowns. A fellow student once objected that the Resurrection couldn’t have happened because people simply don’t rise from the dead and nobody sees such a thing. I suppose with that argument most of us don’t have a brain because no one has physically seen that either. But if people had seen (genuine) resurrections since antiquity, would anyone have thought of them as miracles? Maybe, maybe not. The ancient educated men since at least Aristotle believed in a round Earth, but that meant that there were some people in the world whose feet faced opposite their feet when standing – a paradox that certainly perplexed them and was sometimes the object of ridicule. But they didn’t attribute this to any supernatural act – Pliny the Elder simply calls it “a force” that must exist that we don’t know about, which makes it so.

But certainly there are indisputable ways of God making a miracle. If we found the Ten Commandments on the Moon in giant letters, for example. It’s not like we would’ve seen that so often that we’d have attributed it to some kind of natural (unknown to us yet) cause. So why doesn’t God make such a miracle?

And it’s true that Creation is used as evidence of God’s creative power (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:19-20). But this was written by people to people who believed this and never questioned it. Paul or anyone else would’ve never thought of using it as an indisputable fact for a person who rejected anything traditionally supernatural. After all, if God exists, it is true that the Heavens declare His handiwork. But everyone knows that validity does not equal necessity: I try to guess the shape of an object enclosed in a box when I shake it, and I say, “If this object is square, then it’s a rectangle.” I’m correct, but if the object is round, or appeared square to me in the first place, it doesn’t matter.

The Conscience

Before anything else, I want to point out that this isn’t an excuse for absence of evidence. That’s only the case if evidence should be there but isn’t, or the explanation of invisible existence is less plausible, such as Sagan’s invisible dragon in the garage – an example of using Occam’s Razor. This misunderstanding is at the root of various conspiracy theories, such as the Moon landing being a hoax. For example, we don’t have a powerful enough telescope to see the U.S. flag that was put there. Doesn’t mean it’s an excuse for there not being a flag.

An important fact that the spirit of our modern age can let us forget is the point behind God’s revelations in religion. Since we live in an imperfect world where work is the key to success, our merit is based on results. We get an A on a test if we know the right facts. We discover a new mathematical theorem that can help us only if we can prove it. We’re used to finding meaning through facts and proof, not the value of their connection and significance of their relationship to us. This is because we’ve presumed, quite accurately most of the time, that physical results will help. Therefore, our purview doesn’t need to start the investigative process by questioning whether one needs to prove anything, or it’d just be redundant. And so we evaluate knowledge as the high mark of anything of any worth.

But we know that there are things we can know are true but can never prove to be true. This was pointed out by Kant 200 years ago and proven mathematically by Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems in 1931, and more generally philosophically by Alfred Tarski with his Undefinability Theorem in 1936. Are these true statements then facts?

The point of this is to show that we can demand proof, but if this proof’s purpose is irrelevant, we’re complaining about something when we’re looking in the wrong direction. And we can easily have proof, but not realize it. The Bible and Christianity aren’t the same thing as a rocket ship’s manual: if you accidentally press the wrong button, or if something as simple as minute mechanical errors are present, such as in the 1986 Challenger disaster, you’re toast. There is simply what you intend and decide to be responsible for – the conscience. So it’s not like we’re looking in the wrong direction because there’s something wrong with our conscience or religion, but we’re distracted and often enough consciously ignoring the vision that truly matters.

This is why Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12: “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (cf. 1 Tim. 4:2 and Matt. 13:10-15). The faithless man knows what he’s doing is wrong, but doesn’t care and has rejected everything as Psalm 14:1 infamously notes. “Fool” means immoral man: he has rejected not the doctrines (James 2:19), but the conscience and indirectly God and faith by virtue of his works (cf. James 2:14-26). His ways appeal to him and he feels like he’s achieved a victory. Would you try to force someone to do something when you know you’ll have no effect? (Matthew 7:6; 16:1-4; Mark 14:48-49; Luke 22:67-68; John 18:22-23). In fact, why not ironically give the man what he wants? Either he’ll be ashamed and stop, or embarrass himself and his ways. (Matt. 5:39-41; cf. also Matt. 5:10-12, 43-48, Rom. 12:19-21//Proverbs 25:21-22)

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