Sometimes our unbelieving friends wonder why God doesn’t just appear to everyone on Earth and prove in person that He exists? Why doesn’t He show Himself to each generation of humanity so that everyone on Earth can see and hear Him and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is real? After all, according to the Bible, the Lord appeared “to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty” (Exodus 6:3), and He “spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). So why doesn’t He do the same for everyone else?
Christians freely admit that there are many specific things that we do not know about the infinite, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient Creator of the Universe, including why He does or does not do certain things. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9). There is no way to know the mind of God unless He chooses to reveal some of His ways to us. Moses wrote: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29, emp. added). So has God specifically revealed why He has not appeared to every human being in the history of the world to prove His existence to them? The fact is, God does not expressly address this question in the Bible; but He does reveal enough to us about Himself and His creation to draw the following conclusions.
First, even if God directly appeared to and spoke with every person on Earth, not everyone would believe in Him. After all, God revealed Himself to mankind in the first-century (John 1:1,14), speaking like “no man ever spoke” (John 7:46) and working all manner of miracles, including walking on water, healing the blind, reattaching severed body parts with the touch of His hand, and raising the dead. Yes, even though, for example, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and came back from the dead Himself, many still did not believe in Him (John 11:45-53; 12:9-11)—they rejected Him despite the fact that He (God) appeared to them face to face.
In 2012, renowned atheist Richard Dawkins was questioned about his unbelief in God. Specifically, he was asked, “What proof, by the way, would change your mind?” He quickly responded by saying, “That is a very difficult and interesting question because, I mean, I used to think that if somehow, you know, great, big, giant 900-foot-high Jesus with a voice like Paul Robeson suddenly strode in and said, ‘I exist and here I am,’ but even that, I actually sometimes wonder if that would….”1 Though Dr. Dawkins was interrupted, he clearly left the impression that even if God appeared to him, taking the form of a “giant 900-foot-high Jesus” with a mighty voice, even that encounter would probably not convince him.
Sadly, not only would many continue in their unbelief if God actually did appear to them, many more would reject His authority over them, even if they acknowledged His existence. Judas was among the closest friends and disciples of Jesus. He was the treasurer of the group. Yet, he was a thief who eventually betrayed the Lord. One might argue that Judas never believed (cf. John 6:60-71), which would only further validate our first point. But if he truly believed in Jesus as the Son of God, then he ultimately chose money over the Master; he chose sin over the Savior. He was not, and will not be, the last to make such choices. In fact, before any human being ever came to know God and subsequently reject His will, there were a number of angelic beings who did. They are created heavenly beings (Colossians 1:16) who knew (and know) God, but willingly chose to reject His will for them (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). So wicked and rebellious to the God of heaven did Satan become that he even tried to tempt God to sin (Matthew 4:1-11). Make no mistake about it, in no way does acknowledging God’s existence directly translate into loving Him and submitting to His will (Matthew 7:21-23). In fact, atheist Dan Barker demonstrated such rebelliousness in the Butt/Barker debate when he stated that, though he believes God “doesn’t exist,” “[i]f there is a hell and if the atheists get to the end of their life and discover, ‘Yep, I was wrong, there is a God….’ Then I would say to that God…‘you go to hell…. You do not have my respect.’”2
Third, God has already given every accountable person on Earth an adequate amount of evidence to come to a knowledge of His existence. The very reality of a material Universe (which could not have sprung into existence from nothing; nor is it eternal),3 testifies to the existence of a Creator. “For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4). In fact, “[s]ince 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 1:20). Since the time of Adam and Eve, mankind has been given the opportunity to see how “the things that are made” testify quite “clearly” on behalf of a powerful, invisible Creator. As the psalmist proclaimed, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (19:1-4).
So why doesn’t God appear to every person on Earth to prove that He exists? The short answer is: “Because He, as the sovereign Ruler of the Universe, chooses not to.” We may not know all of God’s reasons for why He chooses not to appear personally to every person on the Earth throughout every generation, but in no way does such a decision on His part prove (1) that He doesn’t exist, or (2) that He is unkind and unfair. The fact is, God has always given man adequate evidence for His existence—so much so that any person who refuses to acknowledge His existence is “without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
1 “Q&A: Religion and Atheism” (2012), ABC Australia, April 9, http;//www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s3469101.htm, emp. added.
2 Kyle Butt and Dan Barker (2009), Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), emp. added.
3 Jeff Miller (2013), “Evolution and the Laws of Science: The Laws of Thermodynamics,” Apologetics Press, /apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=2786.