It’s not uncommon to hear criticism concerning the manner in which God reveals himself, or, rather, does not reveal himself. Specifically, one may ask, why doesn’t God reveal himself directly to every single person? Why doesn’t God provide irrefutable proof? Why can’t everyone experience a burning bush type of moment like Moses (Exodus 3:2)?
For the sake of argument, let’s consider what would happen if God in fact orchestrated a “burning bush” type scenario for each and every person on earth, revealing to all his son Jesus Christ. Would everyone then put their love, trust, and faith in Jesus? I suspect they would not. To the contrary, scripture records many incidents where God revealed himself in a very direct manner to no avail. The life and ministry of Jesus is a quintessential example, yet the religious leaders rejected and crucified him rather than recognize him as valid. How antithetical! These individuals were presented with irrefutable evidence, yet they found cause to reject that evidence.
Jesus spoke of this phenomenon during his ministry. In Luke chapter 16, Jesus relates the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In this narrative, Lazarus represents a beggar, sick and dejected. The unnamed “rich man” passed daily by this neglected individual, offering no assistance. The narrative continues, describing how Lazarus died and was carried by angels to a place of bliss. The rich man also perished and was taken to Hades, a place of torment and anguish. Through a unique lens, we then overhear a conversation between the rich man and Abraham, who explains why Lazarus is experiencing bliss and he a veritable hell.
Now the interesting and pertinent aspect of this story occurs when the rich man requests that Abraham send Lazarus to warn his brothers, noting a witness from the grave would surely change the minds of his brothers and lead them to repentance. Abraham firmly rejects this notion, stating they have “Moses and the prophets,” and that even a witness from the grave would not convince them of the truth. This piece of narrative speaks well to the fact that a miraculous occurrence isn’t necessarily a catalyst for belief. People are fickle and soon forget. The poignancy of a spectacular event soon diminishes. Days and weeks and months transpire, and the effects are negated. The force of the initial impression wears off. If a person is basing their faith on miracles, they will require a steady influx.
“This piece of narrative speaks well to the fact that a miraculous occurrence isn’t necessarily a catalyst for belief.”
Don’t misunderstand me, as I believe in miracles. I believe the gifts of the Spirit are in operation today. I’m not criticizing those who seek the miraculous. To the contrary! We should pray and petition God to work miraculously. The point I’m attempting to address concerns the fact that God doesn’t reveal himself in such as manner because people are hard-hearted and very willing to present excuses as to why something isn’t legitimate. In considering this, 2 Corinthians 4:4 seems relevant.
“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
2nd Corinthians 4:4
There is almost nothing that can’t be explained in some other way. It was a hoax or a fake or a hallucination. People will justify and rationalize experiences when they need to maintain a worldview that is contrary to their experience. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did just that. They witnessed miracles, but discarded them as illegitimate or erroneous, needing to maintain a different worldview than what was occurring before their eyes. Presuppositions influenced by the father of lies are a powerful influence. God can shout from a burning bush every day, but if someone is unwilling to hear, they will continue to critically inquire, “why doesn’t God reveal himself in a more direct manner?”
“They witnessed miracles, but discarded them as illegitimate or erroneous, needing to maintain a different worldview than what was occurring before their eyes.”
Finally, I would suggest that God desires a loving relationship with us. If God were reduced to a cosmic dispenser of miraculous proof, thundering from the clouds and startling people into submission, this would perhaps miss the mark concerning his intent for a relationship with us.
Why doesn’t God send a dead relative to warn unbelievers? Why doesn’t he shout at us from a burning bush? As Abraham related to the rich man, so too would I relate to the skeptic critically asking these questions; if someone is not convinced by the nature of God through general revelation and scripture, these occurrences wouldn’t make much of a difference. They would be explained away, discarded and forgotten. True faith occurs through a loving relationship with our creator, not through a miraculous evidential hammering. Now, this isn’t to say that God has not and does not utilize the miraculous for the purpose of persuasion. The early church was fueled by miracles, as was the more recent Pentecostal movement, for example. Paul was converted on the road to Damascus (Acts chapter 9) in a dramatic revelation of light and voice.
When Jesus was tempted by Satan to call on God to perform miracles, he recited from Deuteronomy, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Faith is that relational component that doesn’t require proof. Faith may result in the miraculous, but it doesn’t require it as a prerequisite. As Hebrews 11:1 so eloquently relates, “…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” What Jesus was describing in the parable of the rich man and Lazerus was that faith supersedes an evidential boundary and that rote evidence is never an impetus for belief.
“Faith may result in the miraculous, but doesn’t require it as a prerequisite.”
So how do we answer the question, “why doesn’t God reveal himself directly?” My answer is that he does. He reveals himself through creation, through scripture, through our innate desire to know and have a relationship with him, and yes, sometimes through the miraculous. He revealed himself through Christ and the unique work of the atonement.