The topic of proving God’s existence has been discussed and analyzed many times. In 1985 a popular debate on this subject was held between Reformed theologian Greg Bahnsen and atheist Gordon Stein. Stein was asked what would “constitute adequate evidence for God's existence?” He answered, “If that podium suddenly rose into the air five feet, stayed there for a minute and then dropped right down again, I would say that is evidence of a supernatural because it would violate everything we knew about the laws of physics and chemistry.”1 What if an even greater miracle happened? Would you believe in God if He showed up at your door?
Miracles Not Always Reliable For Producing Faith
Some people, especially atheists, tend to think that supernatural phenomenon like miracles are absolutely necessary for proving the existence of God. But some people will never be convinced, in spite of seeing miracles, as many incidents in biblical history show:
- In 1 Kings 18:39 after God miraculously consumed Elijah’s sacrifice with fire from heaven, the Israelites proclaimed,
“The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!”But the prophets of Baal apparently did not submit to the Lord God, and they were executed in verse 40.
- Rahab was saved by faith (Hebrews 11:31) and the rest of Jericho was destroyed because of their unbelief. Why did they remain in unbelief even though they were still terrified of Israel 40 years after the miraculous plagues in Egypt (Joshua 2:9–11)?
- After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, many Jews believed on Jesus (John 11:45), but the chief priests and Pharisees tried to kill Lazarus to cover up the evidence (John 12:10–11).
- It is amazing that after seeing the dumb speak, the blind see, the lame walk, the sick healed, devils cast out, and the dead raised, that the Pharisees attributed Christ’s miracles to the devil (Matthew 12:24) and plotted to have Him killed (Matthew 26:4). In light of those miracles and Pilate finding no fault in Him, it doesn’t make sense that so many people cried out for him to be crucified (Matthew 27:23).
- In Acts 4:16 after Peter healed the lame man, the religious leaders admitted a notable miracle had been done—they could not deny it—but they responded in continued unbelief and threatened the disciples not to preach Jesus anymore.
It is clear from biblical history that miracles are not always a reliable cure for a hardened unbelief.
Although the Bible contains numerous examples of miraculous events leading to faith and repentance in the lives of people, it is clear from biblical history that miracles are not always a reliable cure for a hardened unbelief. Jesus quoting Abraham said,
“If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). What an amazing statement in light of the fact that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, but the apostles’ written testimony of the “
infallible proofs” for the Resurrection are still being rejected today by skeptics (Acts 1:3).
God commanded Moses in Exodus 4:4–9 to show miraculous signs to Israel so that they might believe God sent him, and eventually they did. However, Pharaoh with his hardened heart, despite seeing all those wonders, still chased after them through the Red Sea to his own destruction. It also is sad to note that the Israelites quickly forgot God’s works (Exodus 14:11–14). Even after witnessing miracle after miracle in Egypt and in the wilderness, when they got to the Promised Land, an entire generation of Israel could not enter in because of unbelief (Numbers 14:26–38). The history of Israel in the Bible shows that supernatural phenomenon are not always a sure, permanent antidote to an “
evil heart of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:12). The Israelites struggled with their belief in God despite seeing all the wonders of God. Miraculous signs often convince many to acknowledge that God exists, but biblical history shows that supernatural phenomena are not the 100-percent sure antidote to unbelief for atheists like Gordon Stein.
The Heart of the Matter
One of my friends considers himself an agnostic. I asked him what would prove to him there is a God, and he replied, “Proof, physical proof.”2 I said if God Himself showed up for all the world to see in a miraculous appearance, some people might start believing in God, but others would probably explain God away or the miracle as a hoax.3 Some would not believe Him to be the God of the Bible, let alone repent of their sins and turn to Jesus Christ for salvation. My friend agreed.
Even the famous British atheist evolutionist, Richard Dawkins, admitted in his 2012 debate against the Australian Catholic Cardinal, George Pell, that he (Dawkins) “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. Here I am,’ but even that I actually sometimes wonder whether that would.”4 The point is that no matter how many miracles are done, some with a hardened unbelief will always find a way to explain God away, just like the Pharisees said Christ cast out devils by the prince of devils (Matthew 12:24), rather than believing his miracles were a demonstration of the power of God.
About 2,000 years ago when God walked on the earth in human form (John 1:1–3; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16) and performed many miracles, the skeptics of the day explained Him away as being either a good man or a deceiver of the people (John 7:12) or even demon-possessed (John 7:20)—they would believe anything rather than confess Jesus as the Lord God. Miracles have been an important part of God’s revelation to mankind, but even after witnessing supernatural phenomenon, many unbelievers have persisted in unbelief. At times skeptics may have admitted the miraculous event and that they could not deny it (Acts 4:16), but they still refused to repent and trust Christ as Savior (Acts 4:17–18).
Please understand that this article is not meant to minimize the importance or usefulness of miracles. I simply desire to point out that even the Lord Himself said that someone rising from the dead would not necessarily convince others to believe (Luke 16:31).
You see, it is not enough to prove God exists. James 2:19 says that even the demons believe in God. Believing in God’s existence does nothing for you, if you do not trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, believing that He died on the Cross for your sins and rose from the dead to give you eternal life (Romans 10:9–10). That lack of admission of sins, repentance, and confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is at the heart of why even an appearance from God would probably be explained away by unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:3–6). Christians should continue using the best biblical apologetics arguments for the existence of God. But if our apologetic method does not point people to Christ when arguing for the existence of God, we are no different from the Intelligent Design movement.
God Did Show Up on the Earth?
Would you believe in God if He showed up at your door? Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on the nature of the supernatural event and also on a number of other factors. Richard Dawkins says he probably wouldn’t believe. Historically, God has used miracles numerous times to reveal Himself, and many have believed, but many have also not believed.
God did show up on the earth—in the person of Jesus Christ.
Even if God showed up at your door and you started believing in Him, that is not enough to give you eternal life. But consider this: God did show up on the earth—in the person of Jesus Christ—and worked many miracles, and although the world still dates history by His supernatural birth, some skeptics still refuse to accept any documentation or biblical evidence for His resurrection (Acts 1:3). Jesus was born of a virgin, but they accused him of being an illegitimate child (John 8:41). The wise men followed a star that pointed to the exact location of the Christ child (Matthew 2:9), but Herod wanted to kill Him. In radiant glory, angels announced His birth to the shepherds, but He died in naked shame on a cross.
There is plenty of evidence for God’s existence in the creation and every person already knows that God exists. Skeptics suppress that knowledge, their understanding of the evidence, and their own consciences in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18–32; 2:14–16). Christians should continue using such evidence and arguments in their biblical apologetics as they witness for Christ. But God (Jesus Christ) has already knocked on the world’s door, and many did not listen. They have explained Him away as a good teacher (John 3:2; 7:12), a crazy man (John 7:20), or a deceiver (John 7:12). Approximately 2,000 years later, times have not changed very much (Ecclesiastes 1:9–10) and neither has the heart of man (Jeremiah 17:9).
Christian: Continue using the best biblical apologetics arguments as you earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3). But remember that proving the existence of God is not our end-game. We are no different from the Intelligent Design movement if we do not always and consistently preach Christ and call people to repent and trust in Him. Do not be discouraged by a lack of results, for many continue to deny God even in the presence of the most amazing miracles and proof. Further, the results are the responsibility of the Holy Spirit, not you (1 Corinthians 3:7). Be encouraged and know that Jesus is the Lord no matter what the skeptics say. “
For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God’” (Romans 14:11).
Skeptic: Learn a lesson from history that even in the presence of miraculous proof, many have remained in unbelief. But if a supernatural event led you to acknowledge God’s existence, would that cause you to fall on your knees in repentance, forsaking your sins, admitting that God has already shown up on the earth in the person of Jesus Christ, born in a manger, died on a Cross for your sins, and is now risen from the dead as Lord of your life?
“‘Aye, there’s the rub.’”