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Why isn’t God more obvious?

christ-the-redeemerI've been asked to write brief answers to six thorny questions:

Hasn't science disproved God?

Is God homophobic?

Why does God appear so violent in the Old Testament?

Are the gospel accounts trustworthy?

Why isn't God more obvious?

Why has the Church caused so much pain?

I've got to keep these under 600 words. I'd love if you could help. What have I missed? What have I got wrong?

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Why isn't God more obvious?

The Obvious and the oblivious

"The one thing you know about God is that you don't know Him!" That's essentially how Paul opens his famous sermon in Acts 17. The Athenians were incredibly "religious" yet Paul did not think this was an advantage. Their many idols incensed him and he found a particularly tragic idol labelled "the unknown God" – a kind of catch-all deity to cover all their religious bases (v23). Thus Paul begins by pointing to the only spiritual truth they know: they are completely oblivious to God.

That's not to say that God isn't obvious. Paul rams home the manifest presence of God in every detail of the world: He gives us life (v24-25), He directs each moment (v26), He’s near to us all (v27), "in Him we live and move and have our being" (v28). There is no excuse for our ignorance. We will be judged for it (v29-31).

Romans 1:16-23 also insists that the reality of God presses in on every creature at every moment. He is totally obvious and we are totally oblivious. The reason? We "suppress the truth in unrighteousness."

Ever since the fall we have been like a maths student listening to our iPod all year instead of the teacher. When the exam comes we are both ignorant and "without excuse".

Ignorance is not bliss

It is a tragedy that the human race does not know its Maker. This ignorance is a sign of our fatal estrangement from Him (Romans 8:7; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:12; 4:17-19; Colossians 2:21). But, ironically, it's something that can really connect with the unbeliever. Most unbelievers know they are not ‘one with the Almighty’. Anyone who claims to ‘commune intimately with God’ sounds mentally unbalanced. We all know that we don't know God.

I often say to non-Christians: "I bet you've prayed, and I bet you've felt like it just bounced off the ceiling." That estrangement from God is universally felt. Like Paul in Athens we can tap into that feeling of alienation. When we do so, the non-obviousness of God is not a disadvantage, it’s a vital part of our message.

Getting to know you

The solution to our culpable ignorance is not from our side. God will have to graciously reveal Himself to us who are lost in truth-suppression. 1 Corinthians 1 tells how it happens. Not through other-worldly power, not through sophisticated wisdom but through Christ and Him crucified. In particular, weak and foolish preaching (v17-23) of a weak and foolish Saviour (v24-25) by a weak and foolish community (v26-30) reveals the true God. That might sound crazy, but it’s a wonderful truth. Here's why...

I once asked an atheist what it would take to convince him of God. He said, “If God spelt out the 10 commandments with stars in the night sky, I’d believe.” “What a horrible God!” I responded. Such a God wants to stay at a distance, demand your obedience and expect you to piece it together from below. The living God does the reverse. He descends from the heavens, gives Himself to us and dies with arms outstretched to the world. That’s what true divinity looks like.

We must point people to Jesus, especially Jesus on the cross. He is the Image, the Word, the Exact Representation of God (Colossians 1:15; John 1:1; Hebrews 1:3). In a world of deep spiritual confusion we look to the cross and see One who has loved us to hell and back. At the cross a miracle happens. People see Jesus and say: "There is God – it's obvious!"

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