John A. Bloom, Ph.D., Ph.D.
Why isn't the evidence clearer that would
prove beyond any doubt that the God of the Bible exists and that the Christian
message is true? In keeping with the satire of Carl Sagan in his recent
book, Contact,  why
isn't there a glowing cross in the sky at night to serve as irrefutable
proof of Jesus' resurrection? Perhaps one could continue this further and
ask why God doesn't have his own television network and toll-free hotline
Unfortunately, the clarity and quality
of evidence which validates the Biblical Christian position is not enhanced
by the subjective appeals made by many believers. While I would heartily
agree that "Jesus lives in my heart and has radically changed my life",
such testimony carries little weight when applied to another person. Such
"Try it, you'll like it" appeals come across as circular arguments unless
they can be backed with evidence which is external to the individual.
Despite Sagan's ridicule, I think he does
have a legitimate point which we need to consider. Why must we read a 2000
year-old book and study ancient history for proof of the existence of God?
Why isn't the evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible painted
across the sky in a form that is obvious to everyone, no matter how rebellious
or sin-blinded he is? This question should be addressed seriously, and
as we do so in this brief monograph, I think we will find that the answer
is more profound than many realize. Of course, I will only attempt to answer
this question for the God of the Bible and Evangelical Christianity, and
let other religions (liberal "Christianity," Buddhism, etc.) speak for
My approach may shock some liberal scholars
because I will work with the hypothesis that the Biblical accounts are
basically historical. However, a moment's reflection shows that this assumption
is a necessary corollary to the question at hand: What we are asking here
is, are there any reasons for the evidence to appear obscure other than
the possibility that the God of the Bible does not exist? While the purpose
of this conference is to justify the hypothesis that the God of the Bible
does exist, we need to assume it here in order to address this specific
question from the proper perspective. For purposes of discussion then,
let us at least be agnostics: If the God of the Bible really exists, and
if the Bible is basically accurate in matters of history (as the God of
the Bible says it is), then why hasn't he made the evidence for his existence
clearer? Are there any reasons for the evidence to appear obscure other
than the possibility that the God of the Bible does not exist?
It would be a mistake to deduce from the
above comments that the evidence for the truth of the Bible is marginal,
meager or non-existent; or that we should not think critically when evaluating
the nature of the Biblical evidence . For example, the following are what
I would consider to be reasonable demands for any set of evidence: First,
the evidence should be clear enough to be intellectually sound at the certainty
level at which one operates when making other important decisions. Nothing
can be proven 100%, yet this residual uncertainty or doubt does not hinder
the average person from performing normal day-to-day tasks . For example,
one tries not to step in front of cars when crossing the street. Although
one can never have absolute proof that no cars are approaching, most people
-- even existential philosophers -- learn to trust their senses enough
to risk their lives on the basis of reasonable evidence that they can cross
safely. Second, the evidence must be clear enough to select Christianity
over the truth/proof claims of other religions . If the evidence for the
truth of Christianity is no greater than that for any other religion, we
cannot reasonably claim to be better.
The basic question still stands, however:
"Why isn't the evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible clearer
and more obvious?" I would like to consider this question from several
THE SCIENTIFIC PERSPECTIVE
The chief task of the scientist is to
comb through "raw" data in order to extract usable information from it.
From this information he constructs a hypothesis which he tests against
the original data and against new data derived from experiments which his
hypothesis predicts should be helpful. While it is all too often the case
that a rigorous conclusion cannot be reached because the available data
are inadequate or ambiguous, it is a very poor methodology to abandon research
in a particular area because "ideal data"  are not available. Indeed,
the natural order rarely produces such ideal data, nor does it provide
simple and obvious answers for such basic questions as the nature of light,
the behavior of electrons in conductors, or the structure of subatomic
particles. Such complexity in the physical universe should make us wonder
if can we expect the God who claims to be its creator to be less simple.
A scientist should be a healthy skeptic
and desire controls and careful double-checking of his results, but the
extreme skepticism of demanding "a glowing cross in the sky" cannot be
considered scientific. It is like requiring that one go into space and
bring a galaxy back to earth for study in a lab before one can be really
sure of its existence. After all, aren't galaxies only visible at night
to a few esoteric individuals who themselves must use special, expensive
and rare instruments in order to see them? Further, how could one demonstrate
to such a skeptic that the heavier elements are synthesized in the cores
of exploding stars?
It is unfortunate that many people consider
someone to be a brilliant scholar if he doubts the authority of the Ten
Commandments because they are not written on the surface of the moon; but
someone who doubts the authority of the periodic table because it is not
written on the surface of the moon they would regard as an idiot. Yet the
degree of skepticism exercised by each person is the same, so why are these
skeptics judged differently? Because in science one
must place practical limits on his skepticism and recognize that clarity
is relative, not absolute. It is not scientific to abandon an area of research
because the data does not satisfy some arbitrarily-chosen or absolute level
The clarity and conclusiveness of experimental
data must be judged relative to two factors: Competition and random events
. By competition I refer
to alternate mechanisms which can account for the observed phenomena just
as well as the favored hypothesis. Thus the data might not be clear enough
to choose between any of several explanations for it. In our case, the
clarity of the evidence for the truth of Biblical Christianity would be
obscured by competition from other religions if any of them had comparable
evidence to support their truth claims. By random
events, I refer to noise, "flukes", or variable results which can render
experimental data statistically insignificant. This is the explanation
which atheists propose for Biblical miracles: They are unusual events which
are misinterpreted in the Bible but are in reality nothing more than random
events. To summarize, no serious scientist would ask, "Why isn't the data
clearer?" What he would demand is that the evidence be clear
enough to be significant in the light of all possible competing mechanisms,
including random events.
If a scientist could design his own data,
doubtless he would pick the ideal, irrefutable sort. However, scientists
have found long ago that they can learn more about the universe by studying
the evidence which IS available than by abandoning a topic until the data
are perfect and the conclusions drawn from them are philosophically irrefutable.
THE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Arguments based on a "Why isn't it clearer?"
foundation can appear stronger than they are due to the distortions inherent
in recording history. For example, a casual reading of the Bible might
lead one to the conclusion that miracles were a daily occurrence in ancient
Israel. Thus their absence in modern times could lead one to conclude that
"God is dead" or that modern man is more sophisticated and does not perceive
certain events as miraculous, at which the ancients would have marveled
(lightning, the seasons of the year, etc.). However, a little study shows
that the impression we have of "daily miracles" in Biblical times is an
artifact due to the compression of the historical document . Miracles were
rare in Israel's history and were mainly clustered around specific points:
Moses and the Exodus, Elijah/Elisha, Jesus and Apostles, and the Return
of Christ. Between these clusters are century-long gaps of "normal living":
The slavery in Egypt, most of the period of the Judges and Kings, the inter-testament
period, and our present age. In the text we see indications that miracles
or divine interventions were quite rare.  In fact, rituals like the
Passover Seder were often established to preserve the remembrance of miraculous
historical events. 
Thus the miracles recorded in the Bible
did not occur every day, but only around specific times in ancient history
and then usually in conjunction with the disclosure of additional divine
revelation that was written down to be preserved. For us to expect miracles
today or to feel neglected by God because we are not inundated with them
is only the artificial result of the compression of ancient historical
accounts. In order to have manageably-sized records that could be transmitted
by hand-copying, the mundane material had to be omitted.
Another historical factor in the clarity
problem is that most Biblical miracles occurred in the backwaters of civilization
(Palestine, when compared to the great Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures,
was as "rural" as our Midwest is considered to be by most city people today).
The point here is not that Biblical miracles occurred only in the backwoods
among primitive, gullible and uneducated people; for we do have recorded
the miraculous events surrounding Moses before Pharaoh and Daniel with
the kings of Babylon. Moreover, there is even some extra-biblical evidence
about these miracles preserved from the "enemy" side, as we find with Sennacherib's
attack on Jerusalem.  Although many miracles did not take place in major
urban centers, this does not mean that they occurred in isolated settings
. As far as we can tell, all Biblical miracles were open to investigation
and confirmation in their own age and territory. That Paul can testify
before local Roman authorities that the miraculous events surrounding the
life of Jesus "were not done in a corner"  implies that the leaders
were well aware of them. Thus the evidence was publicly and adequately
substantiated, but only rarely did a miracle occur in a center of civilization.
What is important to learn from this historical
perspective is that we should not expect God to work spectacular miracles
in New York City today, if Jesus did not do them before Caesar in Rome.
Only at rare moments in history did the God of the Bible act so as to catch
the immediate attention of millions of people. Why this is so will be apparent
from our next vantage point:
This viewpoint is probably the most important
to consider because it looks at the situation from other than the human
perspective. In posing a "Why isn't the evidence clearer" question, the
skeptic is assuming that a god, if he existed, would try as hard as possible
to make his existence obvious to us. This assumption appears reasonable
because somehow we see no reason why an all-powerful god should not try
desperately to make himself known to us, especially if the consequences
of ignoring him are very severe. However, this assumption ignores the possibility
that an all-powerful god may decide to temporarily make himself relatively
"invisible" in order to achieve a goal which is more important to him than
merely convincing every last human being that he exists.
That the God of the Bible may be more
sophisticated in this area than we think he is becomes evident when we
look at his expressed reasons for his relative silence. Repeatedly we find
the God of the Bible stating that he is in no way dependent upon mankind.
 Such independence is quite contrary to most ancient thought, which
felt that the gods made man because they were in need of servants. It also
runs counter to much modern thought which argues that God made man because
he was lonely or did not have anyone around to appreciate or love him.
However, the God of the Bible does not reveal himself to us for egotistical
reasons, or to satisfy any inner need for fame or worship.  That he
reveals himself at all is only for our
benefit, not for his. 
But even if he reveals himself only to
benefit us, why isn't he more forthright about it? The answer is this:
If he made his presence too obvious, it would interfere with his demonstration
which is intended to draw out or reveal the true inner character of mankind.
That the God of the Bible has this purpose
for maintaining a relative silence is clear from several passages: 
Was I not silent even for a long time so you do not fear me?
These things you have done, and I kept silence;
You thought that I was just like you;
I will reprove you, and state the case
in order before your eyes.
Because the sentence against an evil deed
is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among
them are given fully to evil.
From these statements we get the picture,
not that God is struggling desperately but vainly to get man's attention,
but rather that he is restraining himself in order to demonstrate to us
something about our inner
character. We might call this "the Sheriff in the tavern" principle: People
tend to be good when they think they are being watched by an authority.
If a Sheriff wants to find out who the trouble makers are in a tavern,
he must either hide or appear to be an ineffective wimp, otherwise the
bad guys will behave as well as everyone else. Any mother with young children
is familiar with this principle, since she is well aware that they behave
better when they think she is around.
This restraint strategy of the God of
the Bible makes better sense in light of the coming Day of Judgment: If
God is going to accuse men of being evil, his case will be greatly strengthened
if men have been allowed to carry out their evil deeds and to display publicly
their evil intentions. However, if God were to put a big cross in the sky,
or if he were to strike blasphemers dead with lightning bolts, he would
merely frighten people into acting
good. While this would greatly improve living conditions on earth (virtually
putting an end to crime and false religions), it would not satisfy God's
stated intent -- to allow man to exhibit the contrast between good and
evil, clearly and concretely.
Like the Sheriff, who must allow a fight
to break out in the tavern in order to have the best possible evidence
against the trouble makers, God has decided to either hide himself from,
or appear as an ineffective wimp to, evil men so that they will do evil
acts. As any lawyer knows, convictions are easier to obtain when actions
rather than intentions are being tried. Of course we should not push this
analogy too far: God knows men's hearts and does not require they that
act out their wickedness before he can condemn them for it. Our point here
is to find models so that we as humans can appreciate why God has chosen
to run the world the way he has.
So why isn't the evidence clearer? To
use another analogy, because God is a good scientist who does not want
to perturb his experiment by intruding into it. The problem of perturbing
an experiment while measuring it is the bane of the experimental sciences.
While it is painfully obvious at the level of quantum mechanics, it applies
to all systems in that any and every measurement changes and thus distorts
to some degree the system it measures. That God should chose to work within
similar constraints as these in his dealings with mankind is not logically
impossible. Of course, we should not push this analogy too far either:
God is running a public demonstration, not a physical experiment. The uncertainty
principle is hardly applicable to God's dealings with mankind.
THE HUMAN PERSPECTIVE
The final viewpoint which we need to consider
in the clarity problem is the human factor that is involved whenever a
person tries to judge the quality of the evidence. One does not have to
live very long to realize that people often distort facts in order to make
them appear to work in their favor. The method can be statistical, or involve
"selective forgetfulness," but human ingenuity often finds a way to bend
the truth -- be one selling used cars, padding calculations of corporate
profit, or writing science fiction.
Thus we should not be surprised if we
find that men distort the evidence that God has given in order to verify
his existence. If that evidence points men toward an authority other than
themselves, men who wish to deny that anything could be more intelligent
or authoritative than the protoplasm within their skulls will attempt to
Given this tendency on the part of man,
how clear does the evidence have to be before people would universally
recognize the existence of the God of the Bible? Would a cross in the sky
actually be sufficient? Would a personal appearance of Jesus on the David
Letterman Show suffice? Would the performance of an undeniable miracle
in a scoffer's presence be enough? However impressive such feats would
be, the records of history show that men largely ignore whatever evidence
they have, no matter how clear it may be.
We find that during the wilderness wanderings,
the Israelites, who had personally observed the miracles in Egypt and who
were being fed and guided daily by miraculous means (manna and the pillar
of fire), repeatedly rebelled against the God-directed leadership of Moses.
 We find that the miracles performed by Elijah and Elisha were not
sufficient to convert the Northern Kingdom of Israel to unperverted forms
of Biblical worship.  Even in New Testament times, we find arguments
in the crowds surrounding Jesus as to whether God the Father spoke to him
from heaven or if the noise everyone heard was merely some unseasonable
thunder.  After Jesus healed a blind man  and raised Lazarus from
the dead,  the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him although they could
not dispute the genuineness of his miracles. 
In his account of an unnamed rich man
and a poor man named Lazarus, Jesus himself makes our point clear: The
rich man, now in hell, pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus back from the
dead to warn his brothers so they will not face the same torment that he
is experiencing. Abraham replies, "If they do not listen to Moses and the
Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."
Looking from this human perspective, why
isn't the evidence clearer? Because God knows, and has already demonstrated
in history, that no matter how clear he makes it, it will not work. More
evidence by itself will not convince people whose minds are already emotionally
attached to an opposing view, because people are not always rational. The
mind is all too much the servant of the desired fantasy.
Is God frustrated and defeated by this
state of affairs, that man is so sinful that he will not pay attention
to God no matter how big the red flag is that he waves in front of him?
Only if we assume that God's purpose in giving evidence is to convert everyone.
To understand this idea better, we need to approach it from a different
direction. Let's first review where we have been.
We have analyzed from several viewpoints
the question of "Why isn't the evidence that would prove the existence
of the God of the Bible clearer?":
Scientifically, we noted that it reflects
a poor methodology and may even beg the question by demanding ideal data
in order to avoid heeding the data which are available. We saw that a proper
scientific approach recognizes that clarity is a relative, not an absolute
feature and would ask instead, "Is the evidence clear enough with respect
to alternative explanations or random causes that any firm conclusions
can be drawn from it?"
Historically, we saw that we should not
be embarrassed by God's relative silence in modern times because this silence
is consistent with most of the past.
We then saw that the God of the Bible
is not seeking to make his presence compellingly obvious because this would
curb men's desire to do evil publicly. While this might improve living
conditions on earth now, God would then have to base his future judgment
of evil people on less explicit grounds.
Finally, we saw that because men may distort
data to their own seeming advantage, they will tend to obscure any evidence
which hints that there is an authority or power greater than themselves,
especially one which they cannot control and to which they should be subject.
Given this state of affairs, that the
God of the Bible does not intend to make his presence so obvious that it
curbs the actions of evil men, and that most men will ignore whatever evidence
they receive anyhow, why does God bother to give any evidence at all? Why
doesn't he hide himself even better? From the Bible we deduce that God
gives the level of evidence he does for two reasons:
Some people will repent upon seeing evidence, although everyone has a different
level of "what it takes to get them to believe" in the God of the Bible.
With some people this level is very low, with others it is high,  but
in any case it is known to God.  God, being in sovereign control of
things, will see that those people he wants to repent will get a sufficient
level of evidence no matter what their "belief threshold" is. He can withhold
evidence from gullible people (by teaching in parables)  and strike
professional scoffers miraculously (as with Paul on the road to Damascus)
 so that the individuals he has sovereignly chosen will repent. We
also see that some people will get more evidence than would have been needed
to convert others, yet they will still not repent.  To use theological
terminology, evidence is one means which God uses to call his elect to
Despite the varying levels of evidence to which people are exposed throughout
various times and cultures, God states that he has given each person enough
so that they know better than to continue doing evil.  Given the willful
rejection of the evidence which they do
receive, God is not obligated to provide more. It would be as if someone
needing a free car turns down the offer of a good used vehicle; would anyone
then feel obligated to
offer him a chauffeured limousine?
What is this basic evidence which is given
to all people? At the very least it includes God's glory as seen in nature,
 evidence which we obscure in our day and age by ascribing it to less
personally-demanding causes like "chance" or the "laws of nature."
However we might feel about it, God says
that the evidence he provides to each and every human being is clear enough
that he or she is morally responsible to respond to it. As we noted above,
this is why God is not frustrated that everyone does not respond to his
evidence: His goal is not to give everyone overwhelming evidence, but to
give sufficient evidence that every human being is responsible to respond
to it. And if the Biblical message is correct, he will be the one to whom
we will have to answer for ignoring it. That will be a very difficult position
to be in, somewhat like arguing with a judge over a speeding ticket: How
can we say we did not see the sign when the judge himself posted it? How
much more foolish would we be if we tried to argue that we saw it but thought
it was too small and quaint to take seriously?
This brings us to the real purpose of
miracles and of all other Biblical evidences: They are warning signs to
get us to pay attention to the associated message. Before we brush them
off as inconsequential, we must look at the message and ask ourselves how
great are the risks in ignoring it? Are we dealing with merely an advisory
speed limit for negotiating a sharp curve (which is usually an underestimate),
or is it a warning that the bridge is out ahead? Wouldn't we consider ourselves
careless if we accelerated while passing a "bridge out" sign because we
thought it seemed a little too small?
Yet the warning from the men who performed
these miracles is far worse than a bridge being out: There is an eternal
torment facing those who brush aside the commands to humble ourselves properly
before the God of the Bible and become willing subjects, especially in
view of the forgiveness which he offers for all our evil deeds. Just how
clear does the evidence have to be before we will stop gambling our eternity
on such a fate? Or to look at the converse, how stupid do we have to be
before we will brush aside our proud resistance to the evidence that there
is someone out there who is wiser and more powerful than we are, who has
our best interests at heart, and who will richly forgive us in response
to our humbling ourselves and acknowledging his righteous lordship over
Certainly we do not want to con ourselves
into thinking there is a God out there to be reckoned with when we could
be better spending our time eating, drinking and being merry. But what
we finally must ask ourselves is this: Is the evidence so ambiguous and
ill-defined that we can safely ignore the warning message that comes with
To this question there are two responses:
The first is like that which we see in the Pharisees when they challenged
Jesus in Matthew 12:38-39.  From Jesus' response, we deduce that people
like the Pharisees, who brush aside the evidence they do receive and who
wish to challenge God by demanding that he perform a miracle impressive
enough to force them to believe his warnings, may remain disappointed --
and eternally damned -- because God does not feel obligated to cater to
the egos of men who are so committed to a morally and sexually corrupt
lifestyle that they will bend whatever evidence they receive to suit their
own ends, no matter how much they may claim to be "honest lovers of truth."
While this answer sounds harsh, with a moment's reflection we can see its
truth: To demand that God perform miracles according to our specifications
is expressing sovereignty over God, and is quite the opposite of repentance.
Should we expect God to jump through any hoop we set up in order to please
us? Is God so insecure and psychologically unstable that he needs our approval?
Are we dealing with the Creator of the universe as if he were a dog? Yet
despite this attitude, God DOES provide such self-centered people with
sufficient evidence so that they cannot blame him for their choice to remain
in their unbelief. 
On the other hand, someone who wishes
to know if the Biblical data, when compared to that offered by other religions
or atheists, is clear enough to show that the God of the Bible really exists
and that his warnings should be heeded, will find that the evidence is
indeed sufficient. Such a person would be like John the Baptist, who had
second thoughts about Jesus being the Messiah because his expectations
about the Messiah probably reflected the popular view that he would be
a great military deliverer. However, Jesus handled his doubts by reminding
him that the Scriptures actually predicted that the Messiah would be a
teacher and healer.  Perhaps this evidence is not as dramatic or flashy
as we might desire, but it is objective and sufficient enough to give one
the confidence to live this life and to face the reality of death knowing
that he has not created a fantasy.
Original article appeared in Evidence
for Faith: deciding the God question, edited by John Warwick Montgomery
(Dallas, TX: Probe Books, 1991), pp. 305-318. Amended/updated in places.
1. Carl Sagan, Contact (New York:
Simon and Schuster, 1985), p. 170.
2. By "ideal data" I mean those results
which are obvious to a casual, untrained observer and which will convince
the most ardent skeptic that you deserve the Nobel prize. Perhaps one should
also require that they be capable of being presented at a conference within
a five-minute time limit using only one slide. Joking aside, such data
is obtained in the physical sciences, but only in extremely rare cases.
The bulk of scientific knowledge rests upon a less "ideal" base, yet it
is employed daily. Thus it is hypocritical for a scientist to demand "ideal
data" in the religious sphere.
3. See the episode between Samuel and Eli, 1 Samuel 3:1ff.
4. Exodus 12:23-27; 13:8-10, 14-16.
5. James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient
Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. with Supplement
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), p. 287-8.
6. Acts 26:26.
7. Psalm 50:10-12; Acts 17:24-25.
8. Job 22:2-3. Although many Christian
doctrinal statements truly assert that God created mankind to glorify him,
this verse and those above imply that God does not need men to do
this. The theological concept here is called the self-sufficiency of God.
9. Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 50:23.
10. Isaiah 57:11, Psalm 50:21-22 and Ecclesiastes
11. 1 Corinthians 10.
12. For example, see 1 Kings 18:20-19:14.
13. John 12:28-30.
14. John 9.
15. John 11:1-45.
16. John 11:46-57.
17. Luke 16:31 in the context of Luke 16:19-31,
New International Version, copyright 1978 by the New York International
18. Luke 16:19-31.
19. Matthew 11:20-24.
20. Matthew 13:11-14.
21. Acts 9:1-17.
22. Matthew 11:21.
23. Romans 1:18-21, John 1:9-12.
24. Romans 1:19-21.
25. The Pharisees' challenge is especially
striking in the larger context of 12:22-45. Note that Jesus was doing miracles
in their presence whose authenticity they could verify (12:9-14 and 12:22),
but they were rejecting his claims anyhow (12:14, 24). Jesus' response
to their challenge implies that he feels the evidence they have already
received is adequate, and the true problem is not the quality or quantity
of the evidence, but their resistance to his accompanying message.
26. Matthew 12:39b-42. Note how the testimony
of others will be used to prove that it should have been sufficient.
27. Matthew 11:2-5.