God, give me a sign and I’ll believe!

There is something about the human psyche that makes us ask for a sign or wonder when it comes to the supernatural. In some form or another, I have heard many atheists and antagonists to the Christian faith say something along these lines: If God would give me a sure sign then I would believe. There are many variations to this statement, but they all drive at the same point—mainly that belief will follow some tangible proof of God’s existence. Is this a fair request? Is this an honest claim?

Whether or not this is a fair request depends upon some things. If the one making this statement has seen much and/or convincing evidence that would indicate God does exist (for this evidence, see my series on "Proving the Existence of God"), then this is not a fair request. Here’s a simple illustration to show what I mean. Mind you it is not perfect, but it makes the point.

The vast majority of American’s will never personally meet the President of the United States. However, I don’t think that there is anyone in America right now that would say our current President Barack Obama doesn’t exist. Why? Because we can see and hear him on television, we can read things he has written, we can speak to people who have personally met him. If I proclaimed to anyone that I didn’t believe President Barack Obama existed, they would probably think I was crazy and then ask me why I thought that? They may even follow it up by pointing out that he appears on television regularly and thousands of people know him personally and so forth. How silly it would be for me to then say, “I don’t believe that is really him that appears on television and all those people’s personal testimonies mean nothing because they have never actually met him—I won’t believe he exists unless he gives me a clear sign (or if I personally met him).”

This is the same criteria the request puts forth when one has seen reasonable evidence for God’s existence and yet says, “I won’t believe unless God does [X], then I will believe he exists.”

Most of the time, when this request is made I think it is made in a dishonest fashion. It has been my experience that this “give me a sign” notion is made simply because the person already believes it is an impossibility. In other words, they have already decided that God does not exist and, therefore, it is impossible for God to even give a sign to them making this a dishonest request. They do not even allow for the possibility of the request to be answered. Continuing the illustration from above will help demonstrate my point here. After making the statement “I won’t believe he exists unless he gives me a clear sign (or if I personally met him)” and then don’t even allow for the possibility of actually meeting President Obama personally, it is a dishonest request.

The last question I would like to address is whether or not God should acquiesce to this? I think we are foolish to think that God must do this. Let’s assume that President Obama was informed that I didn’t believe he actually existed and that the only way I would believe he existed is if I personally met him. Wouldn’t you agree that he could care less if I believed he exists? He is not going to stop everything he is doing to come and personally meet with me—who would actually expect him to do so?

I am not saying that God doesn’t care whether or not we believe in him, but what is it that makes us think we have the right to demand that God meet our requests. Even more so, that if he doesn’t then we have the right to pass judgment upon his actions (either condemning or condoning).

I also believe that even if God submitted himself to every one of these requests that many people would still not believe that he exists, they would find something that would prove the encounter unreliable. In fact, I think Jesus addressed this very issue in the gospel of Luke. Jesus was telling a parable about a rich man and a poor man. In the parable, the rich man refused to help the poor man who was starving and suffering from sores (possibly leprosy). After both men had died, the rich man ended up in hell and the poor man in heaven. The rich man makes several requests, one of which was to send messengers to his family to inform them of the fate that awaited them if they didn’t change their lives. The response given him was, “They have Moses and the Prophets, let them listen to them.” This referred to what we now know as the Old Testament.

He was told that no special sign would be given to his family. They had the same evidence available to them as everyone else. This also addresses the notion that God must somehow give a special sign to one person. It is somewhat unfair and selfish for one to ask God to give them a special sign above and beyond the evidence available to everyone else. Furthermore, Jesus pointed to his miracles as confirmation many times in the Bible and many still refused to believe in him even though they witnessed them (John 12:37).
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