Atheists sometimes ask, “Why can’t we see God?” Or, “Why doesn’t God reveal himself in such a way that everyone would believe in him?” What the Atheist is asking for, is irresistible proof that God exists. However to ask this question, is to reveal ignorance about the God of the Bible. God has explained (repeatedly) why he does not give undeniable proof of himself. God tests our hearts to see if we will choose to love him of our own free will, that’s why he won’t give proof that forces belief. The relationship of the believer to God is described as that of a bride in 1 Corinthians 6:15-17:
15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!
16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.”
17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
God has expectations of a future bride. A bride of God must be willing to love God on his terms. That means God reveals enough knowledge of himself to justify belief, but not enough to force belief. This preserves free will, enabling people to choose to believe in him or not. And that means we are also able to choose to love him or not. God does not want people to marry him, who would have chosen not to if there were other options. We have to consider God’s feelings in all of this. Would you want someone to marry you, who would not have if they had a choice? Neither does God want that. So he gives us choices. There are other religions, and those who deny they are religious at all, and we get to decide if we want to marry God or not.
If God gave us undeniable proof of his existence, we would all choose to love him, if for no other reason than avoiding everlasting punishment in fire. We would make ourselves love him, we would choose to see the best in him, we would choose to appreciate his goodness. We would do this even if we would reject and hate him given a choice. Again, those who would otherwise hate God would choose to love him solely for the purpose of avoiding Hell. God does not want people married to him who would not choose to love him of their own free will when given a choice. This also means that the other choices must be real choices, live options. They must confer benefits, have advantages, seem to make sense, and be attractive, as the fruit was to Adam and Eve:
Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
To ensure he is married to only those who will love him of their own free will when given a choice, God tests our hearts. The Lord tells us in 1Thessalonians 2:4, “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.” And God has a lot more to say about his testing of humanity:
Psalm 7:9 Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, But establish the just; For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds.
Psalm 11:5 The LORD tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.
Proverbs 17:3 The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests the hearts.
Ecclesiastes 3:18 I said in my heart, “Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.”
1 Chronicles 29:17 “I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You.
Psalm 11:4 The LORD is in His holy temple, The LORD’S throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.
Jeremiah 17:10 I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.
Jeremiah 20:12 But, O LORD of hosts, You who test the righteous, And see the mind and heart, Let me see Your vengeance on them; For I have pleaded my cause before You.
Zechariah 13:9 I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; And each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”
God also has something to say about people testing him:
Deuteronomy 6:16 “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.
Matthew 4:7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
22 none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice,
23 shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it.
Regarding Numbers 14:22,23, it is clear to me that we all have seen signs from God. Romans 1:18-22 tells us:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19 ¶ because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
And Acts 17:31 adds to this, “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
So God says everyone knows he exists, and everyone who has heard of Christ, knows he raised Christ from the dead. But by what exact means has he made these things known to us? What is the point by point series of logical and evidential steps God has used? There’s the test, God doesn’t give us those details. And those details need to be withheld, or people wouldn’t be free to reject God if they want to. Because God has left some mystery, people are free to walk through the door marked “unknown,” and choose not to believe in him.
So God has told us what he has made known to us. Let’s think for a few moments about what God has kept hidden, as Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Starting at the beginning, it is unclear to me why Adam and Eve’s descendants are included in their sin/sinful nature. That’s a mystery. It is unknown to me what specifically God required of people religiously before Noah’s flood, and indeed for a long time after the flood. It is not perfectly clear to me why God chose to give his special revelation/his scriptures, through the nation of Israel, rather than some more inclusive way. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people. I was once troubled by the question of what happens to those who don’t hear about Jesus before they die, but I am now satisfied having discovered the answer offered by Dr. Craig:
There are also innumerable questions pertaining to the circumstances and events of my personal life, everyone has such questions. They are God’s tests. As Jesus taught in John 6:61-67:
61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you?
62 “What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?
63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.
65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”
66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”