Some derision of God just doesn't fly.
“If God existed, he'd have made the world more just.”
– Joseph Stalin, in Montefiore’s Young Stalin, p. 49.
“If Joseph Stalin was more just, he'd have made the world better.”
– God, in Johnson's Imaginations, p. 314.
Some witticisms are harder to dismiss.
“If God wanted us to believe in him, he'd exist.” – Linda Smith
“How does an elephant hide in a cherry tree?”
“I don’t know, how does an elephant hide in a cherry tree?”
“He paints his toenails red.”
“But you don't see elephants in cherry trees!”
“Works, doesn’t it?”
So: How does God hide in a cherry tree?
Seeing cherry trees growing from cherries, the ancients intuited an uncaused Cause.
In recent years ponderers have come up with god-free ways to get something from nothing. Vacuum genesis, quantum foam, virtual particles, M-theory, multiverses, ekpyrosis, and like explanations have elbowed aside the unmoved Mover. As things stand, if God showed up with lightning in his fists, we would request an ID. “Sure, you can shoot blankets of flame, but how do we know you made the universe?”
Theapathy is not caring about god. New word, old idea. Jesus complained, “they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” It's plausible that theapathists –don't say that after eating toast–outnumber theists, atheists, and dogmatic agnostics.
Stalin is not the only one to cast the question of God's existence in personal terms. In the book, Disappointment with God, Philip Yancey considers three personal questions about God:
Is God unfair? Is God silent? Is God hidden?
“If God wanted…” propositions are standup comedy expressions of these three blunt questions.
One of Yancey's conclusions is that Humanity would be worse off if God was fair, if God was talkative, and if God was always visible. Way worse off.
Consider the record of God’s chosen people just after they exited Egypt. God’s presence in a cloud of fire was constant. Forty years, day and night, there’s that fiery cloud! The response? The people wanted to go back to Egypt. During that time, God was not silent. God gave clear rules. The response? The people promptly broke those rules. Per written contract, God hit them with fire, earthquakes, snakes, disease, and enemy armies.
Given our record of responding to God, why should he show up? Job fumed:
“If I go to the east, God is not there;
if I go to the west, I do not see him.
When he is at work in the north, I catch no sight of him;
when he turns to the south, I cannot see him.”
– Job 23
“If God wanted us to believe in him, he'd exist.” God does not want us to believe--if belief means nothing more than intellectual assent.
“You believe there is one God. Good! But the demons believe that, too, and they tremble with fear.”
– James 2
“If God wanted us to believe in him, he’d exist.” I’m going to suggest as I have previously that, though God wants us to trust him, our belief is not God's highest priority for us. I won’t claim to articulate God’s highest objectives fully, but the following seems relevant:
Jesus answered, “The most important command is this: ‘Listen, people of Israel!
The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’
The second command is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’
There are no commands more important than these.”
– Luke 10
Give people goodies? God gave people paradise and one rule. See how well that worked.
Let people do what they want? Noah way.
Itemize how to love God and your neighbor? Whatever.
Sacrifice himself? “People walked by and insulted Jesus, … ‘Come down from that cross if you are really the Son of God!’ … ‘If he is the king, let him come down now from the cross. Then we will believe in him.’”
– Matthew 27
I do not suggest that these were experiments, as though God was testing ways to engage us. Nor do I call them demonstrations of what doesn’t work, although these events have some value in that respect. They are data, sufficient for faith, and leading to love.
“We love because God first loved us.”
– 1 John 4
Do we step up to a microphone and announce in our best Ed McMahon style, "Heeeeere's God!" The multi-colored curtain opens, but will God show? If God showed, would we survive?
Talking about God is something we do. But our main job is to love God and love our neighbor. We thereby introduce people to God in the way God wants to be introduced. When love labors, God's existence becomes a little more apparent, even inescapable.
“Where can I go to get away from your Spirit?
Where can I run from you?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there.
If I lie down in the grave, you are there.
If I rise with the sun in the east
and settle in the west beyond the sea,
even there you would guide me.
with your right hand you would hold me.“
– Psalm 139