How can God be fair to everyone if He does not show His existence to everyone? Will He honestly judge a person for not knowing He existed? Why won’t He just manifest himself, such as with a booming voice in the sky?
We all know one or more variation of this question. The particular version I encountered was from a Google+ post, but we have all met it in one form or another.
What Must First be Settled
In order to answer that question honestly, one must firstly have fixed whether god really exists in the first place. If that problem remains unsolved, then the rest of the reasoning will be taking a step too far. We are furthermore looking for a Biblical answer. Therefore, the veracity of the Bible is a necessary stepping stone to this question. This reasoning cannot take place before those two things have been established.
Assuming these questions have been accounted for, let us move on to the main topic at hand.
The Biblical Answer
This passage concerning Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16 verses 27-31 is key:
Then [the rich man] said, I pray you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house: For I have five brothers; that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent. And he said to him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
Christ the Messiah also said this concerning Tyre and Sidon in Luke chapter 10 verses 13-14:
Woe to thee, Chorazin! woe to thee, Bethsaida! for if the works of power which have taken place in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they had long ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you.
He also added these words in John chapter 6 verse 37:
All that the Father gives me shall come to me, and him that comes to me I will not at all cast out.
Let us remark at this point that God does not owe use anything. He has created man, and is free to do of him as He sees fit. He could let things go on indefinitely without a justice if He pleased; after all, the fault is on man for getting in trouble, not on Himself. However, happily for us, God does promise the following in the Revelation chapter 3 verse 20:
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Therefore, His salvation from sin and hell is an open invitation. Why then won’t God just stand in the sky and show himself?
He Would If We Could Make Him Listen
God is under nobody’s obligation; all duty is towards Him, and without His sacrifice, we should be lost. Who are we to criticise how God operates? Do we think we can challenge His understanding? Must we inform Him of something He does not already know?
He Would If It Were Useful
Even if God did show himself, not one more person would be saved. That is because, just like at Satan’s rebellion, salvation is not a knowledge problem, but prevented by a lack of will to submit to God’s authority. Just as for the rich man, God would tell you, “You have Moses and the prophets: if you cannot listen to the least of them, how will you then listen to me?”
He Will Not Add More Weight of Judgment on Our Shoulders
If God did show himself to everyone, such as He did to Chorazin and Bethsaida, and everyone still rejected Him as they had before, showing Himself would simply be putting a new weight of sin on their shoulders, increasing their judgment. Of course, God has the right to do so, but it is totally unnecessary. Besides, he has done it already with the house of Israel, and their continued disobedience to Him should be a lesson enough for us to understand that what we need is not miracles from God, but repentance from the heart.
What About That Person Who Honestly Never Knew Anything Concerning God?
Of course, with this hypothetical man-in-a-tribe-in-a-desert-with-only-primal-knowledge-that’s-always-brought-up, God can work in special ways, and no one is out of His reach, nor does anyone escape His mind. He can bring someone across his path; he could perhaps, even, as has often been suggested, bring dreams or visions to that person. The Ethiopian man to whom Philipp preached in Acts chapter 8 is an example of such a person.
However, that is a case of exception. In reality, those far away from the knowledge of God are probably better off that way, because if they did know God, they would not follow Him; and God, knowing that, is actually acting in their favour by not revealing Himself to them.
Of course, the answer to the original question is not directly written in the Bible; the best we can do is interpret. But what constitutes a problem doesn’t necessarily signify there is no solution. As Job experienced, if God acts one way, we are nobodies to oppose him. God knows what He is doing, and will not forget anyone who wills to come to Him.
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