Should God Appear to Atheists?

Posted: July 18, 2011 by Amy Hall in God is Real

As a follow-up to last-week’s challenge, we’re featuring an article on whether or not a good God would reveal Himself openly to everyone:

Atheists aren’t idiots. An open display of powerful glory by the God of the universe would likely drive former atheists to serve Him out of fear, but what would this accomplish from God’s perspective? God doesn’t desire eternal slaves—i.e., those who work to fulfill His requirements out of a desire to escape punishment or to gain something they want. As God reminds the Israelites throughout the Old Testament, it’s not the acts of worship He’s after, but the hearts of children who adore their Father and want to be with Him.

I submit to you this illustration from The Gulag Archipelago, a book about the communist, totalitarian Soviet Union in the first half of the 20th century. This is the kind of scenario God has no interest in creating…

The suspense is now killing you, so read the rest at STR Place. And if you missed any of the featured articles the last couple of weeks, you can always find them on our home page. See you there!

Comments
  1. Sam Harper says:

    God doesn’t desire eternal slaves—i.e., those who work to fulfill His requirements out of a desire to escape punishment or to gain something they want.

    Then why does Jesus use the threat of punishment and the hope of rewards to motivate moral behavior so much in Matthew 5-7?

    • Amy Hall says:

      Take a look at Isaiah 66:2-3. God desires those who are “humble and contrite of spirit, and who tremble at His word.” In other words, what Jesus was doing was calling people to repentance, which includes repentance from rebellion against God along with repentance from things God doesn’t want us to do. That is, God wants people who desire Him and the good, even if they fail.

      Threats and rewards definitely motivate repentance, if one is willing to acknowledge God. But sometimes threats and rewards merely motivate people to try to “game the system” somehow (e.g., with taxes) to stay out of trouble, where they try to fulfill requirements without acknowledging and rejoicing in the good of those requirements in order to get around the obstacle (i.e., God). These are the people God was angry at in that passage linked to above. Sure, threats could get atheists to sing songs and pray, but the law doesn’t change people’s hearts, and God would know their worship was false because it would not be done out of an appreciation for God, but out of a desire to manipulate Him.

      How could someone fulfill even the first commandment–how could he love and honor God–if he still hated Him (as most of the vocal atheists do), regardless of threats and punishments? But for people who don’t hate Him, threats and rewards motivate repentance and changes in behavior that God values because they come from an acknowledgment of God’s goodness and right authority to judge.