John A. Bloom, Ph.D., Ph.D.

Why isn't the evidence clearer that would prove beyond any doubt that the God of the Bible exists and that the Christian message is true? In keeping with the satire of Carl Sagan in his recent book, Contact, [1] why isn't there a glowing cross in the sky at night to serve as irrefutable proof of Jesus' resurrection? Perhaps one could continue this further and ask why God doesn't have his own television network and toll-free hotline telephone number?

Unfortunately, the clarity and quality of evidence which validates the Biblical Christian position is not enhanced by the subjective appeals made by many believers. While I would heartily agree that "Jesus lives in my heart and has radically changed my life", such testimony carries little weight when applied to another person. Such "Try it, you'll like it" appeals come across as circular arguments unless they can be backed with evidence which is external to the individual.

Despite Sagan's ridicule, I think he does have a legitimate point which we need to consider. Why must we read a 2000 year-old book and study ancient history for proof of the existence of God? Why isn't the evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible painted across the sky in a form that is obvious to everyone, no matter how rebellious or sin-blinded he is? This question should be addressed seriously, and as we do so in this brief monograph, I think we will find that the answer is more profound than many realize. Of course, I will only attempt to answer this question for the God of the Bible and Evangelical Christianity, and let other religions (liberal "Christianity," Buddhism, etc.) speak for themselves. 

My approach may shock some liberal scholars because I will work with the hypothesis that the Biblical accounts are basically historical. However, a moment's reflection shows that this assumption is a necessary corollary to the question at hand: What we are asking here is, are there any reasons for the evidence to appear obscure other than the possibility that the God of the Bible does not exist? While the purpose of this conference is to justify the hypothesis that the God of the Bible does exist, we need to assume it here in order to address this specific question from the proper perspective. For purposes of discussion then, let us at least be agnostics: If the God of the Bible really exists, and if the Bible is basically accurate in matters of history (as the God of the Bible says it is), then why hasn't he made the evidence for his existence clearer? Are there any reasons for the evidence to appear obscure other than the possibility that the God of the Bible does not exist?

It would be a mistake to deduce from the above comments that the evidence for the truth of the Bible is marginal, meager or non-existent; or that we should not think critically when evaluating the nature of the Biblical evidence . For example, the following are what I would consider to be reasonable demands for any set of evidence: First, the evidence should be clear enough to be intellectually sound at the certainty level at which one operates when making other important decisions. Nothing can be proven 100%, yet this residual uncertainty or doubt does not hinder the average person from performing normal day-to-day tasks . For example, one tries not to step in front of cars when crossing the street. Although one can never have absolute proof that no cars are approaching, most people -- even existential philosophers -- learn to trust their senses enough to risk their lives on the basis of reasonable evidence that they can cross safely. Second, the evidence must be clear enough to select Christianity over the truth/proof claims of other religions . If the evidence for the truth of Christianity is no greater than that for any other religion, we cannot reasonably claim to be better.

The basic question still stands, however: "Why isn't the evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible clearer and more obvious?" I would like to consider this question from several perspectives:


The chief task of the scientist is to comb through "raw" data in order to extract usable information from it. From this information he constructs a hypothesis which he tests against the original data and against new data derived from experiments which his hypothesis predicts should be helpful. While it is all too often the case that a rigorous conclusion cannot be reached because the available data are inadequate or ambiguous, it is a very poor methodology to abandon research in a particular area because "ideal data" [2] are not available. Indeed, the natural order rarely produces such ideal data, nor does it provide simple and obvious answers for such basic questions as the nature of light, the behavior of electrons in conductors, or the structure of subatomic particles. Such complexity in the physical universe should make us wonder if can we expect the God who claims to be its creator to be less simple.

A scientist should be a healthy skeptic and desire controls and careful double-checking of his results, but the extreme skepticism of demanding "a glowing cross in the sky" cannot be considered scientific. It is like requiring that one go into space and bring a galaxy back to earth for study in a lab before one can be really sure of its existence. After all, aren't galaxies only visible at night to a few esoteric individuals who themselves must use special, expensive and rare instruments in order to see them? Further, how could one demonstrate to such a skeptic that the heavier elements are synthesized in the cores of exploding stars?

It is unfortunate that many people consider someone to be a brilliant scholar if he doubts the authority of the Ten Commandments because they are not written on the surface of the moon; but someone who doubts the authority of the periodic table because it is not written on the surface of the moon they would regard as an idiot. Yet the degree of skepticism exercised by each person is the same, so why are these skeptics judged differently? Because in science one must place practical limits on his skepticism and recognize that clarity is relative, not absolute. It is not scientific to abandon an area of research because the data does not satisfy some arbitrarily-chosen or absolute level of clarity. 

The clarity and conclusiveness of experimental data must be judged relative to two factors: Competition and random events . By competition I refer to alternate mechanisms which can account for the observed phenomena just as well as the favored hypothesis. Thus the data might not be clear enough to choose between any of several explanations for it. In our case, the clarity of the evidence for the truth of Biblical Christianity would be obscured by competition from other religions if any of them had comparable evidence to support their truth claims. By random events, I refer to noise, "flukes", or variable results which can render experimental data statistically insignificant. This is the explanation which atheists propose for Biblical miracles: They are unusual events which are misinterpreted in the Bible but are in reality nothing more than random events. To summarize, no serious scientist would ask, "Why isn't the data clearer?" What he would demand is that the evidence be clear enough to be significant in the light of all possible competing mechanisms, including random events.

If a scientist could design his own data, doubtless he would pick the ideal, irrefutable sort. However, scientists have found long ago that they can learn more about the universe by studying the evidence which IS available than by abandoning a topic until the data are perfect and the conclusions drawn from them are philosophically irrefutable.


Arguments based on a "Why isn't it clearer?" foundation can appear stronger than they are due to the distortions inherent in recording history. For example, a casual reading of the Bible might lead one to the conclusion that miracles were a daily occurrence in ancient Israel. Thus their absence in modern times could lead one to conclude that "God is dead" or that modern man is more sophisticated and does not perceive certain events as miraculous, at which the ancients would have marveled (lightning, the seasons of the year, etc.). However, a little study shows that the impression we have of "daily miracles" in Biblical times is an artifact due to the compression of the historical document . Miracles were rare in Israel's history and were mainly clustered around specific points: Moses and the Exodus, Elijah/Elisha, Jesus and Apostles, and the Return of Christ. Between these clusters are century-long gaps of "normal living": The slavery in Egypt, most of the period of the Judges and Kings, the inter-testament period, and our present age. In the text we see indications that miracles or divine interventions were quite rare. [3] In fact, rituals like the Passover Seder were often established to preserve the remembrance of miraculous historical events. [4]

Thus the miracles recorded in the Bible did not occur every day, but only around specific times in ancient history and then usually in conjunction with the disclosure of additional divine revelation that was written down to be preserved. For us to expect miracles today or to feel neglected by God because we are not inundated with them is only the artificial result of the compression of ancient historical accounts. In order to have manageably-sized records that could be transmitted by hand-copying, the mundane material had to be omitted.

Another historical factor in the clarity problem is that most Biblical miracles occurred in the backwaters of civilization (Palestine, when compared to the great Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures, was as "rural" as our Midwest is considered to be by most city people today). The point here is not that Biblical miracles occurred only in the backwoods among primitive, gullible and uneducated people; for we do have recorded the miraculous events surrounding Moses before Pharaoh and Daniel with the kings of Babylon. Moreover, there is even some extra-biblical evidence about these miracles preserved from the "enemy" side, as we find with Sennacherib's attack on Jerusalem. [5] Although many miracles did not take place in major urban centers, this does not mean that they occurred in isolated settings . As far as we can tell, all Biblical miracles were open to investigation and confirmation in their own age and territory. That Paul can testify before local Roman authorities that the miraculous events surrounding the life of Jesus "were not done in a corner" [6] implies that the leaders were well aware of them. Thus the evidence was publicly and adequately substantiated, but only rarely did a miracle occur in a center of civilization.

What is important to learn from this historical perspective is that we should not expect God to work spectacular miracles in New York City today, if Jesus did not do them before Caesar in Rome. Only at rare moments in history did the God of the Bible act so as to catch the immediate attention of millions of people. Why this is so will be apparent from our next vantage point:


This viewpoint is probably the most important to consider because it looks at the situation from other than the human perspective. In posing a "Why isn't the evidence clearer" question, the skeptic is assuming that a god, if he existed, would try as hard as possible to make his existence obvious to us. This assumption appears reasonable because somehow we see no reason why an all-powerful god should not try desperately to make himself known to us, especially if the consequences of ignoring him are very severe. However, this assumption ignores the possibility that an all-powerful god may decide to temporarily make himself relatively "invisible" in order to achieve a goal which is more important to him than merely convincing every last human being that he exists.

That the God of the Bible may be more sophisticated in this area than we think he is becomes evident when we look at his expressed reasons for his relative silence. Repeatedly we find the God of the Bible stating that he is in no way dependent upon mankind. [7] Such independence is quite contrary to most ancient thought, which felt that the gods made man because they were in need of servants. It also runs counter to much modern thought which argues that God made man because he was lonely or did not have anyone around to appreciate or love him. However, the God of the Bible does not reveal himself to us for egotistical reasons, or to satisfy any inner need for fame or worship. [8] That he reveals himself at all is only for our benefit, not for his. [9]

But even if he reveals himself only to benefit us, why isn't he more forthright about it? The answer is this: If he made his presence too obvious, it would interfere with his demonstration which is intended to draw out or reveal the true inner character of mankind.

That the God of the Bible has this purpose for maintaining a relative silence is clear from several passages: [10] 

Was I not silent even for a long time so you do not fear me?

These things you have done, and I kept silence;

You thought that I was just like you;

I will reprove you, and state the case in order before your eyes.

Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to evil.

From these statements we get the picture, not that God is struggling desperately but vainly to get man's attention, but rather that he is restraining himself in order to demonstrate to us something about our inner character. We might call this "the Sheriff in the tavern" principle: People tend to be good when they think they are being watched by an authority. If a Sheriff wants to find out who the trouble makers are in a tavern, he must either hide or appear to be an ineffective wimp, otherwise the bad guys will behave as well as everyone else. Any mother with young children is familiar with this principle, since she is well aware that they behave better when they think she is around. 

This restraint strategy of the God of the Bible makes better sense in light of the coming Day of Judgment: If God is going to accuse men of being evil, his case will be greatly strengthened if men have been allowed to carry out their evil deeds and to display publicly their evil intentions. However, if God were to put a big cross in the sky, or if he were to strike blasphemers dead with lightning bolts, he would merely frighten people into acting good. While this would greatly improve living conditions on earth (virtually putting an end to crime and false religions), it would not satisfy God's stated intent -- to allow man to exhibit the contrast between good and evil, clearly and concretely.

Like the Sheriff, who must allow a fight to break out in the tavern in order to have the best possible evidence against the trouble makers, God has decided to either hide himself from, or appear as an ineffective wimp to, evil men so that they will do evil acts. As any lawyer knows, convictions are easier to obtain when actions rather than intentions are being tried. Of course we should not push this analogy too far: God knows men's hearts and does not require they that act out their wickedness before he can condemn them for it. Our point here is to find models so that we as humans can appreciate why God has chosen to run the world the way he has.

So why isn't the evidence clearer? To use another analogy, because God is a good scientist who does not want to perturb his experiment by intruding into it. The problem of perturbing an experiment while measuring it is the bane of the experimental sciences. While it is painfully obvious at the level of quantum mechanics, it applies to all systems in that any and every measurement changes and thus distorts to some degree the system it measures. That God should chose to work within similar constraints as these in his dealings with mankind is not logically impossible. Of course, we should not push this analogy too far either: God is running a public demonstration, not a physical experiment. The uncertainty principle is hardly applicable to God's dealings with mankind.


The final viewpoint which we need to consider in the clarity problem is the human factor that is involved whenever a person tries to judge the quality of the evidence. One does not have to live very long to realize that people often distort facts in order to make them appear to work in their favor. The method can be statistical, or involve "selective forgetfulness," but human ingenuity often finds a way to bend the truth -- be one selling used cars, padding calculations of corporate profit, or writing science fiction.

Thus we should not be surprised if we find that men distort the evidence that God has given in order to verify his existence. If that evidence points men toward an authority other than themselves, men who wish to deny that anything could be more intelligent or authoritative than the protoplasm within their skulls will attempt to dismiss it.

Given this tendency on the part of man, how clear does the evidence have to be before people would universally recognize the existence of the God of the Bible? Would a cross in the sky actually be sufficient? Would a personal appearance of Jesus on the David Letterman Show suffice? Would the performance of an undeniable miracle in a scoffer's presence be enough? However impressive such feats would be, the records of history show that men largely ignore whatever evidence they have, no matter how clear it may be.

We find that during the wilderness wanderings, the Israelites, who had personally observed the miracles in Egypt and who were being fed and guided daily by miraculous means (manna and the pillar of fire), repeatedly rebelled against the God-directed leadership of Moses. [11] We find that the miracles performed by Elijah and Elisha were not sufficient to convert the Northern Kingdom of Israel to unperverted forms of Biblical worship. [12] Even in New Testament times, we find arguments in the crowds surrounding Jesus as to whether God the Father spoke to him from heaven or if the noise everyone heard was merely some unseasonable thunder. [13] After Jesus healed a blind man [14] and raised Lazarus from the dead, [15] the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him although they could not dispute the genuineness of his miracles. [16] 

In his account of an unnamed rich man and a poor man named Lazarus, Jesus himself makes our point clear: The rich man, now in hell, pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers so they will not face the same torment that he is experiencing. Abraham replies, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." [17] 

Looking from this human perspective, why isn't the evidence clearer? Because God knows, and has already demonstrated in history, that no matter how clear he makes it, it will not work. More evidence by itself will not convince people whose minds are already emotionally attached to an opposing view, because people are not always rational. The mind is all too much the servant of the desired fantasy.

Is God frustrated and defeated by this state of affairs, that man is so sinful that he will not pay attention to God no matter how big the red flag is that he waves in front of him? Only if we assume that God's purpose in giving evidence is to convert everyone. To understand this idea better, we need to approach it from a different direction. Let's first review where we have been.


We have analyzed from several viewpoints the question of "Why isn't the evidence that would prove the existence of the God of the Bible clearer?":

Scientifically, we noted that it reflects a poor methodology and may even beg the question by demanding ideal data in order to avoid heeding the data which are available. We saw that a proper scientific approach recognizes that clarity is a relative, not an absolute feature and would ask instead, "Is the evidence clear enough with respect to alternative explanations or random causes that any firm conclusions can be drawn from it?"

Historically, we saw that we should not be embarrassed by God's relative silence in modern times because this silence is consistent with most of the past.

We then saw that the God of the Bible is not seeking to make his presence compellingly obvious because this would curb men's desire to do evil publicly. While this might improve living conditions on earth now, God would then have to base his future judgment of evil people on less explicit grounds.

Finally, we saw that because men may distort data to their own seeming advantage, they will tend to obscure any evidence which hints that there is an authority or power greater than themselves, especially one which they cannot control and to which they should be subject.

Given this state of affairs, that the God of the Bible does not intend to make his presence so obvious that it curbs the actions of evil men, and that most men will ignore whatever evidence they receive anyhow, why does God bother to give any evidence at all? Why doesn't he hide himself even better? From the Bible we deduce that God gives the level of evidence he does for two reasons:

Grace. Some people will repent upon seeing evidence, although everyone has a different level of "what it takes to get them to believe" in the God of the Bible. With some people this level is very low, with others it is high, [18] but in any case it is known to God. [19] God, being in sovereign control of things, will see that those people he wants to repent will get a sufficient level of evidence no matter what their "belief threshold" is. He can withhold evidence from gullible people (by teaching in parables) [20] and strike professional scoffers miraculously (as with Paul on the road to Damascus) [21] so that the individuals he has sovereignly chosen will repent. We also see that some people will get more evidence than would have been needed to convert others, yet they will still not repent. [22] To use theological terminology, evidence is one means which God uses to call his elect to repentance effectively.

Accountability. Despite the varying levels of evidence to which people are exposed throughout various times and cultures, God states that he has given each person enough so that they know better than to continue doing evil. [23] Given the willful rejection of the evidence which they do receive, God is not obligated to provide more. It would be as if someone needing a free car turns down the offer of a good used vehicle; would anyone then feel obligated to offer him a chauffeured limousine?

What is this basic evidence which is given to all people? At the very least it includes God's glory as seen in nature, [24] evidence which we obscure in our day and age by ascribing it to less personally-demanding causes like "chance" or the "laws of nature."

However we might feel about it, God says that the evidence he provides to each and every human being is clear enough that he or she is morally responsible to respond to it. As we noted above, this is why God is not frustrated that everyone does not respond to his evidence: His goal is not to give everyone overwhelming evidence, but to give sufficient evidence that every human being is responsible to respond to it. And if the Biblical message is correct, he will be the one to whom we will have to answer for ignoring it. That will be a very difficult position to be in, somewhat like arguing with a judge over a speeding ticket: How can we say we did not see the sign when the judge himself posted it? How much more foolish would we be if we tried to argue that we saw it but thought it was too small and quaint to take seriously?

This brings us to the real purpose of miracles and of all other Biblical evidences: They are warning signs to get us to pay attention to the associated message. Before we brush them off as inconsequential, we must look at the message and ask ourselves how great are the risks in ignoring it? Are we dealing with merely an advisory speed limit for negotiating a sharp curve (which is usually an underestimate), or is it a warning that the bridge is out ahead? Wouldn't we consider ourselves careless if we accelerated while passing a "bridge out" sign because we thought it seemed a little too small?

Yet the warning from the men who performed these miracles is far worse than a bridge being out: There is an eternal torment facing those who brush aside the commands to humble ourselves properly before the God of the Bible and become willing subjects, especially in view of the forgiveness which he offers for all our evil deeds. Just how clear does the evidence have to be before we will stop gambling our eternity on such a fate? Or to look at the converse, how stupid do we have to be before we will brush aside our proud resistance to the evidence that there is someone out there who is wiser and more powerful than we are, who has our best interests at heart, and who will richly forgive us in response to our humbling ourselves and acknowledging his righteous lordship over us?

Certainly we do not want to con ourselves into thinking there is a God out there to be reckoned with when we could be better spending our time eating, drinking and being merry. But what we finally must ask ourselves is this: Is the evidence so ambiguous and ill-defined that we can safely ignore the warning message that comes with it?

To this question there are two responses: The first is like that which we see in the Pharisees when they challenged Jesus in Matthew 12:38-39. [25] From Jesus' response, we deduce that people like the Pharisees, who brush aside the evidence they do receive and who wish to challenge God by demanding that he perform a miracle impressive enough to force them to believe his warnings, may remain disappointed -- and eternally damned -- because God does not feel obligated to cater to the egos of men who are so committed to a morally and sexually corrupt lifestyle that they will bend whatever evidence they receive to suit their own ends, no matter how much they may claim to be "honest lovers of truth." While this answer sounds harsh, with a moment's reflection we can see its truth: To demand that God perform miracles according to our specifications is expressing sovereignty over God, and is quite the opposite of repentance. Should we expect God to jump through any hoop we set up in order to please us? Is God so insecure and psychologically unstable that he needs our approval? Are we dealing with the Creator of the universe as if he were a dog? Yet despite this attitude, God DOES provide such self-centered people with sufficient evidence so that they cannot blame him for their choice to remain in their unbelief. [26]

On the other hand, someone who wishes to know if the Biblical data, when compared to that offered by other religions or atheists, is clear enough to show that the God of the Bible really exists and that his warnings should be heeded, will find that the evidence is indeed sufficient. Such a person would be like John the Baptist, who had second thoughts about Jesus being the Messiah because his expectations about the Messiah probably reflected the popular view that he would be a great military deliverer. However, Jesus handled his doubts by reminding him that the Scriptures actually predicted that the Messiah would be a teacher and healer. [27] Perhaps this evidence is not as dramatic or flashy as we might desire, but it is objective and sufficient enough to give one the confidence to live this life and to face the reality of death knowing that he has not created a fantasy.

Original article appeared in Evidence for Faith: deciding the God question, edited by John Warwick Montgomery (Dallas, TX: Probe Books, 1991), pp. 305-318. Amended/updated in places.


1. Carl Sagan, Contact (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985), p. 170.

2. By "ideal data" I mean those results which are obvious to a casual, untrained observer and which will convince the most ardent skeptic that you deserve the Nobel prize. Perhaps one should also require that they be capable of being presented at a conference within a five-minute time limit using only one slide. Joking aside, such data is obtained in the physical sciences, but only in extremely rare cases. The bulk of scientific knowledge rests upon a less "ideal" base, yet it is employed daily. Thus it is hypocritical for a scientist to demand "ideal data" in the religious sphere.

3. See the episode between Samuel and Eli, 1 Samuel 3:1ff. 

4. Exodus 12:23-27; 13:8-10, 14-16.

5. James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. with Supplement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), p. 287-8.

6. Acts 26:26.

7. Psalm 50:10-12; Acts 17:24-25.

8. Job 22:2-3. Although many Christian doctrinal statements truly assert that God created mankind to glorify him, this verse and those above imply that God does not need men to do this. The theological concept here is called the self-sufficiency of God. 

9. Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 50:23.

10. Isaiah 57:11, Psalm 50:21-22 and Ecclesiastes 8:11, respectively.

11. 1 Corinthians 10.

12. For example, see 1 Kings 18:20-19:14.

13. John 12:28-30.

14. John 9.

15. John 11:1-45.

16. John 11:46-57.

17. Luke 16:31 in the context of Luke 16:19-31, New International Version, copyright 1978 by the New York International Bible Society.

18. Luke 16:19-31.

19. Matthew 11:20-24.

20. Matthew 13:11-14.

21. Acts 9:1-17.

22. Matthew 11:21.

23. Romans 1:18-21, John 1:9-12.

24. Romans 1:19-21.

25. The Pharisees' challenge is especially striking in the larger context of 12:22-45. Note that Jesus was doing miracles in their presence whose authenticity they could verify (12:9-14 and 12:22), but they were rejecting his claims anyhow (12:14, 24). Jesus' response to their challenge implies that he feels the evidence they have already received is adequate, and the true problem is not the quality or quantity of the evidence, but their resistance to his accompanying message.

26. Matthew 12:39b-42. Note how the testimony of others will be used to prove that it should have been sufficient.

27. Matthew 11:2-5.