The Invisibility Paradox

If you think that title sounds like an episode of The Big Bang Theory, guess again!  We made it up to express the following paradoxical facts:

  1. God is the supreme power and reality of the cosmos.
  2. Every serious attempt to prove His existence has failed.
  3. “[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

So, how do you reconcile those three facts?  You can make sense of the first two simply by assuming that God chooses to be ‘invisible’ – that’s certainly within His power.  But how do you reconcile the third?  If God really wants all people to know Him, why would He not make Himself really obvious?

Of course, His children all know that God is far from invisible.   Psalm 19 says: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”  But why doesn’t everyone see Him?

There’s an old maxim about “not being able to see the forest for the trees” that applies here.  It’s kind of the way ancient people had no concept of ‘air’ because they had never experienced a vacuum – what is always there isn’t noticed.  And one certain thing about God is that He is EVERYWHERE and ALWAYS. (Psalm 139)    We also know that He is responsible for all the goodness in the world that we take for granted.  Jesus said:

“[Your heavenly Father] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  (Matthew 5:45)

In other words, it’s God’s loving nature that He doesn’t dispense His blessings on only those who worship and serve Him, but on EVERYONE.  But if both those who serve Him and those who defy Him enjoy the same material gifts, how can we prove that He is actually involved with our world?

If it were possible to induce God to ‘switch off’ his oversight over the universe for a bit, all skepticism would quickly evaporate:  At minimum, the universe would be an ugly and desolate place without the influx of God’s gracious providence — the only source of beauty and happiness.  Or perhaps the universe would simply ‘blink out’ like a streetlamp in a power failure.  In any case, there would be no way that anyone could doubt God’s presence if they could see the consequences of His absence.  But, of course, the suffering would be imposed on all creation, including His children.

In the Parable of the Weeds Jesus tells the story of a landowner who discovers that his enemy has planted nasty weeds in his wheat field.  When servants suggest pulling up the weeds, the owner replies:

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:29-30)

Thus, paradoxically, it is the fact of God’s love for His own that makes it possible for wicked people to be blind to Him.  God permits Satan’s weeds to flourish because He wants to let His own crop reach its full growth before He harvests it – because when that happens, the separation of weeds and wheat is final: He is then visible to all, and there is no further choice in the matter.

Of course, that doesn’t stop us from asking questions, does it?  Does God really have no other choice but to accept evil behavior?  We’re not passive plants after all, so why wouldn’t He stage really dramatic demonstrations that He is Lord to convince people?  Like, why didn’t Jesus appear to hundreds of thousands of people after His resurrection?  Though we can reasonably speculate that refraining from such demonstrations has do with preserving our free will to choose or reject Him, we really can’t guess the mind of God.

Ultimately, all that we can do is trust in His love.  And we can have complete confidence in that because God subjected His Own Beloved Son to His withdrawal so that we will need never experience the desolation of Jesus on the Cross when He called out:  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Mark 16:34)  In that cry of agony we see the ultimate proof of God’s total commitment to His children.

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