Why there is no Proof of God
As a devout theist, it feels somewhat heretical to say this, but, there is no proof of God’s existence. What I mean by that is that for all of the evidence of God’s existence, even taken together, it is not sufficient to incontrovertibly prove, once and for all, to all the world that God exists. There have been individuals to whom God has proven his existence, but for most human beings, if we choose to believe in God, there is an element of faith required to continue that belief.
I suspect this proposition is obvious to many who don’t believe in God, while some believers may resist it being stated this way. However, this is actually a very important point in LDS theology for three reasons.
First, we believe that one of the primary purposes of this life is to prove our character by how we act when out of God’s presence. Because the nature of God allows him to know our every move, the only way we could achieve the required independence was to be put into a situation where we could believe God was not there.
Second, in a world where all will inevitably sin, we will be judged with respect to our knowledge and understanding of what is right. So, it is a mercy to withhold this knowledge from those who would be condemned by it.
Third, the process of gaining faith is also central to our purpose in life. “The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think.” The same is true for our spiritual education. Learning to use faith in order to gain understanding and to grow as an individual is key to progression. Having the central tenet of religion be unknowable except through faith demonstrates the central importance of faith.
Ultimately, all of these points boil down to something central to what we believe is the purpose of life. We are here not by random chance or for God’s amusement. We were sent from God’s presence to prove our character and improve our minds. The final judgment will not be based on an arbitrary checklist, but rather on the person we have become through our life on this planet. For those who have chosen not to believe, God will use the same criteria, and has structured His intervention on this planet to give us the best opportunity He could give.
Why would an all knowing creator need his creations to “prove” themselves? Wouldn’t he know during his creation process which ones were worthy? Why would he even bother creating unworthy ones? What a waste of time. And how can you call him a loving creator if he creates beings that are not worthy to return to him. Furthermore, it seems he is a respecter of persons if he creates beings of all varying capabilities, talents, and abilities/desires to return to him.
The answer to this really requires its own post, and I was thinking I probably needed to add a follow up to explain this as I was writing anyway. It’s really the detail of the Plan of Salvation (as our church calls it) that provides the answers here. I’m not sure when I’ll get around to writing my own version, so here’s a link to the Church’s site with some info: http://mormon.org/plan-of-happiness.
Your question may make sense to some, but it doesn’t make any sense to me. There is much evidence proving that God exists: First, He tell us that everything he has created is to prove to us that He exists. Many people see proof that He exists every second of every day; others don’t ever see it at all in their whole life-time. So I think your question should be, “Why don’t so many people see what is right in front of their face?” Second, which ties into the first: He has told us that “[He] is displeased with those who confess not His hand in all things”, and He shows His displeasure time and time and time again to prove to them that He’s there, yet they still don’t see. UGH! How blind and ignorant are they that they still can’t see that He exists?! Third, He has been seen by so many people that if all the miracles/proof of Him were written in books, every library would be bulging at the walls, (Pres. Kimball said that). So many people actually saw Jesus Christ heal in very obvious ways–like re-attaching a cut-off ear, for example–HELLO!!!–and yet they still didn’t believe. Therefore, wouldn’t you conclude that the people who still insist upon more proof that He exists are just “sign-seekers” and will never believe in Him because they actually don’t want to? Say I’ve never been to Africa, (which I haven’t). Others say they’ve been there and tell me it exists, shown me pictures, maps and souveniers, but how do I really know these things aren’t made-up stories, pictures of someplace else, etc.? Their words and pictures prove nothing to me; even if I were to go to the place people are calling “Africa”, why should I believe that it’s really “Africa” at all? It’s because I’ll believe the proof if I want to believe it, otherwise I’ll just consider it all a concocted fable. The proof is there–or not; it’s up to me. I think your question is, in a way, putting the blame on God for something that skeptics are responsible for.
Terry, evidence and proof are not the same thing. A paranoid person sees evidence of the world conspiring against them in every coincidence. Is that proof that there is a conspiracy? No. God has given us many witnesses, signs, symbols and other evidence, but structured in a way so that people can reasonably deny God’s existence without being insane.
We are also fortunate to live in a time where our collective understanding of the world from a scientific perspective has never been greater. This leads a lot of people to think that scientific explanations of things make supernatural explanations unnecessary and therefore false, despite the fact that many of the scientific explanations have very large gaps in our understanding that have yet to be filled.
In any case, even for believers, it is a process to learn about God. We are not born with a perfect understanding of Him. It is only when we choose to believe in the evidence of His existence and love that has been provided that our understanding increases.
Part of my audience for this post is the unbeliever. To them, my goal was to explain why the lack of proof, which is sometimes interpreted as proof that God does not exist, is consistent with, and central to our beliefs surrounding the nature of God’s relationship to humankind.
I regularly have a conversation with a good friend of mine who is frustrated by those who say the “know” God lives, the Church is true, Joseph Smith was a prophet etc. He does not understand how they could “know” those things in the same way you know 1+1=2.
I usually say that those who say such things are doing so for one of four reasons.
1. They are young and have taught to say it that way. For example the young child who says he knows Jesus loves him or that her prayers are answered.
2. They simply use the nomenclature of others so as not to be perceived as some type of non-believer or heretic (such as saying “I believe” or “I hope” etc. They may not have had the experience described in D&C 46:13 so they rely on verse 14 or one of the faith verses. They simply don’t want to get into the discussion about how to describe their testimony.
3. While some do not distinguish between faith and knowledge. I haven’t a clue how they can explain D&C 46:13-14 or other scriptures that describe the blessings of “belief” and “faith.” Perhaps they are intellectually lazy or they are like those above who believe using the word “know” is simpler.
4. And finally, those who knowingly distinguish between “knowing” that 1+1=2 and “knowing” that their prayers have been answered. They know the difference but choose to use “know” to describe their testimonies. My friend is unwilling to acknowledge that they understand the difference and are not using “know” the same way he wants them to.
It is interesting to me that in the April General Conference, among the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve and Presidency, they used the following “testimony” words at the conclusion of their addresses: Said nothing 9; know 2; witness 4; testify 9; and declare 1. Some of them used more than one. Those that said nothing usually ended them “praying” that we will follow or understand the principles they have thought.
Knowledge is a lot more amorphous than we like to think it is. There are a lot of simple facts that we can know, such as “1 + 1 = 2”. However, most useful knowledge is not so much a matter of knowing a specific thing as it is understanding it substantially. I “know” the church is “true” (another complicated concept) not because of any specific thing, but because I understand Christ’s teachings about what religion/churches should do and I understand enough to see that the LDS church is pretty darn close to ideal measured against that.
Then, of course, you have the Spirit. It is through the Spirit that our beliefs can become a knowledge of sorts. But that defies logic to some degree, so is difficult for those of us who are logically minded to categorize under the same word. That doesn’t make spiritual knowledge any less real, though.