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Why Doesn't God
Reveal Himself to
There are still rare appearances, here is one recent personal example.
A guest emailed the following questions:
Let me get this straight. Saul (Paul) is a man pursuing a purely evil mission -- the destruction of Christianity in its infancy. He is guilty of the persecution, imprisonment, and misery of untold numbers of people simply because of a theological difference he has with them. To such a monster, God shows himself through direct and undeniable revelation. He speaks to him directly and audibly, striking him temporarily blind. No pussyfooting around. Saul's conversion comes without any effort or initiative on his part whatsoever. No "searching of the scripture," no "opening of your heart," no taking the word of some preacher, no acceptance of any "witnessing" from another Christian. Saul's experience makes it impossible for him to deny the existence of God and of Jesus Christ, as it would to just about any sane person who would go through such an experience (I know I would be persuaded if it happened to me).
So why does …Saul get direct, undeniable revelation from God while millions of other people like me sit and wait? We are told that we must rely on the scriptures ... Why can't I receive direct revelation like Saul? After all, I never intentionally persecuted anyone in my life, especially not for their religion... Where is my road to Damascus?
Thomas, a man who is said to have actually lived with Jesus, said that he would not believe in the risen Jesus until he saw the holes in his hands. Neither shall I. Yes, I know Jesus supposedly said that those who believed without seeing the evidence that Thomas saw would be even more blessed than Thomas. But I would be satisfied with Thomas's blessing. I want Jesus to show himself to me, just as he did to Thomas. The bible is filled with people like Thomas who would never have believed without such revelation. No just God would allow these privileged few to go to heaven and leave the rest of us to burn in hell because we found it hard to believe people like you. What do you say to this? I eagerly await your reply.
My Personal Unexpected Revelation
I can relate with Saul/Paul, as I was the atheist of atheists. Anything Christian created an emotional swelling of hatred. I could argue with the best. I never argued other religions (they never created any emotional response), just Christianity.
I was studying geophysics cloud formations and environmental research, for a paper I sent to the head of the United Nations Environmental Program in 1990. I began to notice a number of coincidences, so many in fact that it really made me begin to look for possible explanations. As a scientist we can usually come up with a theory that would partially explain some of the strange occurrences. However, day after day of these things happening, you begin to find your foundation of natural cause and effect begins to break down.
In 1992 I had seen so many of these 'coincidences' that I began to contemplate why I had turned my back on God. I was nowhere near believing that Jesus was the son of God, but I could perhaps deal with a creator above and beyond our perception.
I met my wife later that year, and by our fourth date I asked her if she went to church. She didn't want to answer me, as other boyfriends had left her because of Christianity. Reluctantly, she told me that she did attend a Pentecostal Church. I felt the urge to go to a service, which we did in the next few weeks. To take an introverted scientist and place him into a Pentecostal church was a bit of a shock.
As I began to read the Bible I came up with all kinds of questions and doubts, which I routinely voiced with my fiancée, so much so that they almost ended our engagement a couple of times (many of those questions became Yfiles). I later came down with pneumonia and was bedridden for two weeks. My future mother-in-law gave me a book called "More than a Carpenter" by Josh McDowell. Josh had gone through a similar trek and pointed out.
I eventually read enough compelling evidence that I came to faith that Jesus was the son of God. However, upon reading the same account of Paul seeing a sign, I wondered why God revealed himself throughout Biblical times, but not in modern time. I didn't demand a sign, I only wondered on the day that I came to faith.
I was on the road to recovery from my illness two days later, driving in my convertible with the top down. I looked up and a cloud formation grabbed my attention. There were seven clouds in the shape of squares with 90 degree corners, each cloud was outside the next with blue sky in-between. On the right half of the squares was a luminous cloud that looked quite bright nearest the center of the squares. The luminous circular cloud on the right did not have the sun behind it but was reflecting the sunlight in such a way that the center was much brighter than the outside. I then noticed that the inner most cloud quickly transformed into a very detailed eye, the eye had a pupil and eyelashes, from there the remaining clouds transformed into a total half face that was so detailed it gave me goosebumps. What I was then staring at was the same face of Jesus we see portrayed in artwork and books on one side, and a luminous cloud representing the other half of the face.
I happened to be wearing polarized sunglasses at the time and even lifted them up to see if the image was discernable. It was not as clear without the polarized lenses, but still there if you knew where to look, which could be why nobody else in the area took notice of this image. Of course it is not everyday that a person who spent three years studying cloud formation comes upon 14 consecutive 90 degree corners (28 if you count the inside and outside angle of each cloud) on seven half squares on a clear sunny day. (My animated graphic to the left doesn't do the image justice, as the face was much more defined and detailed than the image I have here, it is only meant to offer some perspective.)
I had been shown a sign without asking for the privilege. I had only questioned why we don't see signs in modern times. I was only shown this after I came to faith. I told my wife a few days later after trying to come up with other explanations and finding none.
Between the resurrection and ascension Jesus only appeared to those who believe. There is no evidence in the Bible that any unbelievers saw Jesus at this time. Jesus tells Thomas after Thomas loses his skepticism, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” The disciples lost their freedom to choose to believe or disbelieve. The church would stand or fall on the persuasiveness of these eyewitnesses. No disciple ever denied Jesus after this point. Other than the 500 or so people who saw Jesus after the resurrection, all believers since then have been blessed.
As for Saul / Paul, he is the only non-believer that Jesus appears to. Saul (who later is known as Paul) was intent on wiping the disciples off the face of the earth. Had he succeeded there would be no church today. For the church to survive, Paul would have to be stopped. He would be shown something he couldn’t deny.
…and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' And he said, 'Who art Thou, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do.' And the men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no one. And Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Ananias, a disciple at Damascus, was told by Jesus that he should go to Saul to remove the blindness. Ananias questioned Jesus about the choice of Saul, 'Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon Thy name.' But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake.'
Saul/Paul went from being an orthodox Pharisee, whose mission was to preserve strict Judaism, to being a propagator of that new radical sect called Christianity which he had so violently opposed. There was such a change in him that "all those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying 'Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this [Jesus'] name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?' " (Acts 9:21).
Historian Philip Schaff states: "The conversion of Paul marks not only a turning-point in his personal history, but also an important epoch in the history of the apostolic church, and consequently in the history of mankind. It was the most fruitful event since the miracle of Pentecost, and secured the universal victory of Christianity."
Why doesn’t God show himself to all non-believers? God wants [voluntary] faith, and proof would force faith. God has always chosen the slow difficult way – respecting human freedom regardless of the cost.
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For more papers on this and other related subjects visit http://www.yfiles.com/index.html
The Truth is Stranger than Fiction
Special Mention to a few of the phrases and quotes used in the last few paragraphs came from two books I highly recommend:
Josh McDowell, "More Than A Carpenter" Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (1977)
pp. 111-116. (Note: at the time of posting this paper, Josh McDowell's book above was being offered for free at https://secure.call-kc.com/icrn/)
Philip Yancey, "The Jesus I Never Knew" Zondervan Publishing House (1995) p.179-182.
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