“And [the rich man] said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But [Abraham] said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead’” (Luke 16:30-31).
You’ve probably heard some variation of this sentence before, or maybe even said it yourself at some point in time. “If God would only just (insert impressive miracle), then I would believe!” Some would find this to be a compelling argument, and I myself was stumped by it for a very long time, until I was hit by a truck filled with common sense. People typically don’t go see a magician and realize that magic is real, or watch a UFO documentary and go looking for aliens, unless they came to the table already having some measure of belief. Even when people face something they know to be absolutely real, if it isn’t something they want to believe, they’ll rationalize it away.
We all have times in our lives when we irrationally deny something blatantly obvious, because accepting it as truth is too uncomfortable. This was the conclusion I drew when I thought long and hard on the validity of the if-God-was-real challenge that unbelievers issue. Could a giant miracle change someone’s opinion? Maybe, but maybe not. Jesus healed the blind and rose the dead from grave, and people didn’t deny that He did miracles, but they still denied His divinity. When Jesus was being crucified, his skeptics said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him” (Matthew 27:42).
When I was younger, I was asked why I believed in God. What could I point to to prove God was real? Wanting to provide a scholarly answer, I answered by talking about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and how they supported proof that the prophecies in the Old Testament predated Jesus’ time. My little brother answered, “Because I believe it in my heart!” I was surprised to find that his answer was met with more approval, and I’ve matured enough to understand why. The only proof that we can offer others of God’s reality is by showing them what God has done in our lives and how our relationship with Him affects us.
There is a saying that goes, “If you could be argued into salvation, you can be argued out of it,” and how true it is. If some magic trick was all it took a person to believe, then it’s not unreasonable to say that the same could convince them otherwise; that’s not belief, that’s actually faithlessness (Hebrews 11:1). God is willing to give us miracles to help in our unbelief, but He does so for those that seek Him, believe enough to genuinely ask, and have faith that He can really do what they ask.