Why Doesn’t God Save Everyone?

David Tae-Kyung Rim
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This question touches on one of the most difficult issues in religious discussions today. Some atheists argue that the presence of unpersuaded genuine seekers of God is itself evidence that either God does not possess the power to make Himself more evident or that God does not truly desire the salvation of all. The common analogy used is of a child playing hide-and-seek with his mother. Somehow the child gets lost in the woods behind the backyard. He figures that sooner or later his mother will come searching for him out there. But after hours of wandering, his mother is nowhere in sight. When he cries out “Mom!” there is no response. Nighttime comes, and still no evidence of Mom.

The parallels are obvious. God is the mom who desires to reach out and save those who are lost. While a human mom may have had a heart attack or gotten entangled in another part of the woods, a divine Father would certainly have the power to bring about a reunion. What are we to think of a Father who has the ability but does not seem to expend the energy necessary? Could it be that He doesn’t even exist?

Christian scholars have offered a number of responses to this argument. Some say that if the seeker was truly genuine and sincere, God would have revealed Himself to them. After all, Jeremiah promises that the one who seeks God with all his heart will find him (29:13). James seems to affirm this promise in the New Testament: “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (4:8). When someone wants to find God and know God, and not merely experience the benefits, then surely he will find God. Other scholars argue that if God reveals Himself without constraint, the individual would be so overwhelmed by His presence that his freedom to enter into a relationship with God would be negated.

While there may be something to both of these responses, there is another possibility. Evidence can come in several forms: arguments for God such as the complexity and specificity of life pointing to a designer; a miracle such as a resurrection or a healing; divine presence as in a dream or a visionary experience. But there is one more kind of evidence: divine presence in the church. What if the church is to show God to the world? The way the church lives out its own gospel would determine how much evidence there is for God’s existence. Jesus Himself said that if we love one another as He has loved us, the world will know that He has sent us (John 13:34–35; 17:23).

For Further Reading:

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