More than once I’ve seen skeptics say that if God was real, apologetics would be unnecessary. If God is really all-powerful, all-wise, and all-good, then he ought to be able to communicate his message clearly to all. He shouldn’t need fallible humans to come in and set the record straight.
If you think about it, this is just the ‘hiddenness of God’ objection in another skin. And from a Biblical perspective, it just isn’t true.
God has needed apologists even when he is obvious
For starters, in some sense, God has needed apologists from the very beginning. Think about it for a second. According to the first few chapters of Genesis, God made himself abundantly clear to Adam and Eve. They had no doubts about his existence. But the serpent came in and introduced suspicions regarding God’s character and his word. (Genesis 3:1-5)
While the serpent was tempting Eve, Adam failed to step up and give a defense against the lies that were coming at her. In a way, they both neglected to offer an apologetic against Satan’s misconstrual of the truth even though they had plenty of reasons to believe in God.
Fast-forward to Moses’ day. God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage with ten plagues, and he parted the Red Sea for them. Then on top of that, God came down in his power and glory on Mt. Sinai to give them the Law. But shortly after Moses left them for a little while, they built and worshiped a golden calf and broke the very first commandment God gave them!
Moses had to remind Israel of how stupid their sin was and defend God’s Law. And later, when they refused to go into the land that God promised them, Caleb had to give a defense as to why rebelling against the Lord would be a dumb thing to do. (Numbers 14:6-9) He did this because Israel started questioning God’s character, stating that they were brought out into the wilderness to die. (Num 14:3)
Let’s fast-forward once more. Jesus came and performed all kinds of signs and miracles. John the Baptist, who earlier heralded his coming, began to have doubts while in prison. Jesus lovingly reminded John of his miracles and how he was fulfilling the messianic prophecies. (Luke 7:18-28)
The point is that even in the face of abundant evidence, people can still harbor doubts. They can still call into question God’s character and motives. So from a Biblical standpoint, it’s simply not true that God doesn’t need apologists. The evidence can be as plain as day, and people can still willingly question God’s motives or even hold onto distrustful doubts. One can question the goodness of God even if they have belief in God.
Plus, I’ve heard from multiple skeptics that even if the God of the Bible were obvious, they would refuse to worship him. For example, in a debate with Dr. Justin Bass, atheist activist and author Dan Barker said “Even if Jesus did exist, even if I agreed with [Dr. Bass] 100%, yep, he rose from the dead, yep, there’s a God, yep, I don’t deny any of that, does not mean that he is my Lord. If he did exist…I will go happily to hell. It would be worse of a hell for me to bow down before a Lord…regardless of the legend and historicity issue…Even if I agreed 100%, I would still reject that Being as a Lord of my life because I’m better than that…I cannot accept Jesus as Lord…You’re much more free to live and enjoy your life unshackled from the demands…” [Is Jesus Lord? Bible and Beer Consortium Debate, Ft Worth, Tx, 2015]
Atheists like Barker often will say that God’s immoral for allowing pain and suffering. Or they’ll say God is evil for the judgment of the Canaanites, or for threatening people with hellfire. Clearing up these misrepresentations of God’s character is one of the big reasons apologetics exists.
People can be skeptical about obvious things
Secondly, people can be skeptical about lots of things. Everyone is an apologist for something. For example, it’s clear to the majority of humans that cowardice isn’t something to be admired, that it’s wrong to betray those who love you, abusing children is wrong, and intellectual dishonesty will never be a virtue. Caring for orphans, widows, and loving your neighbor as yourself will always be morally good. That said, we still have people who will wax philosophical and try and convince you that moral values don’t really exist. There are moral realists (both theists and atheists) who have become apologists for moral facts.
And while we have plenty of evidence that vaccines work and are beneficial, we still have widespread vaccination skepticism. People distrust the medical industry, overestimate the likelihood of negative effects, and so on. With the rise in vaccination skepticism, we have had a rise in vaccine apologists. While we can imagine more evidence that vaccines are good, we have sufficient evidence and rational people should be able to change their mind in light of the facts.
Studying apologetics can make you a better person
Finally, I think that God likes the whole idea of apologetics. After all, he did command it. (1 Peter 3:15) Practicing apologetics refines a person’s character. If you love someone, you want to help them from not believing lies, and if you love God, you’ll want to defend his honor. Plus, learning apologetics helps a person to be able to think logically and critically, become a life-long learner in important disciplines like philosophy, science, or history, improve their communication skills, and a whole host of other benefits. These are all good skills that a good God would want for us to have. Proverbs 25:2 says “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”
Therefore, this ‘if God were real, he wouldn’t need apologists’ objection doesn’t carry weight.
Erik is a Reasonable Faith Chapter Director located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He’s a former freelance baseball writer and the co-owner of a vintage and handmade decor business with his wife, Dawn. He is passionate about the intersection of apologetics and evangelism.