Reasons certainly do exist to believe in Him; but-as many have maintained and still maintain-there are also reasons to doubt, or even deny, His existence. Wouldn't it be simpler if His existence were evident?
The questions you ask-and which many ask-do not refer to Saint Thomas or to
Augustine, or to the great Judeo-Christian tradition. It seems to me that
they stem from another source, one that is purely rationalist, one that
is characteristic of modern philosophy-the history of which begins with
Descartes, who split thought from existence and identified existence with
reason itself: "Cogito, ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am").
How different from the approach of Saint Thomas, for whom it is not thought which determines existence, but existence, "esse," which determines thought! I think the way I think because I am that which I am-a creature-and because He is He who is, the absolute uncreated Mystery. If He were not Mystery, there would be no need for Revelation, or, more precisely, there would be no need for God to reveal Himself.
Your questions would only be legitimate if man, with his created intellect and within the limits of his own subjectivity, could overcome the entire distance that separates creation from the Creator, the contingent and not necessary being from the Necessary Being ("she who is not," according to the well-known words Christ addressed to Saint Catherine of Siena, from "He who is": cf. Raimondo da Capua, Legenda Maior 1, 10, 92).
The thoughts that concern you, and which also appear in your books, are expressed by a series of questions. They are not only yours. You wish to be a spokesman for the people of our time, placing yourself at their side on the paths-which are often difficult and intricate, often seeming to lead nowhere-in their search for God. Your anxiety is expressed in your questions: Why isn't there more concrete proof of God's existence? Why does He seem to hide Himself, almost playing with His creation? Shouldn't it all be much simpler? Shouldn't His existence be obvious? These are questions that belong to the repertory of contemporary agnosticism. Agnosticism is not atheism; more specifically it is not a systematic atheism, as was Marxist atheism and, in a different context, the atheism of the Enlightenment.
Nevertheless, your questions contain statements that re-echo the Old and New Testaments. When you speak of God as hiding, you use almost the same language as Moses, who wanted to see God face to face but could only see his "back" (cf. Ex 33:23). Isn't knowledge through creation suggested here?
When you speak of "playing," I think of words from the Book of Proverbs, which show Wisdom "playing [among the sons of man] on the surface of his earth" (cf. Prv 8:31). Doesn't this mean that the Wisdom of God bestows itself upon all creatures, while at the same time not revealing to them all His Mystery?
God's self-revelation comes about in a special way by his "becoming man." Once again, according to the words of Ludwig Feuerbach, the great temptation is to make the classical reduction of that which is divine to that which is human. It was from Feuerbach's words that Marxist atheism was inspired, but-ut minus sapiens, "I am talking like a madman" (cf. 2 Cor 11:23)-the challenge comes from God Himself, since He really became man in His Son and was born of the Virgin. It is precisely in this birth, and then through the Passion, the Cross, and the Resurrection that the self-revelation of God in the history of man reached its zenith-the revelation of the invisible God in the visible humanity of Christ.
Even the day before the Passion the apostles asked Christ: "Show us the Father" (Jn 14:8). His response remains fundamental: "How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?...Or else, believe because of the works themselves....The Father and I are one" (cf. Jn 14:9-11; 10:30).
Christ's words are far-reaching. We are almost at the point of that direct experience to which contemporary man aspires. But this immediacy is not the knowledge of God "face to face" (1 Cor 13:12), the knowledge of God as God.
Let's try to be impartial in our reasoning: Could God go further in His stooping down, in His drawing near to man, thereby expanding the possibilities of our knowing Him? In truth, it seems that He has gone as far as possible. He could not go further. In a certain sense God has gone too far! Didn't Christ perhaps become "a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:23)? Precisely because He called God His Father, because He revealed Him so openly in Himself, He could not but elicit the impression that it was too much....Man was no longer able to tolerate such closeness, and thus the protests began.
This great protest has precise names-first it is called the Synagogue, and then Islam. Neither can accept a God who is so human. "It is not suitable to speak of God in this way," they protest. "He must remain absolutely transcendent; He must remain pure Majesty. Majesty full of mercy, certainly, but not to the point of paying for the faults of His own creatures, for their sins."
From one point of view it is right to say that God revealed too much of Himself to man, too much of that which is most divine, that which is His intimate life; He revealed Himself in His Mystery. He was not mindful of the fact that such an unveiling would in a certain way obscure Him in the eyes of man, because man is not capable of withstanding an excess of the Mystery. He does not want to be pervaded and overwhelmed by it. Yes, man knows that God is the One in whom "we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28); but why must that be confirmed by His Death and Resurrection? Yet Saint Paul writes: "If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith" (1 Cor 15:14).