A commenter on my previous entry about God’s “tinkering” with nature asks: If God interferes (making miracles, making species) to show us that he and we are free, then why doesn’t he make that more transparent?
Why is it so hard to distinguish between [God’s] actions and the results of natural law and chance? Surely he could have made his tinkering more obvious and, therefore, more instructive. It can’t be because he is trying to be subtle — that would conflict with his motive to be a teacher. All you’ve done is turn God from a bad creator into a bad teacher.
It is, once again, all about our freedom. Back to basics, now. Why did God create us? Another classical source, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s The Way of God, summarizes in brief terms: “God’s purpose in creation was to bestow of His good to another” (1:2:1). Many other Jews and Christian alike have said similarly.
Then why not simply plant a nice garden and water it? Why not be content with a menagerie of cats and dogs? Why not angels, for that matter?
Because only people are free. Only we make choices. Just as our relationships with each other are more meaningful than our relationships with plants and animals because other people choose to have a relationship with us, God too seemingly responds to having relationship partners who choose this for themselves.
It would be very easy for God to overwhelm us with his Presence, if he wished. Luzzatto, writing in the 18th century, affirmed that the Creator’s existence can indeed be “demonstrated from what we observe in nature and its phenomena. Through such scientific disciplines as physics and astronomy, certain basic principles can be derived, and on the basis of these, clear evidence for these concepts deduced” (1:1:2). (So much for intelligent design not being “Jewish.”)
Yet if the “evidence” were as clear as the commenter asks that it should be, it’s hard to see how our freedom to choose a relationship with God could be preserved. To say you “believe” in a God whose Name is literally inscribed in the heavens would mean little. To “choose” a relationship with an all-powerful God who conversed with you in the same way your spouse or parents do would also be fairly meaningless.
There are valid reasons for religious doubt. One assumes that in terms of the providential plan of creation, that’s intentional.
It is only in the context of an exquisite balance between revealing and concealing himself that God can offer us the relationship that he sought in the first place when he created us.