Divine Hiddenness: Why Isn’t God More Obvious/Clearer?

The Issue

  • Why isn’t God more evident? Why can’t I behold the omnipresent? Why do my cries go unanswered  - does He who made ears fail to hear? Where is God when it hurts? God seems hidden – is He even there at all? Atheist Bertrand Russell, who died in 1970, was once asked what he would say if after death he met God, to which Russell replied: “God, you gave us insufficient evidence.”

 

The Invisible Gardener

  • Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, “Some gardener must tend this plot.” So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. “But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.” So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. (For they remember how H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man could be both smelt and touched though he could not be seen.) But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. “But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.” At last the Skeptic despairs, “But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?

 

What the Bible Says?

  • “I travel East looking for him—I find no one; then West, but not a trace; I go North, but he’s hidden his tracks; then South, but not even a glimpse.” (Job 23:8-9, The Message)

  • “So what’s happened to the promise of his Coming? Our ancestors are dead and buried, and everything’s going on just as it has from the first day of creation. Nothing’s changed.” (2 Peter 3:4, The Message)

 

Schellenberg’s Argument

  1. If there is a God, he is perfectly loving.

  2. If a perfectly loving God exists, then no one could be a reasonable atheist.

  3. But there are people who are reasonable atheists.

  4. Thus, no perfectly loving God exists.

  5. Thus, there is no God.

 

A Response

  • Premise 3 would seems to be in conflict with Romans 1, which points out that all humanity being sinners, suppress the truth. Given the willful rejection of the evidence, which they do receive, God is not obligated to provide more.

  • Premise 2 is also not necessarily true, perhaps libertine freedom is required for creatures to freely choose God or not.

  • Another option is to say perhaps the non-believer isn't ready to have a personally relationship with God and so if God were to make himself known at this point in time it would only cause the individual to move further away from God. An illustration might be something like Elizabeth and Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth was under the impression that Darcy has done all these bad things and so when Mr Darcy proposes she flatly rejects him, but once Elizabeth had come to see the real situation she perceived the same old Mr Darcy in a very different light. 

 

The Burden of Proof

  • Any claim (positive or negative) needs to be supported by reasons.

  • I.e. the theist since he says there is a God needs to give his reasons for thinking this. The atheist since he says there is no god needs to give his reasons for this. The default position is the weak agnostic who says I do not know if there is a god or not.

 

Noseeum

  • When does the absence of evidence become evidence of absence? When is the inference from “I see none” to “there is none” valid? The Evidence Expectation Criterion: If an object O existed, then we would expect there to be evidence for it.

 

Over Realized Eschatology and Long Distance Relationships

  • That is seeing many of the rightful promises of Christ wrongfully being fulfilled now, rather than just inaugurated now with fullness to come when Christ returns.

 

Show Me A Sign That I Might Believe

  • “In his book, Contact, Carl Sagan satirically asks why God doesn't place a glowing cross in the sky at night to serve as irrefutable proof of Jesus' resurrection?”

  • This wrongly assumes that God’s chief goal is to make his existence know.

 

Miracles do not necessarily draw one closer to God

  • Demons know God is (James 2:19) and yet remain in opposition to God.

  • Throughout the Bible we see that many who see miracles of God do not necessarily draw closer to God through them (John 7:4-5, 17; 10:24-26; 14:22-23; Matt 12:39; 16:4; Mark 8:12; John 6:30). For instance the Israelites, who witnessed the miracles in Egypt, and miraculously sustained in the wilderness by manna and the pillar of fire still repeatedly rebelled against God. Nor did the miracles performed through Elijah and Elisha cause the Northern Kingdom to turn back to Yahweh.

  • In Luke 16:19-31, the rich man asks for Lazarus to be sent back from the dead to warn the others, yet Jesus states that if one will not believe the scriptures, they will not believe even if someone were to come back from the grave.

 

Does God want blind faith?

  • (1) notitia that is knowledge of the actual intellectual content of a matter; (2) assensus that is the assent, acknowledgement and agreement to the information; (3) fiducia trust or apprenheniso fudcialis faithful apprehension, that is an act of the will appropriating the agreed upon content. These three components help clarify that faith is not mere cognitive reasoning or willful trust but is a combination of the two.

 

What About Doubt?

  • What is doubt?

  • Are there different kinds?

  • What does the Bible say about it?

  • How should we deal with it?

 

Conditions Conducing a Relationship

  • Murray states that to develop character, conditions reducing pervasive coercion and increasing autonomy are required:

  1. The strength of the threat: that is, how bad the threatened consequence appears to be.

  2. The “imminence” of the threat. This factor has three elements:

  1. Probabilistic: the likelihood that the threatened consequence will actually be carried out.

  2. Temporal: how quickly the threatened consequence will be carried out.

  3. Epistemic: the extent of the “felt awareness” of the threatened consequence

  1. Threat indifference: the extent to which the person threatened feels indifferent threats.

 

Reasons for God’s Hiddenness

  • It is a requirement for a loving relationship (to freely) develop

  • To allow our character to develop.

  • Our sins separate us from God (Deut 31:16-19; 32:19-20; Psa 89:46; Isa 59:2; Micah 3:4).

  • That in our depraved state we perceive God as being more distant than He really is and so forth.

 

Religious Pluralism

  • The basic complaint being that throughout history there have been so many different religions, surely Christianity isn’t the only exclusive way.

 

Conclusion

  • God graciously holds open his hands to all who will come (Isa 65:2). God has already lovingly done all that needs to be done so that if we so choose we can return to God (James 4:8; Mal 3:7). We must consider what is our receptive attitude? Perhaps “we can truly come to know God only if we acknowledge our unworthiness of knowing God.”

 

Bibliography

  • Chad Meister, “Evil and the Hiddenness of God” in God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain. Edited by James K. Dew Jr. and Chad Mister. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2012. 360 pages.

  • A talk by him is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z49y4fSPwUc

 

Reasons for believing Christianity is true

  1. God’s presence is real in my life

  2. There are good reasons to believe God exists

  3. There is evidence for the resurrection

  4. Bible is historically true

  5. Your best life now and hope forevermore

 

Luke 13:18-21

  • Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.

  • Not what we expected

 

The Value of Arguments

  • No full proofs (no all compelling arguments), rather just more probable than not.

  • This means that rhetoric (being a convincing speaking), makes a difference.

  • Further, when you make an argument you should try to do it from the background of the person that you are speaking to.

  • God can and does use these to draw people to himself.

 

Faith and Reason?

  • Fideism: faith only (no reason)

  • Rationalism: reason without faith

  • Properly basic beliefs: a belief that is not held on the basis of another belief and doing so would not violate another epistemic belief.

 

So is Faith Irrational?

  • What about atheism?

 

How to Understand these Passages?

  • John 20:29 Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

  • Heb 11:1 Faith is being convinced of what we do not see.

  • 1 Cor 1:18-3:23 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise…For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified…’

 

Objections

  • Are people so sinful they cannot recognize the evidence?

  • Can the Holy Spirit use evidences to draw people to Christ?

 

Cultural Views on Faith

  • “Faith is believing what you want to believe but cannot prove.”

  • “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” Dawkins

 

A Motivation for Pluralism

  • “The real problem raised by the religious diversity of mankind: the fate of those who stand outside the Christian tradition.” (WLC, On Guard, pg 271.)

  • Ezek 18:23; 32; 33:11 God does not delight in the death of the wicked.

  • “If we make a free and well-informed decision to reject Christ’s sacrifice for our sin, then God has no choice but to give us what we deserve. God will not send us to hell-but we shall send ourselves.” Pg 272.

 

Is the problem that they never got a chance to hear the gospel?

  • Rom 2:7 could be taken to imply that people who don’t hear of Christ are judged basis on how they responded to the light of general revelation they were given.

  • If God has middle knowledge then it could be the case that he brings the gospel to all who would respond (i.e. Acts 10).

 

Does the punishment fit the crime?

  • Is it unjust to condemn people forever?

  • Solutions: 1) purgatory, 2) annihilation.

  • 3) Perhaps a finite sin only deserves a finite punishment but people never stop sinning and hence not stop accumulating more punishment.

  • 4) Else sin is of infinite gravity since it is against an infinite God.

 

The Problem (1)

  1. God is all-powerful and all-loving.

  2. Some people never hear the gospel and are lost.

  3. If God is all-powerful, He can create a world in which everybody hears the gospel and is freely saved.

  4. If God is all-loving, he prefers a world in which everybody hears the gospel and is freely saved.

  5. God has created a world that has an optimal balance between saved and lost, and those who never hear the gospel and are lost would not have believed in it even if they had heard it.

  • As long as 5 is even possible then it shows there is no logical contradiction with God and some people being lost.

  • Acts 17:24-28

 

Pluralism: All legitimate religions are equally true. “Salvation” comes by way of faithful adherence to any legitimate religious tradition.

Inclusivism: Only Christianity is true. One can appropriate Christ’s salvific work by faithful practice/ adherence to non-Christian religions.

Exclusivism: Only Christianity is true. Only through conscious faith in the triune God of Scripture.

 

How bad is humanity’s problem?

  • “The universality of sin and the uniqueness of Christ’s atoning death entail that there is no salvation apart from Christ.” (On Guard, pg 226).

  • Rom 5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Charge: Christianity is intolerant

  • Attitude is not a determiner of truth; a person with a sour attitude / personality can still be right.

  • Christian’s should be gentle and loving is proclaiming the gospel.

 

Christianity is Judgmental

  • Who are you to judge, everyone can have their own opinion.

  • This phrase implies that others should adhere to this position of subjectivism – it is itself a truth claim, hence self-defeating.

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