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For most people God isn’t evident in the world, but is hidden. But why would a loving God hide from us? Perhaps he’s not there after all? Or perhaps there is some reason why she’s hidden from most of us?
This is the second post in our examination of possible reasons to disbelieve in God.
Why isn’t God obvious to us?
Arguments about the existence of God have raged for millennia, which surely indicates that God’s existence isn’t obvious. Somehow, the creator of the universe, the most important character in the drama of the universe, remains hidden from us, and we have to ponder whether he’s really there at all.
But if she loves us and wants the best for us, her children, wouldn’t she make her presence very clear, just as a human mother would? This apparent reality of God’s hiddenness forms the basis of an argument.
1. If a loving God exists, everyone who wants to be in a relationship with him or her will be able to do so.
A loving God would want the very best for all her creatures, and knowing God would surely be the ultimate human experience for humans. Just as a human lover wants to be close to and to please their loved one, so, it is argued, would God. Nothing God has done would ever be a barrier to belief.
2. No-one can relate to God without believing that he exists.
How can anyone relate to God if they don’t think he exists? If I didn’t believe in God and he communicated to me in some way, I wouldn’t recognise such a communication as being from him.
3. There are people who would like to believe in God and relate to him, but are unable to, because they don’t see sufficient evidence, or they have no direct experience of God.
While there must be many people who don’t want to believe in God, there are surely some who would believe if they knew he was there, but they cannot believe without more evidence than they see.
4. Therefore a loving God doesn’t exist.
This is the logical conclusion.
Problems with the argument
There are many people who would say that God’s existence and presence are quite clear to them – they believe he guides them, speaks to them, or has even healed them. It is hard to argue against this without pretending that we can critically judge their experience of God.
The other problem with this argument is with the implicit assumption that we can understand what God is doing and why, which is surely doubtful! This comes out in a few specific objections:
- The most common objection is that God wants to give human beings autonomy, freedom of choice, and this is her greatest goal. But if she made herself known in all her reality, we would have no choice. So she keeps herself somewhat hidden. But we might ask whether it needs to be as hidden as some people experience?
- Perhaps God has other goals than simply making himself obvious. (This seems likely, otherwise why create a material world?) For example, perhaps God wants us to develop character, and this world is a way of doing that. Or perhaps he wants us only to come to him with pure motives such as love for him, not out of fear or force. Perhaps he wants us to live ethical lives without an obvious threat from him?
- To me, the strongest objection to the argument is that it only considers this present life. But isn’t it possible that God’s hiddenness is only temporary? Perhaps in the next age we will have a deep and lasting relationship with God that infinitely compensates for not experiencing that now?
- And perhaps we don’t have to know God now to please him? Perhaps we don’t even have to believe in him now to receive eternal life? Who knows what criteria God may use for accepting us?
Some people find this argument quite strong. They feel quite confident that if there is a God, he “should” make himself more obvious to us.
But it always seems to me that they have made several unjustified assumptions – that belief in God determines whether we live on after this life, that we should receive the blessing of knowing God in this life as well as the next, and, ultimately, that they can know God’s aims and how he is going about achieving them. Thus it seems that the argument is on very shaky ground.
Doubtless the arguments will go on, but I feel God’s hiddenness is hardly a reason to disbelieve, though I certainly think the whole question is worth puzzling over.
For an expansion of these ideas, plus useful references, check out Does God hide himself from us?
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