Why doesn't God make himself known? (Divine Hiddenness)

Imagine a world where everyone knows God exists.  "Belief" in God isn't applicable in this world, because God's existence is so obvious that belief isn't required.  God's existence would be as evident as the existence of rocks, or trees, or gravity, or other people.

In this world, when people pray, an audible voice answers (which can be corroborated by others or by recordings).  God appears to people as a physical entity (again, corroborated as not being a hallucination).  God gives us knowledge of the universe we wouldn't or couldn't have obtained otherwise.  God grants real miracles, like re-growing limbs.  God engages us in actual conversation.  There would be an on-going Wikipedia entry for God with concrete facts (visitations, what he said, what he did, what he wants, what he's like...). 

And this hypothetical world would feel normal to us.  After all, if God DID exist, why would it be weird for there to be evidence for it?

Needless to say, this hypothetical world is NOT the world we live in.  But...why the hell not?

Divine Hiddenness

What is Divine Hiddenness?

The philosophical Argument of Divine Hiddenness says that if God existed (and was perfectly good and loving), then every reasonable person would believe in God; however, reasonable non-believers exist; therefore, this God does not exist.

And why are there reasonable non-believers? 

Because unbelief in a god is perfectly reasonable based on the reality we see around us -- a reality in which it is not evident that any gods exist.

The argument is defined like this:
  1. God could effortlessly show strong evidence of his existence to humans (similar to the evidence we have for trees, stars, or other people)
  2. God wants humans to know that he exists (see next section)
  3. Therefore God would want to give strong evidence of his existence to humans
  4. Humans have no strong evidence that God exists
  5. Therefore, God has not shown humans strong evidence of his existence
  6. Therefore God does not exist

Does God want us to know that he exists?

God would be able to prove his own existence to us so easily that it would be just as easy for him not to.  (Omnipotence means he is all-powerful; any theoretical action requires zero effort; action is just as easy as inaction). 

He could prove it to us collectively on a population-level or individually, with the "proof" tailored to each person's evidentiary requirements.  Either way, if God exists, he could make himself as evident as domestic cats are.

But that hasn't happened.  God has not provided us with any tangible evidence at all.  I'm not talking about a soft breeze and a fuzzy feeling that someone has the option of construing as "God".  I'm referring to hard, tangible, irrefutable proof of God that could be used in a courtroom.

Since we don't have that kind of evidence, either:
  1. God doesn't want us to know he exists (he's hiding; this God doesn't want a relationship with us)
  2. God doesn't care if we know he exists (he's indifferent; also does not want a relationship)
  3. God wants us to know he exists but not by using evidence (this is where most theists land)
  4. God doesn't exist 

How do theists account for lack of evidence for God?

There are many supposed explanations for why God remains hidden.  These are meant to allow the theist to go on believing that God exists, but none of them stand up to intellectual rigor.

Explanation #1: It's about the relationship.  

William Lane Craig says that God is not so much interested in proving his existence, but in having a relationship with us.  OK, but how do you have a relationship with someone you don't know exists?

Explanation #2: God wants us to CHOOSE him based on faith. If we had evidence, we'd be FORCED to love him. 

Again, not sure how we are supposed to choose or love something we don't even know exists. Existence is a pre-requisite to all of that.  Besides, we absolutely can reject someone or something even if we know it exists.   Satan rejected God, according to theists, after all.  And I know Donald Trump exists, but I choose not to follow him. 

Besides, if the Christian God (in all his Old Testament treachery) made his existence known to me, I still would not want to follow him.  He's pretty terrible.  (And if I did follow him, it would be out of fear, not out of love). 

So this explanation DOES NOT HOLD UP.  Besides, what's so great about faith, anyway?

Explanation #3:  The Bible is our evidence.

Ok, this one is pretty weak, and nobody outside of the Christian bubble would accept this.  It's circular reasoning.  I don't think I need to spend any more time explaining that the Bible is a claim, not evidence.

Explanation #4: It's our fault God is hidden.

A Got Questions article explains, “When the God-man relationship started out, God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. God was not hidden at all. It is man who initiated the separation between God and man. We did the hiding, not God.”

However, this argument doesn't hold up because basically the entire Bible takes place AFTER the fall, and God is certainly not hidden in the Bible times!  He talks to people, takes physical form, wrestles with Jacob, gives commands, performs miracles, etc.  

Besides, they are trying to make the hiddenness problem go away by using an even MORE DUBIOUS explanation.  The "Fall in the Garden" scenario introduces a ton more problems, including but not limited to mythology, the age of the earth, evolution, God's omniscience, his divine plan, etc. 

Explanation #5: Man's lies have suppressed the evidence for God

From the same Got Questions article: “God has made His existence known through creation; But man suppresses the knowledge of God in various ways. <the non-resistant non-believer> has likely been blinded by the lies of those who hate God and want to suppress the knowledge of Him”

This explanation implies that God is not powerful enough or doesn't care enough to overcome whatever "suppression" is happening at the hands of the supposed "God haters".

It's an unsupported assertion that does nothing to explain why God doesn't just go ahead and let us know he's here.  The traditional claim that God is omnipotent directly contradicts this notion that humans have the ability to COVER UP EVIDENCE OF THE ALL POWEFUL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE.

This feels like grasping at straws.  Especially since Explanation #5 contradicts Explanation #4...and they're BOTH from the same Got Questions article!!

Bottom Line

If God exists, then he does not want us to know he exists, or he just doesn't care.

The truth is that we find ourselves in a reality where God is NOT self-evident.  So theists have to rationalize their god concept in order to fit that reality.  They need to explain the surprising fact that our reality is indistinguishable from a reality without a god.

The reality we live in is exactly the reality you'd expect if there were no gods.

Further Reading/References:


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