The Hiddenness of God

According to some, the so-called ‘hiddenness of God’ presents one of the greatest challenges to theism. If God exists, why is there so little evidence for his existence? Wouldn’t he want to reveal himself to more people, and therefore reveal himself more obviously and publicly?

Phrased in this way, this question assumes a very atheistic worldview. If Christianity is true, then God has revealed himself through the prophets at many times and in various ways (Hebrews 1:1), dwelt among us in the flesh (John 1:14), and his message has since been proclaimed every week in thousands, and now millions of churches throughout the entire world.

However, without assuming that Christianity is true, this is little more than an argument for one particular conception of God that has emerged throughout human history. If the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection isn’t persuasive, then neither is the ‘evidence’ that God has been revealing himself every Sunday in almost every suburb of the western world.

Why isn’t there more evidence for God, or compelling evidence, or irrefutable evidence? Unfortunately, this question is quite subjective. What makes evidence compelling or irrefutable? If it’s the number of people persuaded by it, then the fact that the vast majority of the world’s population believe in God now, and have believed in God throughout history, testifies that there is good evidence for God.

But for many, this still doesn’t answer the question. We have very strong evidence for scientific truths, and the evidence for theistic claims seems very slim by comparison. Unfortunately, this commits a category error: science deliberately limits itself to studying the natural, and so supernatural phenomenon are outside the purview of science by definition.

Nevertheless, there is scientific evidence that the universe had a beginning, scientific evidence that the universe is extremely finely-tuned for life, and the scientific fact that life came from non-life for which we still have no natural explanation. Of course, none of these prove theism, but they are part of what would be reasonable to expect if theism were true and atheism were false.

Unsatisfied with these answers, atheists often claim that they, and many others, are ‘non-resistant non-believers’, by which they mean that they are open to the possibility of God’s existence, or are even actively looking for evidence for God’s existence, but are yet to find any convincing evidence for God.

Indeed, one such atheist maintains that he is a ‘non-resistant non-believer’, and in debates with theists he frequently appeals to this as an argument. However, he has also argued that even if we could prove that Jesus rose from the dead, not just beyond reasonable doubt but beyond any shadow of a doubt, then he still would not believe. He maintains that there could be a natural explanation that we’re unaware of, or that aliens could have been responsible for Jesus’ resurrection, or other, even further fetched explanations (Raphael Lataster, There was no Jesus, There is no God, p165-168).

However, if irrefutable proof of Jesus’ resurrection wouldn’t be enough to convince someone about Christianity, then their claim that they’re a ‘non-resistant non-believer’ is demonstrably false. How much more resistant can a person be, than one who is unwilling to believe even when confronted with irrefutable proof of Jesus’ resurrection?

Moreover, if Christianity is true, then not only is there no such thing as a ‘non-resistant non-believer’, there’s not even a single example of a non-resistant believer. According to Romans 7, even the apostle Paul was himself resistant, describing his struggle within. Speaking as one who names Jesus as his Lord (Romans 7:25a), Paul maintains that there’s a sense in which he’s still “a slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7:25b).

And so, when an atheist claims to be a ‘non-resistant non-believer’, one has to wonder how non-resistant they really are. How often do they go to church, read the Bible, or pray that God would reveal himself to them, if indeed he does exist? In my experience this is rare among atheists, and those who genuinely seek God from the heart, become believers.

Whenever I ask an atheist, ‘what would it take to convince you?’, the answer is invariably some kind of miracle. And yet, when asked, ‘do you think miracles are possible?’, very few atheists are willing to say ‘yes’. While this is a perfectly fine expression of their worldview, it also demonstrates their resistance to the supernatural. God has to do a miracle to convince them of his existence, but then all claims of the miraculous are met with suspicion and the need for a natural explanation.

When someone adopts a worldview, whether it’s Christian theism, or naturalism, or something else, they invariably have intellectual reasons, and personal/emotional reasons, and sociological/cultural reasons as well. Intellectual arguments always play a role, but no one adopts a worldview purely on the basis of intellectual reasons alone, there’s always a personal/emotional intuition that it feels right, as well as a sociological/cultural acceptance that enables them to adopt it.

The real dishonesty is when someone claims that they’re reasons are purely intellectual, while others’ are purely personal or sociological. It’s a circular argument for their own objectivity, and an arrogance of presumed intellectual superiority. Unfortunately, this is precisely the kind of dishonesty that’s underneath the claim of being a ‘non-resistant non-believer’. It’s the pretence that one has no personal or sociological reasons for their worldview, and so they alone are objective while everyone is merely believing what they want to believe.

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