The hiddenness of God?

Divine hiddenness, or the argument from divine hiddenness, is a philosophical approach that attempts to explain why some people do not recognize the existence of God, if God indeed exists. It is also sometimes called the argument from reasonable non-belief because, according to the argument, it is reasonable not to believe in a God you cannot see, even if you want Him to be there. It also suggests that a perfectly loving God would make sure that all His creatures were unable to doubt His existence.

The most widely known modern argument for the hiddenness of God was developed by Canadian philosopher J. L. Schellenberg (b. 1959). Schellenberg argues that God, being perfect and personal, would logically be perfectly loving. Being a loving God, He would therefore seek out (or at least be open to) an emotional connection with all His creatures. So far, this is true and can be supported biblically (see John 3:16 and 1 Timothy 2:4). But Schellenberg goes on to argue that, given God’s character, any person desiring a relationship with God could have it and would therefore be convinced of God’s existence (because you can’t have a relationship with a God you think does not exist).

Schellenberg also observes that, if a God fitting this description were to exist, there would be no “nonresistant nonbelievers.” In other words, there would be no person who both a) would like a relationship with God and b) does not believe in His existence. But, Schellenberg points out, these “nonresistant nonbelievers” do exist. There are people who want to know God and yet find that He is hidden from them. Since, according to the argument, God is loving (and being loving, does not hide Himself from those who desire to know Him), God must not exist.

We should point out that, when the God-man relationship started out, God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 3:8). God was not hidden at all. After man disobeyed God and fell into sin, the man and his wife hid from God. Therefore, it is man who initiated the separation between God and man. We did the hiding, not God.

Furthermore, God has made His existence known through creation (Psalm 19). But man suppresses the knowledge of God in various ways (Romans 1). Now, the “nonresistant nonbeliever” may simply be a person who has grown up in a culture where the philosophies and arguments of resistant unbelievers (those who actively suppress the knowledge of God) are prevalent and taught in school, in media, etc. The man who, in his heart, is not resistant to a relationship with God, yet cannot fathom His existence, has likely been blinded by the lies of those who hate God and want to suppress the knowledge of Him (see 2 Corinthians 4:4). The nonresistant nonbeliever is most likely influenced by philosophies that wickedly hide God’s face from those who might seek to know Him. This is tragic, but it certainly does not prove that God lacks love for His creatures.

In fact, it is God who has reached out to humanity to reconcile the rift between Himself and us caused by sin (2 Corinthians 5:20Romans 5:10). He promised that, when we seek Him, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7–8).

Ironically, in formulating an argument about divine hiddenness, one must rely on biblical revelation of Him. To develop an argument that a perfect Creator does not reveal Himself, we must use God’s own words. The perfect and loving God whom Schellenberg is arguing against is based on a biblical concept of God, that is, the God who is defined in the Bible—Scripture, of course, being itself prime evidence of God’s loving intention to reveal Himself to men.

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