Woman Teaching Woman

Why doesn’t God make his existence more obvious to people?

Have you ever heard someone say that if God existed, he would give us more evidence? This is called the “hiddenness of God” argument. It’s also known as the argument from “rational non-belief”. You have have seen Dr. Theodore Drange use the argument in his debate with Dr. William Lane Craig.

Basically the argument is something like this:

  1. God is all powerful
  2. God is all loving
  3. God wants all people to know about him
  4. Some people don’t know about him
  5. Therefore, there is no God.

In this argument, the atheist is saying that he’s looked for God real hard and that if God were there, he should have found him by now. After all, God can do anything he wants that’s logically possible, and he wants us to know that he exists. To defeat the argument we need to find a possible explanation of why God would want to remain hidden.

What reason could God have for remaining hidden?

Christian scholar Dr. Michael Murray has found a reason for God to remain hidden.

His paper on divine hiddenness is here:
Coercion and the Hiddenness of God“, American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol 30, 1993.

He argues that if God reveals himself too much to people, he takes away our freedom to make morally-significant decisions, including responding to his self-revelation to us. Murray argues that God stays somewhat hidden, so that he gives people space to either 1) respond to God, or 2) avoid God so we can keep our autonomy from him. God places a higher value on people having the free will to respond to him, and if he shows too much of himself he takes away their free choice to respond to him, because once he is too overt about his existence, people will just feel obligated to belief in him in order to avoid being punished.

But believing in God just to avoid punishment is NOT what God wants for us. If it is too obvious to us that God exists and that he really will judge us, then people will respond to him and behave morally out of self-preservation. But God wants us to respond to him out of interest in him, just like we might try to get to know someone we admire. God has to dial down the immediacy of the threat of judgment, and the probability that the threat is actual. That leaves it up to us to respond to God’s veiled revelation of himself to us, in nature and in Scripture.

(Note: I think that we don’t seek God on our own, and that he must take the initiative to reach out to us and draw us to him. But I do think that we are free to resist his revelation, at which point God stops himself short of coercing our will. We are therefore responsible for our own fate).

The atheist’s argument is a logical/deductive argument. It aims to show that there is a contradiction between God’s will for us and his hiding from us. In order to derive a contradiction, God MUST NOT have any possible reason to remain hidden. If he has a reason for remaining hidden that is consistent with his goodness, then the argument will not go through.

When Murray offers a possible reason for God to remain hidden in order to allow people to freely respond to him, then the argument is defeated. God wants people to respond to him freely so that there is a genuine love relationship – not coercion by overt threat of damnation. To rescue the argument, the atheist has to be able to prove that God could provide more evidence of his existence without interfering with the free choice of his creatures to reject him.

Murray has defended the argument in works published by prestigious academic presses such as Cambridge University Press, (ISBN: 0521006104, 2001) and Routledge (ISBN: 0415380383, 2007).

Positive arguments for Christian theism

27 thoughts on “Why doesn’t God make his existence more obvious to people?”

  1. Interesting points. But the atheists making that argument also beg the question. They assume that God didn’t reveal enough to us to know that He exists, but that is only because they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.

    Romans 1:18–21 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

    As Christians, we know why atheists are atheists. But their worldview has no logical explanation for ours. Per their Darwinian worldview, something came from nothing and evolved to everything we have today by deterministic mechanisms, so we only became Christians because of irresistible evolutionary processes. On their view, what else could have caused it? Yet if that is the case, why do they have such obvious hostility to Christianity? Their anger against Christianity is more proof of Romans 1. They know there is a God, and they hate him.

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  2. “Free choice of his creatures to reject him” , this reminds me about the gift of freewill. It gives God’s creatures the audacity to question His existence. God is amazing.

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  3. I think that this is covered, but of course God does not merely want His creatures to know THAT He exists. Even Satan and the demons know that, and they are going to Hell. God wants us to love Him in addition to knowing of His existence. So, even Premise 3 of the atheist argument is not technically true.

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  4. For the argument to succeed they would have to show that it is true that:

    “God wants all people to know about him”

    They cannot. Argument failed.

    And how are going to show that “Some people don’t know about him?” They have to argue for God to use His power to force people into seeing Him, but there is all kinds of problems with accepting that as a premise.

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  5. Reading Exodus answers the “contradiction”.

    The Israelites saw the plagues brought down on Egypt. The saw God as a column of smoke in the day, and a column of fire at night, guiding them. They saw the seas parted and the Egyptian army destroyed.

    And still they made and worshiped a golden calf.

    God could show up right in front of some people, and they will still claim He doesn’t exist. So really, their saying “why doesn’t God make Himself known” is a rhetorical question. God does make Himself known, in many ways. They choose not to accept any of it.

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  6. If we literally discovered a video tape and vcr that had clips from the life of Jesus created. Narrated and preserved by his power that none would be without excuse with their own eyes. Atheists would say it is fake and it beleive.

    No different than a holocaust denier and many other things.

    There is incredible evidence covered here all the time for those that are open to thought and don’t have a preconceived idea that their must not be a God no matter the evidence.

    To some there will never be conclusive evidence as they will always explain it away

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  7. When I encounter an atheist, especially one who declares he’s seen no evidence for God, my first question is “Where have you looked?” or “When have you looked?” or “How much have you actually looked?”. I’ve yet to get an answer which is more than a shrug of the shoulders.

    In their defense, the body of evidence is so large that I fully doubt I’ve yet to review it all myself. But the amount I have scrutinized is rather substantial I think, just from archaeological findings alone. Yet even that is meaningless without first having done a decent study of Scripture to understand any of it, and few atheists have really given Scripture a good going over. Those who have have done little more.

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    1. This is an EXCELLENT approach.

      What I find troubling is how the progress of science has cleared things up regarding the origin of the universe, the cosmic fine-tuning, the origin of life, the sudden origin of body plans in the fossil record, habitability, etc. And yet these atheists go around talking about how much they love science. They hate science. That’s why they don’t let science inform their views, the way that Christians do.

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      1. I tend to nicely tell them well I will tell you a few objections to atheism.

        Then I pick my own issues. We teach biogensis all life from a prior life.

        The atheist theory of abiogensis as seen in a text book has absolutely no experimental evidence. If life is so easy by chance with no guidance our incredible technology should be able to create life at will by now.

        Then I will look at a few things they object to with simple answers. That way they see my view is reasonable to me

        Then I show how fairly it is reasonable for me to conclude that if the universe has no appearance of being random. Is not easy to just see it pop into existence or be eternal and to create life at will.

        The view of theism is one that requires less faith. I just like an atheist that postulates a multiverse accept that perhaps another dimension called a spiritual real exists.

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      2. And I agree to wintery point about that. I don’t believe they are genuine about being open and looking at the evidence.

        Many are likely content with being in rebellion to God and wanting to think they have to give no account to their life and attitudes to someone greater than them.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. It depends what you’re trying to discuss. If you’re discussing the arguments for and against the existence of God, they won’t have learned much about that from the Bible, and especially nothing from seminary. Typically you’re looking at logic, science and history for that. E.g. the fine tuning argument.

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      2. I meet those types of atheists on the streets, RF, when I witness for Jesus and the unborn.

        “I’ve ready your holy book, and used to be a Christian, and your God is a moral monster!”

        I usually tell them that they were “converted” to churchianity and not Christianity. It helps being a former atheist and seeing that churchianity is essentially moralistic therapeutic deism with a churchy wrapper.

        The ones that are really sick come up to me and say “I’m a Bible believing Christian, and God is pro-choice!”

        “Yes, He mostly certainly is pro-choice about you going to Hell, but He’s not pro-choice about you murdering innocent children. This might be a good time for you to identify as atheist. Your punishment in Hell will be less as an atheist, because you didn’t drag the Body of Christ through the bloodied bodies of butchered babies.”

        The seminary point you made is brutal to me, because I have a family member who lost her faith at seminary. Those are breeding grounds for atheism / deconstruction. The leaders and profs there (many, not all) are going to suffer mightily in the next lifetime. (See Luke 17:2)

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        1. I admire your lack of fear- I think I need to work on that. Sorry to hear about your family member. I take classes at a very small seminary and one time a new professor asked us to get a textbook for his ethics class- I looked through it and realized that the book was LGBT affirming. The class was cancelled for lack of students, and I’m not sure if he works there anymore, but it was eye opening to me. (Of course, I do live in a liberal state.)

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          1. There’s a famous quote: “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” It’s easy to be bold when you are old like me. I’ve been so incredibly blessed by God in both my long dark atheist years AND since then too. I’ve also survived murder attempts for witnessing for the unborn, so I feel like I am on borrowed time anyway. It sort of reminds me of the old joke “I’m of the age where the phrase ‘life in prison’ is no longer a deterrent to me.” Anyway, courage is an acquired taste more easily enjoyed in one’s later years. And it is all due to the Holy Spirit anyway.

            You are wise to discern carefully what you are being taught at seminary! There is often just a little lie slipped in here and there from time to time before deconstruction begins, and it is a very slippery slope indeed.

            I’ve been in deep apologetics conversations a lot on the streets, but the truth is that there is often limited time for discussion, and I find that I have to get to the bottom line very quickly. So, that means talking about Hell, sin, the moral and natural law, and Judgment. I think that it was WK who pointed out many years ago that those who deconstruct their faith and walk away almost always do so because of a deep sin problem, and usually a deep sexual sin problem. Therefore, I can go through evidential apolpgetics for an hour with such folks, and it will never convince them, because they will reject ANY rational evidence to support their favorite sin. (This is why the most violent people towards me almost always have abortions in their past and are surprised when I ask them “How many did you kill?”)

            So, my suggestion is to always know the evidential, because there ARE sincere seekers out there, but when it comes to the walk aways that you mentioned, find the sin problem and get to the root of that – by whatever means possible as quickly as possible (within Christian limitations of course – no violence). It’s helpful to know what God did to Sodom & Gomorrah (pulverized them so much that the sands in that area are now like glass) and to the Canaanites (don’t sugar-coat it – these people were sacrificing BORN children on bronze idols, sizzling them to death, and they deserved every bit of what they got – and are still getting in Hell). And to point out that the wickedness of America is far worse than those two cities and “civilization.” So, we deserve far worse. It is God’s Grace and Mercy that has kept Him from wiping us out completely.

            Jesus warned, because True Love warns. Jesus and John the Baptist called for repentance. Jesus talked about Hell, sin, and Judgment and God’s Holy Wrath. Be like Jesus, especially around the wicked (LGBT and pro-aborts). It is sad that we have to, but the pastors won’t do their jobs. (And the GOP won’t even call their baby killing opponents “baby killers.” Neither will the Pro-Lie Movement.) Time is short for us all. Life is a vapor. Then the Judgment. Read up on who God hates – it might surprise you. Jesus isn’t messing around. He is not returning as the Suffering Servant but as the Conquering King, and He is going to kick butt and take names, and I’m not seeing a ton (percentage wise) of Western “civilization” names in His Book of Life.

            Give the Good News once the person is convicted of his or her sin, not before. When the wicked, even a soft atheist, hears the words “God loves you,” he interprets that as “God loves me just as I am, so I can go to Heaven while working at the abortion mill and performing at Drag Queen Story Hour.” That is NOT how Jesus did it. He looked for evidence of a repentant heart, and if it was not there, He set up stumbling blocks that might lead to a repentant heart. (The woman at the well and rich young ruler are great examples of this. The former responded correctly, the latter did not.)

            But the bottom line is this: when dealing with walkaways, find the sin and do NOT minimize it, maximize it. Compare it with the ones of the OT, and consider the Judgments that God brought down on them. Jesus doesn’t change. (Hebrews 13:8)

            Liked by 1 person

        1. That looks really good. A different author per chapter. Added to my list.

          I will probably disagree with some. For instance, the chapter “Is Hell a Divine Torture Chamber?” I would answer “Yes, it is, for humans who tortured others in this lifetime.” (Galatians 6:7) I don’t think that many apologists these days have the guts to admit that.

          Do we REALLY want to say that the greatest champion of partial birth abortion, RBG, is NOT getting her chance to experience the torture that she inflicted on thousands / millions of innocent, defenseless, and pain capable children??? Who could worship a God Who would NOT give her that kind of Justice? Not me! Same for Hitler, Mao, and Stalin who each had millions tortured.

          Thanks for the tip, WK.

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