Why doesn’t God provide more evidence that he exists?

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Apologetics 315! Thanks for the link Brian!

Over at economist Robert P. Murphy’s blog, a recent post makes the point that Jesus had a reason for teaching in vague parables instead of giving detailed lectures like a university professor.

Jesus used parables to get across a watered-down version of His true message, because the masses were not prepared–as His apostles were–to literally discard their old lives and follow Him 24/7. So they couldn’t possibly understand what His mission really was.

This made me think about the problem of divine hiddenness. You may hear that argument when talking to atheists, as in William Lane Craig’s debate with Theodore Drange, (audio, video). Basically the atheist’s argument is that 1) God wants people to know about him, 2) reasonable people don’t know about him, so then 3) he isn’t there to be found.

Basically, 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 when our eternal destination depends on our knowledge of his existence.

Well, Dr. Michael Murray, a brilliant professor of philosophy at Franklin & Marshall College, has found a reason for God to remain hidden. 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.

Doing the right thing just to avoid punishment is NOT what God wants. If it is too obvious that God exists and that he really will judge us, then people will respond to him and do moral things out of self-preservation. But God wants us to respond to him out of interest in him, just like we might 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. 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. The argument requires that God has no possible reason for remaining hidden. When Murray offers a possible reason, the argument is defeated. In order for the atheist’s argument to go through, he must be able to prove that God does not have any reason for being hidden. The atheist has to be able to prove that God could provide more evidence of his existence without interfering with the free will of his creatures.

Michael Murray’s home page is here.

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

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). The book chapter from the Cambridge book is here.  The book chapter from the Routledge book is here.

Michael Murray’s papers are really fun to read, because he uses hilarious examples. (But I disagree with his view that God’s work of introducing biological information in living creatures has to be front-loaded).

This exposition of the problem of divine hiddenness also touches on the topic of religious pluralism. One of the reasons why Christians are so soft on making exclusive theological claims is that we don’t talk much about evidence with non-Christians. Try it! It turns out that most people (even Christians) are pretty lazy about investigating what God is really like.

In fact, you can confront people with facts that disprove their religion and they may not care, especially if they are very distracted by day-to-day issues. For example, try telling atheists about the findings of science from the big bang and fine-tuning of the universe. See how quickly they deny that science has any bearing on religion? People don’t want to respond to evidence, and God gives them space to avoid the evidence.

People choose to separate themselves from God for many reasons. Maybe they are professors in academia and didn’t want to be thought of as weird by their colleagues. Maybe they didn’t want to be burdened with traditional morality when tempted by some sin, especially sexual sin. Maybe their fundamentalist parents ordered them around too much without providing any reasons. Maybe the brittle fundamentalist beliefs of their childhood were exploded by evidence for micro-evolution or New Testament manuscript variants. Maybe they wanted something really bad, that God did not give them. How could a good God allow them to suffer like that?

The point is that there a lot of people who don’t want to know God, and God chooses not to violate their freedom by forcing himself on them. God wants a relationship – he wants you to respond to him. (See Matthew 7:7-8)

If any Calvinists are reading this, I’m really sorry that I am wrong, but it was pre-destined that I would be wrong. That’s a little humor for you. Ouch! Stop hitting me!

Here’s more terrific stuff from Dr. Murray:

Who’s Afraid of Religion?“, Inaugural Lecture delivered March 30, 2006. Franklin and Marshall College.

Seek and You Will Find“, in God and the Philosophers. Thomas Morris, editor. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1994.

UPDATE 1: Welcome visitors from the Anchoress! Thanks so much for the link! New readers may want to take a look around since I cover a lot of different topics here, from free speech to economics to science to public policies!

UPDATE 2: Welcome, visitors from Robert P. Murphy’s blog Free Advice. Please take a look around – the purpose of my blog is to help Christians to integrate their faith with other areas of knowledge, especially economics! For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Murphy is the author of the greatest book on economics ever written (and I’ve read The Road to Serfdom!). This is a book for everyone – and it’s the first book laymen should read on economics.

UPDATE 3: Welcome, visitors from Colliding Universes. Thanks for the link, Denyse! Denyse’s other excellent blogs are Post-Darwinist and Mindful Hack.

Porkulus bill reverses welfare reform and nationalizes health care

This post is just a quick summary of what the spendulus bill actually does. The Heritage Foundation notes that the bill reverses welfare reform, threatens religious liberty and effectively federalizes health care.

Against the recommendations of the Congressional Budget Office, he will sign this bill. Despite returning the nation to a sea of dependency by completely reversing President Clinton’s welfare reform in 1996, he will sign this bill. Despite the threat to religious freedom cleverly disguised in the small print, he will sign this bill. Standing steps from the federal agencies he plans on doubling in size through cherry-picked liberal programs, he will sign this bill. Using an economic emergency to shield the liberal goal of federalizing your health care, he will sign this bill. And despite the overwhelming majority of Americans in poll after poll saying ‘no’ to this bill, he will say ‘yes’.

The National Review has more on the reversal of the welfare reform, which was passed by Newt Gingrich and signed by Clinton. Porkulus actually makes the welfare problem worse than before 1996.

Under the provisions in the stimulus bill, states will once again be paid a bounty for expanding their welfare rolls. As reported by Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, the federal government will now pay states 80 percent of the cost for each new family they sign up for welfare. That means that states will get $4 for every $1 they spend. This will leave the main welfare program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), with a funding mechanism similar to the one that supports Medicaid. As Brian Blase argues here, Medicaid’s funding ratio, which gives states $1 to $3 for every dollar they spend, has caused state Medicaid spending to skyrocket. If Medicaid’s dollar-for-dollar model has proved ruinous, Obama’s new $4-to-$1 ratio for welfare will prove, in all likelihood, four times so.

The Cato Institute’s blog explains how porkulus will balloon the budget deficit, and also how it is full of pork. According to the Tax Foundation’s Joseph Henchman, only about 24% of the bill is “tax cuts”, and not the good kind. Arnold Kling, speaking at a Heritage Foundation/Club for Growth event, argues that the right thing to do would have been to cut payroll taxes. Cutting payroll taxes would stimulate the economy. The Competitive Enterprise Institute notes that Cato assembled 200 economists who opposed the Generational Theft Act. CEI also notes that our current national debt is 11 trillion and that we owe 451 billion in interest per year, before porkulus even passes.

CNS News reports that the Generational Theft Act was passed without a single Republican or Democrat in the House or Senate reading it.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) predicted on Thursday that none of his Senate colleagues would “have the chance” to read the entire final version of the $790-billion stimulus bill before the bill comes up for a final vote in Congress.

“No, I don’t think anyone will have the chance to [read the entire bill],” Lautenberg told CNSNews.com.

Or, if you like video, you can see John Boehner’s disgust with the hiddenness of spendulus here. So much for “transparency”. The Democrats also broke their promise to allow the public to see the final version of the bill for 48 hours, before it was voted on. I highly recommend watching this 1 minute clip. At least the Republicans in the House did not provide cover to Obama. He will own the mess he created. Too bad the Democrats aren’t owning Clinton’s Community Reinvestment Act, which caused a lot of this sub-prime lending mess in the first place.

For details on what pork is actually in the porkulus bill, check out Tom Coburn’s list. (This may not reflect the last minute copy from Friday).

Democrats are weak on military policy and counter-terrorism

I was browsing over at The Anchoress and I came across this post which describes how Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein has inadvertently leaked that the USA launches Predator missions from Pakistan. This may cause the government to lessen their cooperation with American military efforts in the region because a significant amount of the population of Pakistan will not react well to this news.

This sort of error is not the exception but the rule with Democrats. Democrats have a reputation for not taking defense and counter-terrorism seriously. According to this post over at the American Thinker, the 9/11 tragedy was mostly due to a failure in intelligence caused by a “wall” between different intelligence-gathering organizations.

Gorelick, an appointee of Bill Clinton, is the one who constructed the wall of separation that kept the CIA and the FBI from comparing notes and therefore invading the privacy of nice young men like, say, Muhammed Atta and Zacarius Moussaoui. While countless problems were uncovered in our intelligence operations in the wake of 9-11, no single factor comes close to in importance to Jamie Gorelick’s wall.

In fact, it was Gorelick’s wall, perhaps more than any other single factor, that induces some people to blame Clinton himself for 9-11 since he appointed her and she acted  consistent with his philosophy of “crime fighting.” She put the wall into place as Deputy Attorney General in 1995.

George W. Bush’s bold action abroad gave us 7 years free from terrorist attacks on American assets. If there is one thing that deters future attacks, it is military invasions of countries that support and/or harbor terrorists. They understand military force. For Bush, one terrorist attack was enough to get us to respond with force.

As a result of the Bush doctrine of invading states suspected of developing and/or proliferating WMDs, Libya discontinued its weapons program and invited inspectors to come in and cart away all of its research equipment. That was the Bush doctrine – which Libya believed only because they saw that we were willing to back up our demands with force. We can have peace if our enemies believe that we have the will to go to war, and that our enemies fear that they will lose that contest.

Contrast George W. Bush’s immediate response to terrorism with Democrat Bill Clinton. According to Byron York, we had four terrorist attacks during Clinton’s presidency.

So Clinton talked tough. But he did not act tough. Indeed, a review of his years in office shows that each time the president was confronted with a major terrorist attack — the February 26, 1993, bombing of the World Trade Center, the Khobar Towers attack, the August 7, 1998, bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the October 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole — Clinton was preoccupied with his own political fortunes to an extent that precluded his giving serious and sustained attention to fighting terrorism.

How did Clinton respond to these four attacks? According to this interview with Richard Miniter, President Clinton was much less aggressive than Bush was, during his two terms. Bush’s administration did not fear public opinion, but Clinton’s administration did. Miniter lists sixteen of the Clinton administration’s failures to treat terrorism as a serious threat. Below, I cite my favorites. Read the whole list!

Lopez: In sum, how many times did Bill Clinton lose bin Laden?

Miniter: Here’s a rundown. The Clinton administration:

4. Did not militarily react to the al Qaeda bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

7. Objected to Northern Alliance efforts to assassinate bin Laden in Afghanistan.

8. Decided against using special forces to take down bin Laden in Afghanistan.

11. Clumsily tipped off Pakistani officials sympathetic to bin Laden before a planned missile strike against bin Laden on August 20, 1998. Bin Laden left the camp with only minutes to spare.

12-14. Three times, Clinton hesitated or deferred in ordering missile strikes against bin Laden in 1999 and 2000.

15. When they finally launched and armed the Predator spy drone plane, which captured amazing live video images of bin Laden, the Clinton administration no longer had military assets in place to strike the archterrorist.
16. Did not order a retaliatory strike on bin Laden for the murderous attack on the USS Cole.

When you look at the facts, we begin to understand why Democrats perform so poorly on national security issues. Remember John Kerry’s global test? Kerry thought that our national security should be partly based on world opinion. (Ironically, Kerry voted against the first war in Iraq, when the whole world supported us in the liberation of Kuwait).

Republicans, on the other hand, believe in peace through strength.

In foreign policy, Reagan sought to achieve “peace through strength.” During his two terms he increased defense spending 35 percent, but sought to improve relations with the Soviet Union. In dramatic meetings with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, he negotiated a treaty that would eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Reagan declared war against international terrorism, sending American bombers against Libya after evidence came out that Libya was involved in an attack on American soldiers in a West Berlin nightclub.

The differences between the two parties could not be more clear. Weakness provokes war. Wars start when our enemies believe that they can strike us with impunity. Military strength, and the will to use it, deter aggression.

Tom Sowell explains how to counter leftist indoctrination in the schools

Thomas Sowell is my favorite economist. His latest column explains to parents what they can do to counter the left-wing indoctrination that their children receive in the government-run schools.

Now you might be tempted to think that Sowell is going to tell you parents that you just need to make your children read books that undermine what the secular left teaches them in school. But Sowell doesn’t think that will always work:

Yet trying to undo the propaganda that passes for education at too many schools and colleges, one issue at a time, may not always be the best strategy. There are too many issues on which the politically correct party line is considered to be the only way to look at things.

Instead, Sowell recommends a different strategy: he recommends that you engage in a dialog with your child, (preferably in public, I would add, in front of other people), in which you ask your child one simple question about their view:

Another approach might be to respond to the dogmatic certainty of some young person, perhaps your own offspring, by asking: “Have you ever read a single book on the other side of that issue?”

Chances are, after years of being “educated,” even at some of the highest-priced schools and colleges, they have not.

When the inevitable answer to your question is “No,” you can simply point out how illogical it is to be so certain about anything when you have heard only one side of the story– no matter how often you have heard that one side repeated.

Would it make sense for a jury to reach a verdict after having heard only the prosecution’s case, or only the defense attorney’s case, but not both?

Read the whole article. I run into this problem with non-Christians, Democrats and even anti-intellectual Christians every day. The only solution to their dogmatism is to ask about what they have read on the other side. They answer is inevitably “nothing”. We Christians should be able to argue for opposing views better than any opponent. And that is why many of my posts focus on interchanges between opposing views. You can never really be convinced of something until you see one side of an argument fail miserably in a rough-and-tumble debate.

USA Today reports that men are fleeing the churches today in droves. Maybe if Christians started emphasizing debate, instead of just praise songs, emotions and prayer, then we might be able to get more men to be interested in Christianity. Men and women are different – if you want men to come back to the church, maybe you should be emphasizing things we men actually like: confrontation, aggression and competition. I could share many stories of how female-dominated churches and campus groups actively fight efforts to approach Christianity in this way.

And this goes double for raising Christian kids. If we take the feminine approach exclusively, and shelter our children from opposing views instead of teaching about them, you can guarantee that your child will fall away from the faith as soon as he leaves home. As USA Today reported, 70% of Protestant Christian children already do exactly that. There is nothing more fatal to the project of building up a child’s Christian faith than ordering them around on the authority of blind faith. It just doesn’t work.

Happy Academic Freedom Day

You can counter the Darwin Day celebrations with these articles on intelligent design and academic freedom. I got these in my e-mail from the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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