How does the hiddenness of God relate to our freewill?

Hi @Alycia_Wood!

Fancy meeting you here;) I loved hearing your cameo on the Cover to Cover podcast with @Shawn_Hart and @Ivy_Tyson last season! Anyhow, delighted to have you taking questions from the community this week.

I noticed that you speak on the topic: If God Exists, Why Isn’t He More Obvious? Since there are no other questions queued up, I was wondering if you’d share some thoughts on this topic.

In the philosophy of religion, the “Hiddenness of God” is an area of debate concerning how much evidence we should expect there to be for God (and not all theisms are created equal here!). Christians often say ala Blaise Pascal, “There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition…” and this is because God is loving: he chooses not to overwhelm our freedom.

But I was recently challenged on this response, when someone asked whether a full revelation of a God who is love, and whose mode of being is self-giving, and where whose Spirit is there is freedom…should have the effect of obliterating human freedom. Shouldn’t his presence utterly free us?

I definitely have some thoughts, but haven’t really worked out my whole response…and I would love to benefit from your insights as I continue thinking on this, Alycia!


Hey Liz!

You’re right, fancy seeing you on here! :wink: I hope all is going well with you and thank you for your question!

Thanks for the question. Here are a few thoughts I have:

We need not let ourselves be convinced that we are good enough to handle the presence of God in our current capacity. Its magnitude is expressed when in Exodus 33:19 the Lord says to Moses, “You cannot see My face, for no one may see Me and live” (NIV). There is clearly something about the presence of God that humanity cannot experience. Even if we want to.

I agree, God is love. However, along with love comes an awareness of our own sin and unlovability. We may not feel we should be loved if we are in the presence of perfect love. An example I think of is when a child has done something wrong that their parents do not know about. They may dread them coming home and they may dread having to speak to them. When the parents get home, even if the parents don’t know that the child has messed up, they often try to avoid the gaze of their parents. Why? Because the minute they look at them all they will feel is their guilt- even though their parents haven’t mentioned it. In the presence of love, I think we are both fully self-aware of love AND sin. Adam and Eve in the garden post-fall is another example of this. They fully knew of God’s love. They had experienced it firsthand! But when they sinned, they hid from His love. All they could experience was their sin and not His love once they disobeyed.

However, in this presence we do find freedom, but let’s talk through this a little bit more. First, do we want our own personal human freedom to be obliterated upon encountering God? What would that do to our affections towards Him? Would we even desire Him knowing that He had done that to us? Secondly, when 2 Corinthians 3:17 mentions that there is Freedom, what it is not implying is that when you follow God, you are free to do and experience whatever you want. Or that you can experience God freely without restrictions. Rather, it is a freedom from the belief that the laws can make you good enough to earn salvation. If you scroll back a few verses, you read in 3:6 how the letter or law kills because it leads to death, whereas the Spirit gives life. This does not mean that there aren’t rules for Christians to follow, but rather you are free from the oppression and bondage of having to follow those rules to earn salvation. That will always end in failure which is why the letter kills. With that context in mind, where the Spirit of the Lord is, or when the Spirit of the Lord is followed, there is freedom to experience God through grace and forgiveness and not man earned righteousness, as if that ever was a thing.

I would also like to point out that we assume that if God revealed Himself more that we would believe. But that is not the case when it comes to humanity. The disciples saw Jesus raise people from the dead and perform other miracles and they still didn’t believe until they saw Jesus resurrected. Today you can tell people stories of a similar vein and they will not believe. Ultimately, it is not the amount of revelation of God that is our problem, it is the amount of revelation we decide to accept. People need to begin looking inwards to find out whether disbelief is the fault of God or themselves. Most people haven’t thought to do this. May I suggest that you ask your friend, what would it take for them to believe? What has led them to the conclusion that God should do what they propose?

At the end of the day, I think sometimes these types of push-backs are people’s excuses to not believe. The longer they feel God is unfair, the more justified they can feel for refusing Him. The reality is that He has revealed enough of Himself for us to be able to say whether or not we believe He is there. There is no reason to keep asking for more if we already have enough. It may not be as much as we want, but it is enough for us to make a decision.