Hi Everyone, I have been having many Spiritual conversations with my Dad lately and he really wants to believe but is stuck on a few tough questions. One of the questions he struggles with is why God doesn’t make Himself more obvious to us, which is a question I also struggle with. Through Creation we can tell there is a God but I don’t see how creation leads us directly to the God of the Bible and Jesus. The God of the Bible seems a little more hidden at times especially in this dark world. I’ve been reading some of the book “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” and the author talks about how he used to wonder why God doesn’t write “Jesus Saves” on the moon. The author talks about how God isn’t simply trying to “get us to believe” but invites us into a love relationship. I think that is a good point, but I do think it would be easier to choose to have a relationship if there were clearer revelation. I also get that “even the demons believe” and if God made Himself super clear some people still wouldn’t believe. But logically, it does seem that if God made Himself more clear it would give people a greater chance to believe in Him. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Thanks so much!
@Chelsea_Casali I believe we all struggle with God’s hiddenness - formally this is known as the ‘Problem of Divine Hiddenness’. In essence, this argument states that because a relationship with God is the highest good and yet there are people capable of having that relationship who do not because of a lack of evidence, God must not exist. In my opinion this argument is fundamentally flawed in a few important ways:
It makes the assumption that there exist people who have had no opportunity to respond to God
It makes the assumption that God will judge all people by the same standard, whether or not they had the same level of knowledge
Regarding (1), Romans 1 is clear that all mean are aware of God’s existence and have an opportunity to respond to Him in some way.
Romans 1:20 - For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Regarding (2), it is not clear from Scripture that God will judge all people the same. In fact, it appears clear that those who know more will be held to a higher standard. God’s judgment is fair - it is not impossible that those who have not heard may yet enter into relationship with God if they responded to what they knew as best as they were able. It is clear from Scripture that people are held accountable for the light they have - for example, Jesus says the men of Nineveh would rise in judgment over the Jews who saw Jesus and yet rejected Him, for the Ninevites responded to a much lesser light.
Matthew 12:41-42 - The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.
Pascal’s Approach - God has given exactly the right amount of evidence
Pascal’s approach to the concept of God’s hiddenness is my favorite. In “Christianity for Modern Pagans” Peter Kreeft examines Pascal’s work. One argument Pascal makes is that God gives exactly enough light for the righteous to find Him and for the wicked to reject Him.
"He gives exactly the right amount of light. If He gave less, even the righteous would be unable to find Him, and their will would be thwarted. If He gave more, even the wicked would find Him, against their will. Thus He respects and fulfills the will of all.
If He gave more light, the righteous would not learn humility, for they would know too much. If He gave less light, the wicked would not be responsible for their wickedness, for they would know too little."
Ravi on Hiddenness of God
William Lane Craig on Hiddenness of God
Christ grant you wisdom and open your Dad’s eyes to His love, grace and truth
Very good question Chelsea, and a very hard one. @SeanO has already given you a lot of material here, all of which I think is going to be really helpful.
From a theological standpoint, many have wrestled with the idea of God’s apatheia, or his “passionlessness.” This is the same word from which we derive our english word “apathetic.” In English the denotation is a bit different, but the idea of God not being able to suffer or experience “pathos” is what the Greek term meant for both the early church and later medieval theologians.
Therefore, if God is incapable of suffering, then God must, in some way, remain distant, or transcendent from His creation, which, at least after the Fall, is infested with sin, imperfection, and corruption. Or, better said, God and the world simply cannot be in any kind of relationship, because God as a perfect being literally cannot co-exist with suffering, which is a form of imperfection. Therefore, in one sense God has to remain separate from the fallen creation, and God is in this sense hidden from the fallen world we inhabit.
However, this is not the only sense in which we might understand God’s apatheia. Frances Young, a Cambridge Theologian, makes a salient point about God’s apatheia or hiddenness. In speaking about her 45-year old son, Arthur, who was born with severe brain damage and has lived his entire life in a near-vegetative state, Young realizes that in order to really love him, she must, in a sense, let him be who he is, she must remove herself from him. She says,
“So I recognize that I really need apatheia in order to love properly. Love requires a degree of detachment, an ability to let the other person be, to be ‘other’, to be what they are rather than what you want them to be.” (Frances Young, God’s Presence: A Contemporary Recapitulation of Early Christianity)
While I disagree with Young on other theological issues, I think on this point she is incredibly incisive.
C.S. Lewis makes the same point more illustratively in his book The Great Divorce, when he has the ghost “Pam,” an inhabitant of hell, visit heaven in order to see her son, Michael, who died tragically. Michael is a spirit in heaven, but Pam, the worried mother, is in hell. Why? Lewis shows us that Pam’s love for Michael was not a true love, it was not a love that could ever step back and let Michael just be himself. Moreover, Pam could not see Michael as ultimately God’s child. Pam’s love was a love grounded in a sense of ownership, as if her son was her possession. This chapter in The Great Divorce, I think, is one of the most challenging and tragic in Lewis’ book, but it is one that I think properly demonstrates that a true, godly love is indeed one that allows the “other” to be who they are, without seeing them as a piece of property, something to be grasped onto too tightly (see Philippians 2:5-11 for God’s own counter-example of what real love looks like).
Thus, on these accounts, God’s hiddenness can actually be seen as an act of love, because He doesn’t treat us the way a helicopter parent might. He guides us, protects us, upholds us, and reveals some of Himself to us, but, out of love, He also does not overwhelm us, smother us, or force us to acknowledge Him. He removes His presence from us and He hides Himself, so that we can be the creatures He made us to be.
But, at the same time, He doesn’t just abandon us either, and, with regard to the first sense of apatheia, He ultimately does come into the world to suffer with us. God may hide and detach, but He doesn’t flee or abandon.
And, ultimately, He takes on humanity, so that He can experience our suffering, the suffering that comes with sin. So, we have a God who hides Himself so that we can be real moral human agents, agents capable of standing on our own two feet so to say, not puppets controlled by an overzealous parent. But then, when the time is right, He reveals Himself to us, ever more gradually, so that we can recognize our need for Him, so we can know, without being overwhelmed, that our deepest longings are indeed fulfilled “in Christ”. This progressive revelation culminates in the incarnation: the God-man Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, or “God with us.”
So, I think if we see God’s Hiddenness as an aspect of how God is not only the maximally great being: uncorrupt, unmovable, entirely holy and worthy of praise and worship, but is also the maximally loving being: who respects His creation, allows us to make free, moral decisions and choices; and yet who accomplishes the salvation of lost souls and the redemption of fallen man in spite of these two seemingly irreconcilable facts, then perhaps we can have confidence that even God’s hiddenness is indeed part of His glory, and also fundamental to our being free beings, and beings who can love freely.
Hope that helps,
@Chelsea_Casali. I have a young family member currently having this struggle. Is there an absolute definition of marriage in the Bible? The contention being, if it does not spell it out in the Bible then monogamy is not required by GOD. “I need to see it clearly stated, in black and white, in one definite place!” They declared.
After prayerful consideration I replied. “Speed limits are posted all along the highways and byways, yet you are known to drive well past the posted limits. Seeing the law in black and white, spelled out clearly; is ineffective against what you desire to do. You have a myriad of reasons why its okay to do so. Despite the glaring postings, despite the legal ramifications for breaking those laws, and despite the demoralizing history of automobile accidents. When we choose to do anything, we generally do so despite all attempts to prompt us not to do or to do so.” My family member’s true desire is to have a sexually open marriage and to do so without the pain of condemnation from GOD.
In a more expansive way, we decide that is true about the existence of GOD. Many times what appears as vagueness has more to do with my ability and self-will. If the information comes in a way that is comfortable for me to digest then I can believe it is true. The danger is a life that follows only what pleases or satisfies me.
I think perhaps what appears vague about GOD is connected more to our ability to understand. Can you imagine knowing more than just a fraction of who GOD is? The “hiddenness” feels like kindness for us.
How could we still live in these bodies if we could know completely? The good news is, only GOD is the mystery that is visible and knowable within our limited abilities. Yet the half has never been told.
I love all these responses and I tend to agree with the more he is revealed the more you are held responsible. This I think is where people get the idea of God being different in the old testament. He was not if course but he did reveal himself in a greater way so expected not only more but needed to discipline more. You would not be upset if you asked your child to take out the trash and he messed up if you never showed him how but if you had and the refused and instead threw trash everywhere you would be upset. It’s how look at it anyways
Wow thank you so much everyone for such well thought out responses. Each one of these replies helped me to understand the truth. These responses served to strengthen my faith and I am also going to send them to my Dad. I truly am so thankful for you all taking the time to help me with this.
@Chelsea_Casali Praying for you and your Dad - may Christ open His eyes to His love and truth and open doors for you to speak into his heart and life.
Thank you so much @SeanO! I actually just sent my Dad a word doc with all of these responses. I really believe he is so close to believing- he wants to believe, he is just working through some of these tough questions. I will post more topics about his other questions soon, I’m so thankful to be able to get such great input from this community! I have been praying for my Dad for so long and it is amazing to see how God is working.
@Chelsea_Casali Super cool! So glad to hear that the Lord is working on his heart and excited that we are able to be a small part of that journey.
Hi Chelsea! I am happy you have brought this question. I think it is common to us all in some degree and so important. I think the others have covered this well but I have a slightly different take on this. First I like to suggest we look at our lives to see the many inexplicable turns in our life that when we look closely were Gods gentle presence orchestrating people and situations into our life. Serendipitous encounters may go unnoticed which were so much Gods hand at work. I am in my sixties and about 35 years ago I offered my Life to the Lord. It took over 30 years for me to reach a place of rebirth in Jesus but looking back I can see so much of his presence working with me. Have you ever tried to find something that was right in front of you and though you were looking right at it could not see it? I do this often as do many of us. Its right there before us but we look yet don’t see. I think we do that with God as well. We miss so many things in our daily lives that when noticed reveal his presence.Also to have a relationship with anyone it must include trust. I have found as I trust God more deeply and pray he can also be seen in his answers to prayers. The main condition is in our trust and faith that he hears and responds to us. Maybe God is not as hidden as we think? This a great discussion! Thanks for presenting this! May God Bless you in all your efforts!
I agree, so many good points mentioned here. God was very “obvious” in Heaven before the implementation of creation, but it did not stop the 1/3rd of the beings there with Lucifer from choosing a grossly inferior path. Discovery of the divine little by little lets us absorb and prove to us His many attributes at a level we can perhaps understand and experience. One major part of our placement here is the opportunity to choose His ways daily, known often as “agency”. What an undeserved honor to us for the Creator to share increasingly all He is and treat us as intelligent divine-becoming beings to determine our future. This great gift was intended to be embraced, not ignored. Thus for us the universal environment we live in is one big school with constant feedback of what “works” best in His Kingdom, and what is not worthy of us. May He Who Is that uses the gentle approach, meek and lowly of heart, reach to your Father in a convincing way.
You’ve gotten so many replies to your question! I think that means you struck a cord.
I think you struck a cord because there are many tough areas (like genocide in the Old Testament, the problem of evil, and why God isn’t more obvious) where there are many helpful arguments, but, at least for me, they aren’t quite good enough–couldn’t God have done just a little bit more? Couldn’t He have stopped just a little bit more senseless pain? Couldn’t He have made Himself just a bit more obvious? I get it, there might be good reasons for not making Himself a ton more obvious, but why can’t He make Himself just a little more obvious?
I don’t have anything to add to the various arguments people have given. When it comes to these “couldn’t God have done a little bit more” questions, the thing that is most helpful for me is to remember that God doesn’t expect us to be able to understand Him and what He does. I think what God fundamentally requires of us, the fundamental requirement of the Christian faith, is that we trust God.
So, for me, the question is: Even if it seems like God could have done a little bit more, can I still trust Him? At least in human relationships, trust is always built on evidence–we trust people who we think are good, whose actions have demonstrated that they care about us and others.
So then the question becomes: Has God given us that evidence? And I think He has. God died to stop pain. He died to make Himself known; He died so that we could be know Him. If someone, say Susan, died so that we could know her, we would have every reason to believe Susan wanted us to know her (she probably cared a lot more about knowing us that we cared about knowing her :P). Because God died to make Himself known to us, I think we have good evidence that He is only hidden (to the extent that He is hidden) for a good reason.
I don’t know why God doesn’t make Himself just a little bit more obvious. But I think I can trust Him anyhow. And Christianity doesn’t require us to know. It requires us to trust.
I don’t know if that will be helpful to you, or your dad, but that’s how I’ve made a sort of peace with this type of question.
P.S. My trust in God is, of course, grounded in my belief that Jesus actually did die (and then rise again). If that is an issue for your dad, RZIM has a bunch of really good resources. A philosopher named Gary Habermas also has a lot of good books on evidence for the resurrection.
I appreciate all of these responses so much! What excellent points! I’m literally copying and pasting all of these points to my Dad in an email. @chabguy my Dad definitely struggles with the resurrection of Jesus, it’s the thing that is hardest for him to get past. But it’s funny, he doesn’t necessarily struggle with the miracle of it or believing it could have happened. He’s read tons of apologetics books and says that the Apostle’s dramatic change in character is the most compelling evidence to him. But his question seems to be more, why. He doesn’t get why God didn’t do it another way and why Jesus had to be the “vessel” for our sins. I think I’ll post this question into another topic next to see if you all have any thoughts on this. Thanks so much again, I really really appreciate it!
It is encouraging to see, you are seeking a deeper relationship with God by asking the right questions. Continue in your journey and God will reveal Himself in an unexpected way. Also be mindful of the truth as laid out in Scripture, “… For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
If not for Jesus, I would most probably have become a deist, who believe in the existence of a creator God but had somehow, withdrawn himself from the affairs of this world. Every religion claims to be the purveyor of ultimate truth. Yet none can offer incontrovertible direct empirical evidence of the presence of the real God. There is a mystery, something withheld in secret, something missing in the whole jigsaw of life, such that true purpose and fulfillment seems to be obscure and ambiguous. God’s apparent lack of intervention and enforcement of his moral will and law as well as his lack of direct disclosure seems to leave a resounding silence in response to the human cry for ultimacy and intimacy.
In the gospels, there appears to be a theme of messianic secret where Jesus told his disciples not to reveal his identity. Also, he speak in parables such that the intent to reveal is matched by a desire to obscure. When he died, he appeared only to his 500 disciples and not to the Jewish leaders that persecuted him and had demanded evidence. Also, for a bold claim of Godhood, he merely appeared to the public for a short 3 years before being dying and being caught back up to heaven. It appears to me that God isn’t very keen in making visible his existence. After all, the arrival of an omni-present, omni-scient and omni-potent God overwhelms the possibility of any choice and freewill.
I believe that God is looking for a unique heart posture known as faith. It is not defined as a cognitive acknowledgement in the existence of God, else demons would have been saved (James 2:19). Rather, I believe it is a choice, a pledge of covenantal allegiance and a trust borne out of a regular and intimate communion with the living God. All these being invisible to the naked eye, are deep felt in the heart. Faith is also spiritual perceptivity. Romans 10:17 reads " So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." Our ability to hear or perceive spiritual truth is through living word of God - Jesus Christ.
God is choosing a people for himself (1 Peter 2:9), a spiritual virgin bride that is holy and consecrated for matrimonial union (Rev 21:9-11). Because there is such beautiful intimacy, this special relationship is for those who desire after God and His ways. It would have been vulgar to cheapen and include every wicked person in the union; you just don’t simply marry anyone. Hence in a way, the world’s a stage where God’s seeming hiddenness allow the drama of life and choice to play out one’s real character and ways. We are also destined to be co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), a position of glory and authority so high, that he deem it worthy for us to mirror his ministry on earth by carrying the cross and enduring its suffering on earth. Just think of it - 11 out of 12 of his Apostles were martyred in horrific manner. Amongst all the religions of the world, Jesus is the only God who died and followed on by his disciples. Which charlatan or deluded spiritual guru will go through such bravado if there is no reality of God in their hearts?
Finally, the Holy Spirit was poured out into all believers when Jesus ascended. Alongside scripture, the Holy Spirit is a witness to us about Jesus. It completely transformed the Apostles and the early disciples to an entirely new plane and can do so to all of us such that we can (i) experience the love and power of God in our lives. (ii) Lee Strobel in his book - The case for miracles, provides evidence on the supernatural moves of God; God is real and moving in very active ways. What is obscure and hidden to one person, becomes revealed and personal to the one that God chooses to reveal. (iii) Speaking in tongues (angelic language), casting out demons (Mark 16:16-17**), prophesying are supernatural spiritual gifts that testify that God is real and active for those who have faith. (iv) Also, the spirit of God testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children (Romans 8:16). You will be made aware of your own spirit and that of God. You can have assurance of salvation as children of God. When Jesus was on earth, he constantly witness to us through his teaching and his miraculous works. If you take the bible seriously and apply faith, the Holy Spirit will also do this in our lives and more (John 14:12). While there may be excesses and counterfeit experiences, I would like to suggest that pneumatology, or our tangible experience of the Holy Spirit as encountered and experienced by the Charismatics and Pentecostals, can be a vital complement to our biblical discipleship and apologetics on the questions of life.
** Mark 16:16-17
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
For me this question has an answer in the The Rich Man and Lazarus story in Luke 16:19-31, especially in the last 5 verses:
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
I think if God made Himself more obvious and all things in eternity then there is no more scope of Faith in God beacuse according to Hebrews 11:1: “faith (pi’stis) is the assurance of things hoped forthe conviction of things not seen.” Abraham and other old testament prophets had faith in God but this was nothing when compared to a new testament beliver because God spoke evidently with Abraham and other prophets
2 things to mention here is that
- God wants us to believe on his word without doubting. Hence, you see most of the old testament commandments are seemingly illogical to a rational thinker, however God demands a implicit obedience on all his laws and statues. There could be a big mystery behind this which we are unable to comprehend as a physical human being
- When Cain sinned against God, he says "I will be hidden from Your (Gods) face. I think this refers to the immediate presence of God. Cain may not have enjoyed any relationship with God after slaying Abel. Our forefathers enjoyed the immediate presence of God, hence we see there large number of signs and wonders in old testament in comparison to the new testament dispensation. In new testament a believer is expected to belive on God through his spiritual experiences (not physical) in Christ- a carnal mind may not be able to understand this. Rember what Jesus said to his disciple Thomas after His resurrection
Hi Chelsea hey I’m late to this discussion re the ‘hiddeness of God ‘but your father would appreciate I’m sure Professor Hugh Ross who is a christian astrophysicist and cosmologist who explains how now more than ever before the evidence is pilling up tremendously high from a scientific view that God is indeed very real and desires a personal relationship with us. Please take a look . It’s absolutely amazing . As we discover more and more about our universe It is becoming more and more compelling .
Let me know if you do !
Thanks @Bronie! I’m going to check it out. I found his website…is there a specific article you like of his? Or just his argument in general? I’m excited to learn more!
Even more great points, thank you everyone!