The Problem of God’s Hiddenness is the most powerful argument against Christianity. In part 1, we considered a defense of God’s hiddenness by Christian apologist Jim Wallace, written several years ago. Let’s conclude with a second argument Wallace wrote recently, “God’s Hiddenness Is Intended to Provoke Us,” which has a new approach to the problem.
God’s hiddenness? It’s a test.
I believe the answer [to this problem of God’s hiddenness] lies in God’s desire to provoke us; His desire to elicit a true, loving response from His children. This goal of producing something beautiful (a genuine, well-intentioned, loving response), requires Him to hide from us.
You’ve created a trickster god. God appears nonexistent, so you must invent outlandish reasons why he might be hiding instead. Is it better to have a trickster god than to admit that your god doesn’t exist? I don’t think so.
Wallace wants us to believe that God must be hidden even though that is a feature of no healthy relationship we have with other people.
He introduces an analogy: consider a “gold digger,” a beautiful woman who marries a much older rich man, not for love but for greed. Suppose a rich man wants an old-fashioned marriage based on love—how can he find a partner who wants to get married for love rather than money? He could conceal his wealth (and maybe his identity) so that no gold digger would consider him.
That is how Wallace sees God. God is the rich guy who’s hiding his wealth to get our honest, authentic reaction instead of one distorted by his majesty. He gives several Old Testament examples, but he forgets that sometimes God isn’t at all overpowering: “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). Even the people overwhelmed by God didn’t develop a superficial relationship with God as a result—they already believed.
What is the equivalent of the big reveal (“I have a confession to make, my dear—I’m not an appliance salesman but am actually Byron Rachmaninov, billionaire industrialist”)? It’s not like believers don’t already know of God’s attributes. Wallace seems to imagine that we’ll develop a relationship with God, only to get a happy upgrade once we’ve settled into a comfortable relationship, where God says, “I’m not just a Class C phantasm, as I’ve pretended, but I’m actually the Creator of the universe.”
But Wallace sells God short. Surely God could see your honest intentions to root out the gold diggers. (This is also the failure of Pascal’s Wager. God isn’t so stupid that he couldn’t see through someone simply going through the motions.)
Wallace confuses evidence for God’s existence with secondary matters such as specifics of God’s nature, how or whether we will worship him, God’s desire to have a relationship based on love, and so on. I suspect that he actually understands this, and his confusion is a deliberate sleight of hand on his part.
Atheists are just asking for God to be apparent, which is not an unreasonable request. That apologists can only give vague clues for God, for which a naturalistic explanation is the better explanation, means we are not justified in holding the God belief.
No one would bring out this argument except to justify belief in a god that didn’t exist.
Theology is guessing about what an imaginary being is thinking.
— commenter Michael Neville
Image credit: Peter, flickr, CC