Why doesn’t God make himself more obvious? This concludes my response to the answer to this question from Christian apologist Tom Gilson. (Part 1 here.)
We’re in the middle of Gilson’s analysis of the speculation of atheist Lawrence Krauss* about the evidence he’d need to justify Christianity’s supernatural claims.
Who’s ready for an irrelevant puzzle??
We’re nearing the end of the article, still waiting for a direct, relevant answer to the question Gilson raised. What we get instead is yet another tangential puzzle:
So if God proved to Dr. Krauss that He exists, the famed physicist would still have to decide whether he wants God to exist.
No—go back. If God proved to Dr. Krauss that he exists, that would be huge. That would’ve actually addressed the question you set out to answer!
Let me say that again: Gilson imagines answering the question he introduced in the title of his article but, instead of considering the consequences of that remarkable result (or showing how it could happen), he tosses it aside to pick up a new argument, something by which to misdirect his audience. Again.
Gilson clearly can’t answer the question—if he had an answer, he would have given it.
He’s scuttled his own ship at this point, but let’s play along. Gilson challenges us: if we knew God exists, we’d “still have to decide whether [we want] God to exist.”
My answer: no, I don’t want God to exist if he’s the Bronze Age barbarian plainly described in the Old Testament, and yes, I do want God to exist if he’s actually a benevolent and wise god who wants the best for us and would make that happen. But why ask? How is our desire relevant? God either exists or he doesn’t. Gilson says he can resolve that issue, but he comes up empty. He wants to invent human shortcomings and focus on them when we’re simply asking a question that any Christian would find reasonable in any other context.
Once more, with feeling
Adding a final flourish to this turd of an argument, Gilson scolds his readers for not misunderstanding the problem as he does.
Getting the right answer to the question, “Does God exist?” isn’t the point. God won’t reduce Himself to being a mere true/false quiz answer.
Remember that Gilson’s article was written to answer the question, “Why doesn’t God make himself more obvious?” and, here again, he admits he can’t. He knows that’s embarrassing, so he uses tangents and bravado to pretend that the actual issue is elsewhere. He wants us to imagine that it’s demeaning to God (whom we’re assuming into existence for the purposes of this argument) when we demand evidence that he exists.
Huh? Let’s explore this ploy by asking, “Does Tom Gilson exist?” With this question, have I now reduced the significance of Gilson’s existence to “a mere true/false quiz answer” (whatever that means)? Have I demeaned or insulted him at all by asking and answering the question? If not, what does God have to whine about?
Gilson needs to rethink who his enemies are. Skeptics who ask reasonable questions are giving him and his claims the most respect they can. They assume that we’re all adults and that we agree that remarkable claims must be supported by excellent evidence. This is much better treatment than Gilson gets from those who dismiss Christianity with a laugh, giving him no chance to even make his case.
Not only do God and Jesus have no problem being tested, Christians delight in making evidence claims where possible—that the Shroud of Turin is tangible evidence of the resurrection, that the thousands of Bible manuscripts add to the Bible’s reliability, and so on. Evidence is apparently acceptable currency for God, making his hiddenness today unexplainable.
To call Gilson’s argument an argument is to call a rusty pile of spare parts a race car, but I don’t mean to single him out. This might be the best that he can do given the worthless hand he’s been dealt.
His argument does nothing to argue for God because he assumes God’s existence at the start. Either God’s absence is justified by his super-secret Plan, or it’s our fault for not perceiving it (our hard hearts blind us to the evidence, or something). But drop the God presupposition and follow the evidence, and the clues fit together easily. Natural explanations are sufficient, and God becomes unnecessary, just a solution looking for a problem.
We understand what good and bad relationships look like. Christians claim that a relationship with God is the best of all, but God’s role is unlike that in any healthy human relationship. When something goes wrong, it’s always your fault; you’re obliged to love God, but God has no obligation to earn that love; and God never stoops to show that he even exists. This is much like battered-woman syndrome, where the victim takes responsibility for any failings in the relationship, falls into learned helplessness, and fears for their safety if they do the wrong thing.
Gilson’s handwaving and subject changing make clear that he can’t answer his own question. “Where is the evidence for God?” is the question, and the answers suck. All this handwaving is just a “look—something shiny!” attempt to change the conversation away from the original one: why isn’t there good evidence for God? Why is God so hidden?
And to that, we’re given nothing.
More posts on the problem of divine hiddenness:
they don’t have to worry about the answers.
— Thomas Pynchon
Image from Alexander Krivitskiy, CC license