The Problem of Divine Hiddenness, Answered Poorly by William Lane Craig

The Problem of Divine Hiddenness, Answered Poorly by William Lane Craig June 19, 2020

problem of divine hiddenness

Christian apologist William Lane Craig (WLC) recently responded to a post from the atheist blog A Counter Apologist. He responded to the problem of evil, and I critiqued that here.

The majority of WLC’s response was to the problem of divine hiddenness. In brief, this argument notes that the Christian claim that God merely exists (don’t worry about his properties yet) is very much in doubt. With no good evidence for this most basic and trivial claim, Christianity isn’t worth believing in.

The divine hiddenness argument

The version of the divine hiddenness argument up for discussion is the one from J. L. Schellenberg. Here is a summary:

  1. God is perfectly loving, so he would be available for a relationship with any human who was open to one.
  2. Therefore, God must have a relationship with every willing human. There can be no “nonresistant nonbelievers” (nonbelievers who are open to a relationship with God).
  3. But there are people who have desperately desired relationships with God, failed to find them, and now are nonbelievers.
  4. Because 2 and 3 contradict, this god can’t exist.

Since God doesn’t make himself known to nonbelievers who are open to a relationship, he either doesn’t exist or refuses a relationship with these people. Either is a problem for Christian claims.

You want evidence? WLC has evidence.

WLC responds that God isn’t hidden at all: “The evidence is there for anyone who has eyes to see.”

What is this irresistible evidence? Unsurprisingly, it’s the same tired old arguments he always trots out. As I list them, challenge yourself to anticipate my response. Or perhaps you have additional responses that are better.

  • “The origin of the universe out of nothing at a point in the finite past.” I suppose this tries to map the six-day creation story in Genesis 1 onto modern cosmology’s understanding of the Big Bang. But science doesn’t say that the universe came out of nothing (it might have, but the jury’s out). Oddly, Genesis doesn’t even say that the universe was created out of nothing (I explore what it does say here). Let’s also note that the two creation stories in Genesis have taught science absolutely nothing about the origin of the universe or life on earth or indeed anything else.
  • “The fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life with a complexity and delicacy that defy human comprehension.” Nope. The Multiverse hypothesis is supported by evidence, and the rarity of life-supporting universes could be overwhelmed by the vast number of potential universes. WLC also skips over the fact that we don’t understand the conditions necessary for life in the universe. We don’t even understand them for Earth. Christian claims about the universe are supported by no evidence. The best a Christian apologist can do is start with known scientific facts and sift through the Bible for the occasional vague similarity and then declare the Bible to be prescient.
  • “The existence of a realm of objective moral values and duties that impose themselves upon us.” Objective moral values? Show us that such things exist. I see no evidence.
  • “The applicability of mathematics to the physical world enabling modern science to operate.” This is the Argument from Incredulity fallacy (“I just can’t imagine a natural cause, so therefore it must’ve been supernatural!”) plus the Argument from Mathematics (responded to here).
  • “The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.” That’s a story. It’s your job to show that it’s history. (More here and here.)
  • “Religious experience.” Finally! This one is real. Our Paleolithic and pre-human ancestors grew up in a dangerous world. With technology, we’re the apex predator now, but that wasn’t the case when we were naked on the African savanna. Growing up in a dangerous world made us skittish. Guessing that the rustling in the grass might be a leopard made survival sense. Unseen predators rustling the grass gradually become unseen gods making lightning and drought, so that evolution created religious experience.

WLC’s pat-on-the-head platitudes don’t stand up to cross-examination, and even he senses that this isn’t  a complete argument.

Evaluating the morality of God’s actions

WLC asks the follow-on question:

If God exists, how probable is it that he would give more evidence than what he has given?

The first problem is the “than what he has given,” which assumes God into existence. But let’s suppose that was unintentional, ignore it, and move on.

I don’t see that there’s any great probability that if God existed he would give more evidence than that. That makes the argument from divine hiddenness, I think, very, very weak indeed because [the atheist] can’t demonstrate that it is highly probable that God would give much more evidence than what he has indeed given.

Remember his Problem of Evil response in the last post. Not having much to work with, he is playing the same trick. Y’see, it’s the atheist who has the burden of proof. WLC thinks he can plop a stinker of an argument on the table and insist that the atheist clean it up. (More about the burden of proof and how WLC bears it here.)

It’s not my job to rebut this argument, but I’ll do it anyway. An all-loving, omnipotent, and omniscient god who (1) created the hellish consequences of our not knowing he exists and (2) didn’t make his existence obvious, can’t exist because he wouldn’t be all-loving. We are not only justified but logically obliged to reject this god claim.

Keep in mind that it’s simply God’s existence that we’re looking for, the proving of which for ordinary humans is effortless. What’s “very, very weak indeed” is WLC’s argument that God’s diaphanous hints about nature and mathematics are the likeliest evidence by which he’d illuminate the path to heaven for his most cherished creation.

(I’ve imagined the conditions where we would easily accept that God exists, a world I call Gaia. That thought experiment is here.)

Concluded in part 2, where WLC digs his hole deeper here.

Then it dawned on me.
If my relationship with this person was that spectral,
indeed virtually imperceptible,
then what practical difference would it make to just let it go?
So I did. I let it go.
And you know what? I didn’t really miss it,
because there was literally nothing to miss.
I realized that life with him
would be exactly the same as life without him.
— Patheos blogger Neil Carter


Image from José Fonticoba, CC license

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