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. Let’s conclude by poking holes in a second argument by Wallace, “God’s Hiddenness Is Intended to Provoke Us,” which has a fresh 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.
But now you’ve created a trickster god. God appears nonexistent, but you can’t tolerate that so you invent outlandish reasons why he must be hiding instead.
Is this an improvement? Just admit that your god doesn’t exist!
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.
Poor God—he just wants to be loved for who he is
Wallace introduces an analogy: consider a gold digger, a beautiful young woman who marries a much older rich man, not for love but for greed. Suppose a rich man wants to avoid this possibility. He wants an old-fashioned relationship based on love. How can he find a partner who wants him for love rather than money? Deception! 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. For example, “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). In the Old Testament, people apparently had evidence to believe God existed, so they believed.
The analogy fails
And it fails for many reasons:
- 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, loving relationship. God will say, “I’m not just a Class C phantasm, as I’ve pretended, but I’m actually the Creator of the universe.”
- Unlike the rich guy, God could see your honest intentions to root out the gold diggers and wouldn’t need the charade. (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 to get into heaven.)
- A Christian evangelizing an atheist may play up the bliss of a loving relationship with God, but if you’re unpersuaded, you may get the “But if you don’t worship God, you go to hell. Just sayin’.” With that focus on carrot and stick, now who’s the gold digger? And the atheist becomes the woman who doesn’t even notice God because he’s so busy being inconspicuous.
- This analogy explains why prayers don’t work—God must be unresponsive and can’t tip his hand that he exists. Do Christians really want to admit there’s no evidence for answered prayer? And the rich old man in the story is being deceptive when he disguises who he is. This doesn’t sound like the Yahweh of the Old Testament who appeared to everyone as smoke and fire during the Exodus and who demanded genocide of the Canaanites.
- A better analogy to learning to love the rich man for his personality and keeping the wealth a secret would be for God to get to know everyone as Creator only and make the carrot-and-stick afterlife the secret. Given how big a deal Christians make about heaven and hell, it might be the atheists who would be most curious about this Creator. The Christians may be uninterested if there’s no reward.
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. To support God’s existence, apologists can only give vague clues for which naturalistic explanations are much better explanations. 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.
(h/t commenters sandy, eric, and Anthrotheist)
what an imaginary being is thinking.
— commenter Michael Neville
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 3/7/17.)