The Hiddenness of God (initial thoughts)

Many find it hard to believe in God because, according to them, He’s “hidden.” If God wanted people to believe in Him, He’d show Himself to us. Why doesn’t He? It should be simple for God to appear in the sky where everyone can see Him or talk to us when we call to Him, but He doesn’t. Some say God would make Himself and His intentions for man clear to everyone if He really existed, but since He’s not doing that He must either not care or not exist. They can’t imagine any good reasons why an all powerful God would hide Himself the way He has. Do they have a point here? Are there no good reasons for this apparent hiddenness?

This argument does have some force. God certainly isn’t as plain to us as people or trees. Even believers struggle with God’s apparent silence in this life. Habakkuk, an Old Testament prophet, said “Oh Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (Hab. 1:2). David cries out to God saying “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Ps. 13:1). Sometimes it can make us doubt God’s existence or His goodness. Still, I’m not convinced that God is as hidden as some say He is, or that He has no good reasons for not being plain to us.

First, a large chunk of people throughout history, perhaps even most people, have believed in God or something like god. Atheistic or naturalistic ideas and beliefs existed for thousands of years, but they didn’t become widespread until the Enlightenment era. Even these days belief in God or gods doesn’t seem to be going away. This doesn’t prove that God exists, but if it is the case that most people have believed in something like God, then perhaps God isn’t as hidden as some think He is. Romans 1:19-20 says “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived… in the things that have been made.” This in no way negates the natural processes and mechanisms that run the universe, but it shows that nature points to God. It doesn’t give us exhaustive information about Him, but it does give us true information about Him.

Second, people are assuming that God is only concerned about belief in His existence. I don’t think this is the case though. William Lane Craig once said that it’s a matter of relative indifference to God whether people believe in Him or not. This might sound strange, but hear me out. God is interested in having a personal relationship with people, not simply getting them to believe He exists. Outside of Christ it doesn’t matter whether you think God is real or not, you’re still in the same position with Him. Even the demons believe in God, but they don’t have saving grace (James 2:19). The Israelites after God freed them from Egypt saw His divine power, but still turned from Him and worshipped a false god (Exodus 32:4). It’s through Christ that we actually enter a relationship with God and are given saving grace. Sure, we have to believe He exists to do this (Heb. 11:6), but we’re going beyond mere belief and into actual trust and commitment. God can appear in the sky or audibly tell you how He wants you to live if He wants, but that doesn’t mean you’ll actually want a relationship with Him.

In fact, some people might be more resistant to God’s love if He does this. People like their autonomy, and if God appears showing them without a doubt that He exists or starts telling them plainly how He wants them to live, they may see this as an infringement of that autonomy, and they’ll dislike God even more. God wants children who love Him, not reluctant followers. If God’s goal is to enter a loving relationship with people, it seems plausible that making Himself more visible or audible won’t yield that result. It may help those who already are in that relationship, but for those who aren’t it may make them believe in Him, but not enter a relationship with Him, or it may make them believe in Him, but be more resistant to Him because they want to keep their autonomy. So while I think God isn’t as hidden as some say He is, I also think He has good reasons for not being as plain to us as we sometimes think He should be.

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