In a post from Patheos entitled “Why is God Hidden?,” Bob Seidenstecker argues that God’s hiddenness is the strongest evidence against His existence, that a loving God would not be hidden, and that excuses to explain God’s hiddenness on the part of theists are just desperate attempts on the part of theists to avoid the apparently obvious and inescapable conclusion that God does not exist.
Bob’s article is, frankly, an abject failure in terms of argumentation for three reasons. The first is that God’s seeming hiddenness from mankind is exactly what we should expect to be the case if Christianity is true. Secondly, if the historical claims of Christianity are true, then God is not as distant as Mr. Seidensticker seems to assume. Finally, Mr. Seidensticker is much too hasty in concluding that the variety and dissension of theistic belief discredits all theistic belief (and, presumably, all theistic experience).
Bob starts by making a general case that a loving God would make Himself apparent to His creation given the drastic consequences of His creation not believing in Him. But there is one thing that Mr. Seidensticker seems to have forgotten, God and man are currently divided by one of the most significant obstacles one can possibly imagine between the two within the Christian paradigm: sin.
Genesis suggests that there was indeed a time when God would regularly come to earth and be with His creation, but man’s sin caused a divide between himself and God. God is loving, but He is also just. God made it abundantly clear in Genesis that the wages of sin would be death and eternal separation from God.
So rather than being evidence against the truth of Christianity, God’s absence from mankind is inline with what we would expect to be the case if Christianity were true. It would be exceedingly odd for Him to pronounce a punishment of death and separation then continue to abide with the beings that regularly transgress against Him. Mr. Seidensticker complains that God’s absence is a feature of no healthy relationship, but that is exactly the point. The relationship between God and man could not be any unhealthier, and it is due to our own infidelity.
Mr. Seidensticker tries to attack the “outlandish reasons” that theists would devise to explain away God’s absence. But the gap between man and God because of our sin is not outlandish or far fetched. It is a narrative that is perfectly inline with our experience and perfectly inline with what we would expect to be the case if humanity sinned against a just God. Of course, we might simply say that Judeo-Christianity was devised to adapt to our experience, and the alternative in favor of Christianity is that the Judeo-Christian narrative fits our experience because it is true.
So what we must do is reserve judgment on the question of whether God’s absence is evidence for or against the truth of Christianity since it hinges on whether we should expect Christianity to be true. So where does this leave us?
It just so happens that the Judeo-Christian God is just and, therefore, mostly distant from mankind, but He is also merciful. Christianity rests on the historical claim that a man who was God-incarnate named Jesus was born of a virgin, publicly performed miracles, was publicly executed, rose from the dead thereby providing a means of salvation for His fallen creatures, and made public appearances.
If these historical claims are true, then God has not been so absent, after all. If Christianity is true, He has manifested Himself among humans, and offered a means to reconcile the gap between God and men in the afterlife. So then the question is whether there is sufficient testimony to believe such a thing.
We cannot possibly decisively settle this question here. I’ve devoted other blog articles to evaluating the evidence in answering this question (considerations which are miniscule in scale to the amount of evidence overall), and minds far greater than mine have written volumes on the subject. But if it is true that there is sufficient evidence to justify beliefs in the historical claims of Christianity, then this settles much of Bob Seidenstecker’s trouble with God not giving His creatures a means of knowing that He is there. The philosophical arguments for God’s existence which also do away with any notions of divine “hiddenness” aside, the historical evidence available to us does indeed allow us to arrive at God’s existence and makes him “unhidden.” If it is true that they are reliable and genuine, the testimony of the New Testament is just as significant now as it was two thousand years ago in proclaiming God’s existence and manifestation among us.
The only way, then, that we can decisively conclude that God is hidden from us and that this is evidence against Christianity, is if we just assume that to be the case. In so doing, we ignore the very nature of what we should expect to be the case if Christianity is true. We would also ignore the historical claim that God has not been silent, that He has revealed Himself, and that He has given us sufficient means to know His existence.
The last thing worth mentioning from Mr. Seidensticker’s article is that he complains that there are billions of people ready to disagree with any given person on whether or not their deity is real or not which seemingly discredits the multitude of people who claim that God has revealed Himself to them (which, of course, would entail that God is not hidden which would entirely discredit Bob’s point). This is nothing more than an odd and faulty appeal to the majority based on a dogmatic certainty of his own position which ignores the evidence at hand and the implications of it if it supports the truth of Christianity. Such a dismissal of evidence that is so critical to the truth or falsity of Bob’s position is nothing more than an indulgence of his ontological biases.
The simple reality is that if Christianity is true, then God has been anything but hidden. He has simply been distant from the creatures which have turned their backs on Him which is hardly surprising at all, and in His mercy He has manifested Himself among them, sacrificed Himself for them, and left his Holy Spirit to guide them. The fact that God is not sitting on some sort of earthly Mount Olympus certainly acts against defunct mythological religions. But it is only evidence against God’s existence if Christianity is false, and Mr. Seidensticker is much too hasty in concluding that it is.
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