Introduction and the problem of divine hiddenness
Many skeptics, and even Christians, struggle with what’s known as ‘the problem of divine hiddenness”. They ask, ‘if God exists, and if He is all-loving and all-powerful, and if He desires everyone to come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved, why does He seem hidden from us? Why is God’s existence not undeniably obvious to all? Atheists often point to this problem of divine hiddenness in support of their claim that there is no relevant evidence for God’s existence. In their minds therefore, any belief in God is unreasonable and illogical. Christians on the other hand, believe that God has revealed Himself in many ways sufficient for belief, but often still long to know why He has not revealed Himself more. So, does God exist? Is He absent? Is God hiding from us? Should He be doing more to make himself known to us so that a greater number of people will believe and be saved? To answer these questions there are a number of considerations which need to be taken into account.
Part 1 - God’s non-physical nature
Firstly, it’s important to remember that any discussion regarding the actions of God must be informed by an accurate understanding of His nature. God is not a physical being like we are in this material world. For example, humans, animals, and plants are all different types of ‘physical beings’ in this physical world. However, the pitch of God’s existence is infinitely higher. He is not physical like we are. He is spirit (John 4:24; 1 Timothy 1:17). God does not exist somewhere in this physical universe. You won’t find him hiding behind some distant galaxy way out on the limits of the known universe. Likewise, you won’t find him hiding somewhere in the sub-atomic realm. It is foolish to expect or demand that God be found in this way. As the creator, God is above and beyond this physical universe. Moreover, God is not one being among many in this physical world. God is the very source of being. Thomas Aquinas, one of history’s most influential theologians and philosophers who lived in the 13th century, put it this way, God is ‘Ipsum esse subsistens’. God is the sheer act of ‘to be’ itself. We are finite. God is infinite. We are contingent. We are caused. We are reliant on a myriad of other things in order to exist. God is eternal, uncaused, and self-existent. We are physical. God is spirit. So, taking these factors into account it’s reasonable to hold that God’s existence and nature will always to a degree be a mystery or hidden from us. This reality should not lead us to despise or deny God. It should elicit in us feelings, thoughts, and attitudes of love, obedience, and worship towards God. How great and powerful He is. The sovereign creator of the universe.
Part 2 - The problem of sin
Secondly, another important consideration to take into account is the problem of sin. The reality we currently experience is not the same as the one God originally created. The Bible describes God’s original creation as ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). It was a place where heaven and earth overlapped. A place where God and man co-existed in harmony. But the sin of mankind and his rebellion against God has meant we now live in this fallen and fractured world. A reality in which sin reigns and we are separated from God, who is perfectly holy, righteous, good, just and true. It is unfair to claim that God is hiding from us when our sinful actions is the cause of our separation and alienation from God’s presence.
Part 3 - Evidence for God
Thirdly, it’s simply unfair and untrue to assert that God is hidden from us. God has revealed Himself to the world in a number of different ways. We’ll focus on the main four: (1) Creation, (2) Conscience, (3) Scripture, and (4) Saviour.
In Psalms 19:1-2, the psalmist notes, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.’ (NIV). The Apostle Paul in Romans 1:20 writes, ‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.’ (NIV). Christians believe the existence of God is self-evident given the world we see and experience around us. The order, design, and general intelligibility of the universe clearly points to the existence of God.
God has revealed Himself to us through our consciences. The Apostle Paul in Romans 2:15 explains how the knowledge of God and His law is written across every human heart, and how our consciences bear witness to this truth. Our intuitive sense of good and evil, right and wrong, points us to the existence and goodness of God.
God has revealed Himself to us through Scripture. As we read the Bible (God’s Word to this world) we can know that God exists, what His nature is, and what His plans and purposes are for our lives and creation in general.
4. Saviour (Jesus Christ)
God has revealed Himself to us through our saviour, Jesus Christ. God became a man and entered into history to save humanity. The historical evidence for the Biblical understanding of Jesus is overwhelming. Based on the life, works, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we can know and be confident that God not only exists, but that He loves us and is intricately involved with this world He created.
Part 4 - We are the ones hiding
Fourthly, after taking into account all that we have examined so far, it seems clear that God is not hiding from us, but rather we are the ones hiding from God. Many people today want nothing to do with God. We desire above all else to be the captain of our own souls, the masters of our own reality, and creators of our own destiny. We don’t want God, we perversely would rather ourselves. Just like how Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden in Genesis chapter 3 chose themselves rather than follow God, because they wanted to be God, we reject the ample evidence there is for God so that we can feel justified in following our own selfish dreams and desires. We’re still making that same sinful mistake. 19th century philosopher and atheist Friedrich Nietzsche captured such a sentiment perfectly when he wrote, “There cannot be a God because if there were one, I could not believe that I was not He.”
God is not hidden from us. He has clearly revealed himself to us in many ways. Those who genuinely seek Him, will find Him.
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Further reading recommendations
'Why does God seem so hidden?' by Joshua C. Waltman
'Divine Hiddenness: New essays' by Paul Moser and Daniel Howard-snyder