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God’s Hiddenness

To Friedrich Nietzsche’s mind, God isn’t a very clear communicator: How could an all-knowing and all-powerful God be good if he doesn’t make clear his intentions to his creatures but leaves them tormented by doubts and questions? Another atheist, N.R. Hanson, has claimed he could be convinced to believe in God if suddenly the world’s inhabitants were knocked to their knees by a “shattering thunderclap,” followed by swirling snow, blowing leaves, heaving earth, toppling buildings, and a Zeus-like figure declaring convincingly with a thundering voice, “I most certainly do exist.” Then there’s Bertrand Russell’s complaint of God, “You didn’t give us enough evidence

However, a God who is as obvious to us mortals as the nose on our face isn’t necessarily ideal. The Scriptures speak of a God who both hides and reveals. Jesus praises His Father: “You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants” (Mt. 11:25). Yes, the mere acknowledgment of God’s existence is a start, but even demons believe that much (Jas. 2:19). The relating triune God desires that we earnestly seek Him and His wisdom as “for hidden treasures” (Prov. 2:4)—with all our heart. All around us there are indicators of His presence and echoes of His voice, which are available to all people—whether of great intelligence or not. However, God honors human responsibility so greatly that He has configured His self-revelation to be accessible but non-coercive: He doesn’t compel or force belief—and love and worship—upon us. For whole-hearted seekers, God gives ample signposts of His grace and presence, but sufficient ambiguity for the half-hearted or the hard-hearted. He grants us breathing room to allow us to distance ourselves from God and resist His grace if we choose. The demands of Nietzsche and Hanson miss the point.

In a five-week online course with Reclaiming the Mind Ministries (Tuesdays, 8 May – 5 June, 9-11 PM EST), I’ll explore this and many other topics as we look at “A Christian Philosophy of Religion.”  Philosophy means “the love of wisdom”—which isn’t merely an intellectual pursuit.  As Scripture reminds us, a relationship with God is at the heart of wisdom: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). In fact, “in [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Wisdom is the skill of living rightly before God, and this involves thinking rightly about Him so that we can love Him more deeply and serve Him more effectively in this world.

In our course, we’ll follow the Christian narrative of God, Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Recreation. We’ll explore the nature and attributes of the Triune God; reasons for believing in God; science and miracles; the problems of evil, original sin, and hell; the logic of the Incarnation and Atonement; religious pluralism, the uniqueness of Christ, and those who have never heard; the body-soul question; resurrection and immortality; faith, hope, and doubt. We’ll be using my forthcoming book Loving Wisdom: Christian Philosophy of Religion (Chalice Press) as basis of the lectures and discussion.

C.S. Lewis wrote: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” The Christian faith helps make the best sense of our world and human experience. I hope you’ll join us for the course to see more clearly how this is so.

11 Responses to “God’s Hiddenness”

  1. Wow — all that in five sessions? That’s quite an agenda. Maybe this should get posted on atheist websites as well. Having heard you on CWS and meeting you at ETS, I know that you’ll offer a solid course.

  2. Thanks, Richard.

    Yes, it is a lot to cram in. I’ll have to move through the course with “unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, and majestic instancy,” but I hope it will be profitable for all.

    Best wishes,

    Paul

  3. When discussing things like proof and the questions of why God doesn’t just “put His cards on the table”, I often think of the many accounts in Scripture where He did and people still didn’t believe. I think of the Israelites and the golden calf, I think of Judas, I think of even those who at the time of Christ saw Him walking around after He was resurrected and still didn’t believe. I think even in what is revealed, He still hides His truth to the hearts which are “uncircumcised”.

    I look forward to discussing this and learning more about this in the course. It is a lot to cover but to echo what my brother in arms Richard said, after hearing you speak on a number of occasions, I am confident that the material will be covered accurately, and put across in a very accessible and relevant way.

    There are a few people who teach about these things, but not all people who teach have that certain gift if you will. It is very clear Paul that you have a gift for explaining the deeper things of God to people in a way that they “get it”. I am very much looking forward to being in this class because of that.

    God bless you as you lead us in this very important course.

    Carrie

  4. Thanks for your encouraging words, Carrie. I’m glad you’ll be joining us! Yes, the challenge will be to make accessible this material we’ll have to speed through!

    All best wishes,

    Paul

  5. Looks to be a great course.

    By any chance will the recordings be archived and/or available for listening later as with the other TTP courses?

    thanks,
    -steve

  6. Steve, it will be available on mp3 and CD after the class is complete. Are you going to be joining us?

  7. Michael,

    Thanks! While I’d love to join in, I will be completely away from every kind of computer device for that week. (On vacation and I promised my wife that I wouldnt bring the laptop, pager, cellphone, backup laptop… etc. ;^)

    So, I wont be able to join in – looks like an awesome course though – thanks for bringing it on board and I’m sorry that I’m going to miss it.

    -steve

  8. What of those who have sought with every morsel of their being, yet are left empty? Can one merely not being seeking hard enough?

  9. Thanks, Roland. You’ve asked a good question. God obviously knows the heart. However, a lot of times HOW people “seek” must also be considered. Do they do so with a demanding spirit or a humble one? Do they insist that God must meet a list of criteria before they’ll believe? When we make demands of God regarding what kind of evidence He should produce, the strength/degree of the evidence, when God should deliver it, etc., this actually goes against what God is ultimately looking for. He doesn’t want people content with the fact that He exists (demons know that much!), but He wants to be known as Lord and loving Father. Making these demands actually suggests that WE are the ones calling the shots, not God.

    I could say much more, but let me just recommend that you look at philosopher Paul Moser’s work. He has written excellent material on the hiddenness of God (see, for example, his piece, “Why Isn’t God More Obvious?”):

    http://www.luc.edu/faculty/pmoser/idolanon/

    http://www.luc.edu/faculty/pmoser/idolanon/relWrit.shtml#mose

    I hope this will be of help to you!

    Best wishes,

    Paul

  10. Paul, I enjoyed reading Paul Moser’s chapters about God’s “hiding” at:
    http://www.luc.edu/faculty/pmoser/idolanon/GodMoreObvious.pdf

    Some of the quotes that stand out for me are:

    “By sharpening the contrast between God’s presence and absence, God can highlight the surpassing value of God’s presence.”

    “God’s primary aim is not to hide but rather to include all
    people in God’s family as beloved children under God’s
    fatherly guidance.”

    “Mere reasonable belief is no match for personal transformation toward God’s loving character.”

    “The epistle of James puts decisive responsibility on us humans: “Come near to God and God will come near
    to you” (4:8; cf. Jeremiah 29:13; Malachi 3:7).”

    “Our expectations may be shallow or even mistaken in comparison with God’s loving character and intentions. Due humility is thus appropriate in approaching the Hebraic God.”

    “God’s primary goal in self-revelation is transformation of recipients toward God’s loving character.”

    “Our humble awareness of our needing God will displace us from the prideful center of self-importance in our supposed universe.”

    “Knowing God requires one’s apprehending a call to come in from the remote bleachers and gratefully join God’s plan of gracious salvation.”

    “This plan is no mere intellectual puzzle for philosophers
    or theologians. God is more serious than our mental gymnastics, for our own good. We have, after all, lives to form and to live, not just thoughts to think or intellectual puzzles to solve. God’s call, in keeping with the call of Abraham, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul, requires that we commit to using our whole lives for the advancement of God’s kingdom of self-giving love. So proper knowledge of God extends to our deepest attitudes and convictions.”

    “Efforts to know God without loving friendship with God miss the true character of the God of all-inclusive love.”

    “God’s Spirit convicts us of our unloving ways and calls us to loving relationship with God and others, even our enemies.”

    “We often prefer not to settle for grateful acceptance
    of God’s gift of (a) personal filial knowledge of God and (b) God’s personal assurance of God’s presence.”

    “We often prefer to earn our knowledge of God on our own terms. We prefer to have cognitive control here as elsewhere in our lives.”

    That may look like a lot of quotes, but the writing on that pdf is over 60 pages long. I only quotes from the first two chapters, though, up to page 28.

    I think I will print out all 60 pages to read them all later and reflect on them more fully.

  11. Thanks, Joanie.

    I’m glad I could point you to a helpful resource.

    Blessings,

    Paul

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