Why Is God So Hidden?

As a young atheist, I denied the existence of God for practical, experiential reasons. During my elementary school years, I found it difficult to understand why anyone would believe in God without visible evidence. I knew my parents, teachers and friends were real, because I could see them and I could see their impact on the world around me. God, however, seemed completely hidden. I often thought, “If God exists, why would He hide in this way? Why wouldn’t God just come right out and make it obvious to everyone He exists?” As I examined these questions many years later, I began to consider other factors and considerations, particularly related to the nature of “love”.

I held love and compassion in high regard, even as an unbeliever. These were values I embraced as essential to our survival as a species, and values I considered to be foundational to human “flourishing” (as many atheists commonly describe it). But love requires a certain kind of world, and if loving God does exist, it is reasonable that He would create a universe in which love is possible; a universe capable of supporting humans with the ability to love God and love one another. This kind of universe requires a number of pre-requisites, however, and these pre-requisites are best achieved when God is “hidden” in the way He often seems to be:

Love Requires Freedom
True love cannot be coerced. We love our children and we want them to love us. We cannot, however, force them to do so. When we give our kids direction and ask them to accept this direction as a reflection of their love for us, we must step away and give them the freedom to respond (or rebel) freely. If we are “ever-present”, their response will be coerced; they will behave in a particular way not because they love us, but because they know we are present (and they fear the consequence of rebellion). If God exists, it is reasonable that He would remain hidden (to some degree) to allow us the freedom to respond from a position of love, rather than fear.

Love Requires Faith
Love requires a certain amount of trust; we must trust the person who loves us has our best interest in mind, even in times of doubt. There are occasions when trust requires us to accept something as true, even though we can’t immediately see this to be the case. In essence, trust often requires “hiddenness” on the part of the “lover” if love is to be confident, powerful and transformational.

Love Requires Evidence
Love does, however, require sufficient evidence. While we may not want to coerce our children, we do need to give them sufficient reason to believe we exist, support and love them. While many non-believers may deny there is any evidence for the existence of God, the natural world has provided us with sufficient (albeit non-coercive) evidence God exists. We have the ability, however, to deny this evidence if we choose.

Love Requires Response
In the end, we do need to show our children our promises have been reliable and their love and trust in us has been well placed. Even though we may have to be “hidden” at times in their lives, at the end of the day, love requires us to make a visible response. The Christian Worldview maintains that God will respond visibly at “the end of the day”. While He may sometimes seem “hidden”, He will ultimately be evident to all of us.

If God exists, it is reasonable He would personify and fulfill the requirements of love, as described in Christian scripture:

Romans 1:20
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they (we) are without excuse.

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

God created a world reflecting His holy nature: We live in a universe where love is possible. This kind of universe can sometimes be a scary place, because it requires un-coerced human freedom. God offers us this dangerous liberty (and often remains hidden) so our love will be genuine.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, Christian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene, God’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.

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11 replies
  1. jcb says:

    JWW! How are you? Here are my notes:

    Why Is God So Hidden? JWW

    It is hard to understand why god would give so little evidence to us (T)
    We have much evidence for many things: parents, family, cats, etc. (T)
    It seems that an all loving god would make its presences more known to us (T)
    Many/most people, theists and atheists alike, value love.
    A maximally loving universe/god requires that god hides as he does (F)
    True Love cannot ever be coercive (F)
    We should never force our kids to do anything if we love them (F)
    After we advise our kids, we should always let them freely act, even if it is murder (F)
    If we always coerce, kids will not be as healthy (T)
    Our choices are: always coerce, or never coerce (F. We can sometimes coerce).
    If God exists, he would probably not always reveal himself (T)
    If God exists, he would probably not reveal himself more than he does (F)
    If God revealed himself more, it would only be for the worse (F)
    We often trust people (T)
    We should just trust that god exists and reveals himself enough (F)
    If god revealed himself more, people would be worse off/less confident (often F)
    We should demand sufficient evidence (T)
    We should give our kids sufficient reason to believe we love them (T)
    If our kids know we love them, then there is never a need to show them more love (F)
    If there is some evidence for god, then there is no need for more evidence (F)
    The natural world shows that god probably exists (F)
    If nature did show that god probably exists, then there would be no need for further evidence (F)
    God will ultimately be evident to all of us (F)
    God is not evident to all of us (T)
    If God is ultimately evident, prima facie, he could make himself evident now (T)
    If God exists, he probably wouldn’t reveal himself more clearly (F)
    God created the world (F)
    Love is possible (T)
    God remains hidden because he is so loving (F)
    If God didn’t remain hidden, our love would not be genuine (F)

    Thoughts?

    Reply
  2. jcb says:

    To summarize:
    An all loving god would probably reveal himself more.
    That amount of revealing is absent.
    Thus there probably isn’t an all loving god.

    Reply
    • BEH says:

      Here are my notes:

      An all loving god would probably reveal himself more. (F)
      That amount of revealing is absent. (F)
      Thus there probably isn’t an all loving god. (F)

      Here are my reasons for making my assertions regarding the truth or falsehood of each proposition or conclusion:
      1. There is no reason or evidence that the probability that an all loving god would reveal himself more in > 0.50.
      2. “would” is subjective. What is needed for this premise to have any meaning is a “should” (i.e. that an all loving god is obligated to do so.)
      3. You haven’t defined “more”. More than he has revealed himself to you or to me? We need to understand the term in an objective sense to adjudicate this statement.
      4. “That” amount – what amount? Same issue as #2.
      5. Therefore, because your two premises cannot be proven true in an objective sense, the conclusion fails.

      Reply
      • Kyle says:

        A couple of notes. That the conclusion fails does not mean it is false, only that route to the conclusion did not hold up. Secondly all these notes seem to assume only the presence of an all-loving god. If you compared it to the expectation of there being no god it lines up perfectly. If there were no god you wouldn’t expect something not there to reveal itself. You would notice a glaring absence of love from the non existent being.

        Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        ” “would” is subjective. What is needed for this premise to have any meaning is a “should” ”
        .
        Not really – your ideas about a God’s obligations are subjective too. And there’s nothing wrong with having ideas about the way an all-loving God WOULD act – making them SHOULDS doesn’t make much difference to the argument.

        Reply
      • jcb says:

        Prima Facie, an all loving god would reveal himself more. There are people who, if he did, would probably find god. Nothing shows that god has revealed himself “just enough”. Nothing shows that if god offered more evidence, things would be worse. Prima facie, if god did offer more evidence, more people would believe in him. Thus there probably isn’t an all loving god. Feel free to prove that if god offered a little more evidence that couldn’t have helped anyone.
        1. is false. A loving god would continue to reveal himself unless there was good reason not to. We don’t know of any good reason why god doesn’t do what he supposedly did in the past, i.e., send angels, or do something similar: come down and resurrect a few people, etc. If he did, prima facie, there would be more believers. We already know that there are more believers as a result of crying Mary statues, etc.
        2. “would” may be subjective, but the statement is still true. An all loving being would do more to help people. God could prima facie do more, such as to send me more signs of his existence. It is false to assert that any more signs that god could possibly send would Never do any good.
        3. More: more resurrections, more evidence of angels. More evidence of actual prayers answered by god himself.
        4. I don’t know what you are asking here.
        5. The first 2 premises are proven to be true. Love means trying to help others/make them better off, etc. More information often helps others learn new things. Prima facie, an all loving being would provide more evidence of his existence which would probably helps some people find god.
        My conclusion is proven to be true.

        Reply
  3. John B. Moore says:

    The reason we trust someone is because we lack complete knowledge. We don’t need a lack of knowledge in order to enable the trust! That’s totally backwards. Trust isn’t a good in itself, but it’s an unfortunate necessity caused by our ignorance.

    Reply
    • jcb says:

      We don’t know everything. We can trust in lots of things. We do not have to trust that god exists. Nothing about those truths shows that god is probable, nor that any of my other assertions are false. (Perhaps you agree with them?)

      Reply
  4. Colin says:

    Good evening gentlemen, these are truly dizzying intellects for a simple Indiana boy! What if God has revealed himself in his creation, the fine tuning of the forces allowing the universe to exist, and the breath of his essence, life in each of us…….but we failed to understand and take note of the wonder of this? What if his presence is there every day, in every breath, but because we fail to take note, we miss him?

    Reply
    • Kyle says:

      Communication is a two way street. If people are actively searching for answers and not finding them like you seem to suggest should be simple, it could be an issue with the speaker, not the listener. For a supposedly all-powerful being you’d think it would be easy to effectively communicate with everyone.

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        Yes. And all-knowing being would by definition know exactly what communication techniques are required to reach people. If such a being exists then he must be choosing not to use these methods..
        .
        One come up with reasons for why a God wouldn’t communicate with us, just like you can come up with reasons a God wouldn’t step in and prevent terrible disasters, but the fact remains such a God is pretty much indistuingishable from no God at all.

        Reply

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