Given the inadequacy of so many “old” philosophical arguments against God’s existence, atheists are increasingly turning to the “hiddenness of God” (HoG) to argue that God does not exist (or that His existence is highly improbable). The essence of this argument is that God’s existence is not as obvious as it should be. If God existed, we would expect to find more evidence of His existence than we in fact do. Given the inadequacy of the evidence, rational persons should conclude that God (probably) does not exist. Some HoG proponents go so far as to argue that if God existed He would prevent unbelief by making His existence obvious and undeniable. He does not do so, therefore, He does not exist, or if He does exist, the fault of human unbelief is to be laid at His feet.
There are a number of ways to respond to the HoG argument. One could agree with the HoG advocate that God’s existence is not as obvious as we might think it should be, but deny that the conclusion—“God (probably) does not exist”—follows from such an observation. After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Perhaps there is insufficient evidence on which to conclude that God exists, but God may exist nonetheless. At best, an insufficient amount of evidence for God’s existence should result in agnosticism, not atheism. To conclude that God does not exist one needs positive evidence against His existence, not a mere lack of evidence for it.
Secondly, the HoG argument presupposes that God is desirous that all people believe He exists. Maybe God is indifferent to what humans believe or fail to believe about Him (although admittedly, this would rule out the existence of the Christian God). Maybe God purposely hides Himself from humanity so that those who do believe in His existence must do so via a blind leap of faith.
Thirdly, perhaps God has predestined that only select humans come to a saving knowledge of God, and thus God provides evidence of His existence discriminately. To the elect God makes His existence obvious, but to the unsaved God is hidden. One might contest that such a discriminate provision of evidence is unbecoming of a just God, but this is not obvious either. Perhaps God knows how each individual would respond to Him if provided with (more) evidence of His existence, and He provides evidence accordingly. For those whom He knows would respond in faith to evidence of His existence, He provides such evidence. For those whom He knows would not respond in faith to such evidence, however, He does not provide them with any evidence (or evidence sufficient to convince them of His existence). While such individuals will complain that there is no/insufficient evidence for God’s existence, the fact remains that they would not be persuaded by it even if presented with it because they do not want to believe there is a God to whom they are subject.
Fourthly, the premise that God’s existence is not as obvious as it should be can be challenged. After all, who is to say what the appropriate level of obviousness is? How much evidence is needed? These are subjective questions. What one person considers sufficient evidence, another may not. Indeed, theists would argue that the field of natural theology provides an abundance of evidence for the existence of God. As William Lane Craig asks, should we expect more evidence than the contingency of the universe, the origin of the universe in the finite past from nothing, the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life, our apprehension of an objective realm of moral values, the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, and the ability to experience God immediately without recourse to rationality (one could also throw miracles and answered prayers into this mix as well)? I have no reason to believe we should. There are many sound, cogent arguments/evidences for God’s existence—enough to convince those who are open-minded on the issue.
Fifthly, it is possible that the defender of the HoG argument is expecting the wrong kind of evidence. Perhaps God has provided metaphysical rather than physical evidence for His existence (given the fact that He is an immaterial being). If so, then surely it is pure hubris to claim He has failed to provide enough evidence of His existence simply because He has not provided the kind of evidence we might prefer. To conclude that an immaterial being such as God does not exist because there is no physical evidence of His existence makes as much sense as concluding that there is no invisible man in your house on the basis that you have not seen him. If he could be seen, he would not be invisible. If one is going to detect or invalidate the presence of an invisible man, one must appeal to metaphysical rather than physical evidence.
To be continued….