Most Christians are convinced of God’s existence based on their personal experience of God rather than by rational argumentation (though some are convinced by a combination of experience and argument). This is a rational justification for such a belief. After all, we generally take our experiences to be veridical unless and until we have good reasons for thinking our experience was not veridical. An argument for God’s existence based on personal experience goes something like this:
- I seem to have had an experience of God
- I should trust my experiences unless I have good reasons to doubt their veracity
- I have no reason to doubt the veracity of my experience of God
- Therefore, I have experienced God
- Therefore, God exists
Atheists will often claim that they would also believe in God if they had a similar experience. It’s not uncommon for this claim to be followed up by a question: Why, if God exists, have they not experienced Him?
That’s a fair question, but I would pose a follow-up question: Have you truly been seeking God with an open mind and an open heart? God is not going to force Himself on people. If someone does not want to believe in or submit their life to God, and thus have not been seeking after God, why should God reveal Himself? Why should the atheist be surprised that they have not found God?
This sort of a question is similar to the person who wonders why, if President Obama exists, I have never encountered him. The answer is simple: I’m not looking to meet him. I don’t situate myself in the places where he shows himself in public. Similarly, I would argue that those who have not experienced God are not seeking Him. They are not putting themselves in the places where God shows Himself. They are not reading the Bible, praying, or attending church. They are not studying the arguments for God’s existence or the truth of Christianity. It should not be surprising, then, that they have not experienced God. Could there be exceptions? Could there be people who have genuinely sought after the Lord but did not experience Him? Perhaps so. After all, God does not promise an experience per se. What He promises is that He will draw close to those who draw close to Him. If we seek Him, we will find Him. It may not be on our own terms or be what we expected, but find Him we will.
- Waldo as an analogy of divine hiddenness
- The Hiddenness of God Objection to Theism, Part I
- The Hiddenness of God Objection to Theism, Part II