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Divine Hiddenness and Human Disclosure

Hiddeness

The agnostic has said in his heart, “If God exists, why doesn’t He make it more obvious, such that it could not be doubted?” Surely, with so much riding on God’s existence (theism, the moral law, salvation, etc.), he could do a little more to make it obvious! Given the stakes, the fact that God fails to make his existence more patent is yet further proof that he doesn’t exist. Travis Dumsday summarizes this objection — often termed the argument from divine hiddenness — as follows:

"[O]n standard theisms, God supposedly loves us, and so desires our ultimate well-being. But that ultimate well-being necessarily involves having a positive relationship with God, and in order to have such a relationship one must first believe that God exists. So if God really existed and really loved us, He would make sure that all of us believed in Him. Yet the world is full of rational persons who blamelessly fail to believe in God. Consequently, one must give up some aspect of standard theism, and the aspect it is most sensible to drop is the very idea that God exists."

In the spirit of topsy-turveydom, I think that what atheists take to be an argument against the existence of God actually shows the deep wisdom of God’s chosen manner of making himself known. The lynchpin in the argument is the profound correspondence between the mode of revelation and how human beings are made. The one is addressed to the other.

Revelation is not addressed to mere minds, but to embodied persons. God, like every good communicator, takes into account the audience and shapes his message accordingly. In standard theisms, God addresses us as embodied souls that come to the knowledge of truth in stages, in a kind of sacred history. Within that history he uses everything in his power to communicate well to the chosen object of his predilection. He employs theophanies and angelophanies. He uses prophetic instruments. His revelation is rife with analogy, metaphor, parables, and imagery. Just like a good 2nd grade teacher who communicates the same point in myriad ways equally accessible to her classroom filled with visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners, God appeals to man according to each of his faculties. So, while mystical revelation may make the occasional guest appearance in Biblical literature (2 Cor. 12:2), the normative mode of revelation spans the full breadth of human experience, ranging from prophetic callings to miraculous healings (Ex. 3:1-22, Isa. 6:6-9, Mark 8:22-26).

So, rather than zapping all brains with an intuitive knowledge of his existence — an act that would risk dehumanizing the object of his love in a certain sense — God chooses to enter the sanctuary of each individual heart in a manner that is profoundly personal and distinctly human. He is the master teacher, the perfect pedagogue, who orders all things sweetly. And so, far from being a strike against God’s goodness, the economy of revelation is, I contend, tailor-made for human maturation.

The suitability of divine revelation to the human person has implications for our interactions with one another. In order to be known, human beings, too, must reveal something of themselves to the other. The divine hiddenness should serve as the pattern for a “human hiddenness,” and our friendships and relationships can benefit inestimably from the saving influence of the divine pattern.

Contemporary culture promotes self-disclosure, often in harmful ways. For instance, in one of the more extreme cases — casual sex — we observe how moving too quickly can short-circuit the normal course of growth in trust, dependence, friendship, and love. Social media can offer another occasion for deranged exhibitionism in which very little distinctively human discourse transpires. In both of these examples, hasty manifestation that doesn’t reflect the full breadth of human life and love actually hamstrings real, genuine development. The random hookup and the social media abuser treat one aspect of human life as if it were the whole and so fail to communicate as persons to persons.

But, with God as the pattern for integral human growth, our own “revelation” stands a better chance of achieving the communion for which we’re all ultimately destined. Rather than foisting all of oneself on one faculty or the other, in a kind of take-me-as-I-am desperation, the example of the divine courtesy invites us to appeal as persons to persons. With modesty protecting the inmost center of the heart, we learn to approach the other as other, as irreducible, and as human. In so doing, we lay the foundation for true communion and new vistas of shared love.
 
 
This article first appeared on DominicanaBlog.com, an online publication of the Dominican Students of the Province of St. Joseph who live and study at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. It was written by Br. Gregory Maria Pine, O.P., who entered the Order of Preachers in 2010. He is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville where he studied humanities and mathematics.

Dominicans of the Province of St. Joseph

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The Order of Preachers, known also as the Dominican Order, was founded by St. Dominic in 1216 with the mission of preaching for the salvation of souls. With contemplative study serving as a pillar of Dominican religious life, the Order continues to contribute to the Catholic synthesis of faith and reason, following the example of such Dominican luminaries as St. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas. The Friars of the Province of St. Joseph administer Providence College in Providence, RI and serve as teachers and campus ministers in several colleges, universities, and seminaries in addition to serving as pastors, chaplains, and itinerant preachers. Follow the Dominican students at their blog, DominicanaBlog.com.

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  • Mike O’Leary

    One of the reasons why people who question the existence of a god is because of the threat of eternal torture for believing in a way that ends up being incorrect. I would assume that a person who has studied the various religions and found them wanting would not be protected via the Catholic idea of "invincible ignorance".

    The problem is that positions of both belief and non-belief can be made by reasonable people I am an atheist based on the evidence available to me, but I am from a Roman Catholic family and have many friends who are believers after they have looked over the same evidence. While I disagree with what they believe I think they are reasonable people. I would hope that those friends and family feel the same way about me, that while they disagree with me they find me to be a reasonable person who came to my position in a reasonable matter.

    Yet the God of Abraham is said to give eternal punishment to reasonable people who have reasonably assessed a situation with such a small inkling of potential evidence. Why would reasonableness be punished, especially when the alleged evidence of a god's existence wouldn't pass muster in our legal system?

    And so, far from being a strike against God’s goodness, the economy of revelation is, I contend, tailor-made for human maturation.

    It seems the correlation between those humans who have been deemed mature enough to warrant revelation can be described as those who want to believe and are willing to set aside that which suggests that the belief is wrong.

    The article seems to think that there is no middle ground between the vague and unreliable hints of a god's existence and having that god zap full and complete knowledge into everyone's mind.

    • Mike

      "I would assume that a person who has studied the various religions and found them wanting would not be protected via the Catholic idea of "invincible ignorance"."

      Assume this at your own risk.

      • Mike O’Leary

        If I, a person who had the fortune to be born in a first world nation, in an area where I can easily interact with people of varying cultures, who lives in a time where I literally have the sum total of man's knowledge available at his fingertips can be considered invincibly ignorant then I have a hard time knowing who might not be.

        • Mike

          That's ok; God wants your "heart" more than your "pinch of incense".

          • Krakerjak

            We can and should hope all will be saved; but we
            can't presume.

            I agree...we should all hope that all will be
            saved.But I think that we can presume that a
            "loving god" if he exists, is more compassionate and more merciful than the human institution that we call the church, and that god, again if he exists, desires that no one will suffer eternal damnation and suffering for all eternity.

          • Mike

            If you're worried about eternal damnation i'd start praying for mercy if i were you ;) just kidding.

            God is offering us eternal bliss; if he offered it to you would you take it? Say he appeared to you now and said i am your maker love me to the best of your ability and when you "die" we will be reconciled for ever, would you accept "his" offer?

            Yes or no, please.

          • Krakerjak

            If I were reasonably sure it was actually god appearing to me, and not a delusion......Yes!

          • Mike

            ALRIGHT! Now we're getting some where!

            See we aren't that far apart after all; my threshold of evidence is "different" and i am a bit more than reasonably sure but that's really it - the rest are just details and emphasis but the general "idea" is not so foreign after all.

            Like the pearl of great price even if there is only the tiniest chance it's real isn't it worth risking everything for; after all the only certainty is death for both of us. This is a "low" appeal but it imho is an opening.

          • Damon

            I think this "low" appeal actually would be a great place to start if you could show how the god you worship is the One True God, giving the non-believer reason to reject all other possibilities.

            I'd wager that most non-believers can see the potential for a god or gods to exist, in fact, they can likely imagine it possible that an infinite number of gods exist! But the appeal you describe, similar to Pascal's wager, only presents two options: your god or no god. If we had a reason to believe that the existence of your god is more likely than the infinite number of other gods that could exist, then we'd really be getting somewhere.

          • Mike

            DON'T REJECT the other possibilities NO! That would be unfair to the other traditions in the world...but don't jump to conclusions either - consider their claims carefully and see how well they fit your views.

            Which major world religion do you think has the best chance of being right?

          • Damon

            If I can answer your question in Bayesian terms, I, and I think a lot of non-believers, attribute uniform prior probabilities to the existence of any particular god or gods; all equal and all infinitesimal. Without any evidence to whittle the possibilities down, the odds of inadvertently worshiping the wrong deity is a practical certainty.

            However, if one god or set of gods could be assigned a mere 1% chance of being real, your appeal would present a clear benefit. Thus, for anyone who is already leaning toward one particular interpretation of god or group of gods over all the others, this appeal would be an excellent place to start.

            So, to sum up, which major world religion do I think has the best chance of being right? As of right now, none of them. If I could find a reason why one of them has a better chance of describing reality, then your appeal would be an excellent jumping off point for delving deeper into that religion or spiritual tradition.

            But then again, presumably you have gone through this process yourself? As you said above, you are a bit more than reasonably sure that the god you worship is the One True God. What was your criteria for comparing your god against the infinite number of other gods that could possibly exist?

          • Mike

            I compared the major world religions in terms of their claims about reality and justice and purpose etc. and then i compared those to the evidence from science history personal experience etc. and set some aside and continued to think about the remaining others.

            They all make very strong claims that mostly do not overlap so it's quite easy to get a good sense even from a cursory review.

            Even if you're not interesting in Catholicism it's a fun exercise.

          • Damon

            I compared the major world religions in terms of their claims about
            reality and justice and purpose etc. and then i compared those to the
            evidence from science history personal experience etc. and set some
            aside and continued to think about the remaining others.

            But why give special privilege to the claims of the major world religions when we can imagine an infinite number of claims about god(s), life's purpose, and the afterlife, that are all just as likely to be true as the claims of major religions?

            The problem as I see it is that when the space of possibilities is large (as is the case here) it takes a large amount of evidence just to locate the truth from the available hypotheses - to raise it to the level of our attention - to select it as one of a manageable number of alternatives to spend time thinking about individually.

            For example, let's say you were investigating a crime, but there a few if any clues for you to go off of, and any one of a million people could have perpetrated this crime. Then one of your detectives turns to you and says, "Well, we have no idea who committed this crime, no particular evidence to single out any one of the million inhabitants of this city, but let's consider the hypothesis that one of these ten people did it. After all, it's possible that the culprit could be one of these ten."

            Now, unless your detective has some justification for promoting these ten individuals to your special attention, he's doing his job wrong. Even if he's not proposing that one of these ten individuals did commit the crime, even if he's just asking you to consider whether one of these individuals might have committed the crime, he's doing his job wrong, because he is unjustifiably promoting these ten hypotheses to your attention.

            Suppose you went on your detective's idea anyway, considered the ten individuals he brought to your attention and discovered seven had alibis, thereby disqualifying them as the true culprit. Now there are only three men that you are still considering, two with black hair, Bob and Ted, and one blonde, Bill. A reliable witness is later found who attests to the fact that she saw the culprit leaving the scene of the crime, and that the culprit was in fact blonde. "Aha!" your detective says, "We previously had no evidence to distinguish among the possibilities, but now we can say that Bill is most likely the true culprit!"

            My point is that without sufficient evidence to believe that one of the major world religions is true (or most likely to be true), you are unjustifiably promoting a limited number of hypotheses to your attention. It is far easier to judge which religion or spiritual tradition is most likely correct out of a limited set of say, the ten most major religions, then it is to limit the multitude of possibilities down to ten.

          • Mike

            Thx for that detailed reply but i think you're over complicating it; however if you want to include more esoteric beliefs by all means go ahead - a good comparative analysis goes a long way.

            Good luck in your search and if you're not searching, take care and all the best.

          • Damon

            I'm a history buff, so I do enjoy comparing world religions through a historical lens, learning how the beliefs of past cultures affected, and were affected by, the world they lived in.

            But if I am going to examine these beliefs as hypotheses that could possibly explain reality , then I have a responsibility to treat each possible hypothesis (of which I posit there are an infinite number of hypotheses that can be called possible) as equally likely until there is sufficient evidence to justify elevating any one hypothesis, or collection of hypotheses, to the level of individual consideration.

            I understand the temptation to start by considering the hypotheses of the world's major religions, after all you have to start somewhere. But unless you have sufficient reason to believe that the true hypothesis is within this group of hypotheses put forth by the major religions of the world, I argue you are no nearer to finding the truth than the detective that arbitrarily considers a limited number of individuals as possible culprits.

            It's not enough to just expand a finite set of hypotheses to include more esoteric beliefs, there needs to be sufficient evidence to warrant considering a finite set of hypotheses in the first place.

            Then again, maybe I am over complicating the exercise. If so, I'm hopeful that you or someone else reading this can illustrate where I went wrong.

          • Mike

            I would start with the appearance of lawfulness in nature, the degree to which nature appears lawful/orderly, the mathematical complexity and subtlety that appears to undergird reality and the "moral law" which all humans beings seems to have and which in turn seems to result in an insatiable "thirst for justice" among all ppl.

            These are "things" accessible to all ppl and are a good starting place for investigating how the various traditions account for these "facts" etc.

            One other way to start is from the end, with death. If you care about what happens to you after you die, if you think that nothing happens to you when you die you may be interested in what other traditions say about that most talked about thing.

            Ultimately it depends on whether you care enough to begin investigating or whether you are content with not knowing or knowing that it is impossible to make any progress in knowing - if this is you check this out:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ9WQ4x8QSM

          • Damon

            I would start with the appearance of lawfulness in nature, the degree to which nature appears lawful/orderly, the mathematical complexity and subtlety that appears to undergird reality and the "moral law" which all humans beings seems to have and which in turn seems to result in an insatiable "thirst for justice" among all ppl.

            Thanks for this, Mike. I think we've finally got around to the heart of the issue, which is that Pascal's wager is only useful if you already have sufficient evidence pointing toward the existence of any particular god(s) over the multitude of others. Therefore I think it would be far more helpful to the conversation if theists could simply lay out the evidence for their beliefs, rather than appealing to a pragmatic argument that is only useful to those who are already leaning in a certain direction. So I really appreciate that you listed your evidence as points to consider, which I will.

            One other way to start is from the end, with death. If you care about what happens to you after you die, if you think that nothing happens to you when you die you may be interested in what other traditions say about that most talked about thing.

            I'm not sure what you mean by this, what other traditions believe happens when we die is interesting but without any way to put these claims to the test in this world I have no way of judging the veracity of one claim against another. Seems it would be a lot easier to see how claims about objective reality stack up against one another, using evidence similar to what you listed (apparent lawfulness in nature, etc)

            Thanks for the link to the Dr. Kreeft video. I appreciate his approach to the question of agnosticism but ultimately found his logic to be lacking. At one point in his speech he argued that Clifford's rule - that one should always proportion their beliefs to the evidence for that belief - shouldn't apply to the question of God's existence because it reduces God to a claim and not a Person. Likening God to a friend or a spouse he says, "No friendship could be formed, much less a marriage, if we were not prejudiced in favor of our friend, or our spouse."

            But agnostics are not reserving judgement on a personal question of whether to be friends, or spouses, with God (a question which already presupposes God's existence), agnostics are reserving judgement on the philosophical question of whether God, or any deities, truly exist. This claim should held to Clifford's rule the same as any other philosophical or empirical claim about reality, and judgement should be reserved until one finds sufficient evidence to make a decision one way or the other.

            Kreeft does address this objection toward the end of his speech ("But what if there is no Romeo, no marriage proposal?") but unfortunately he answers it by invoking Pascal's wager, which is useless to those who are truly agnostic, as I've already argued here. For all his genuinely admirable talk about truth as a moral absolute, and the insistence that each of us examine whether we are honestly searching for the truth, his argument against agnosticism ultimately fails. It would have been far better for him to have presented the evidence for the existence of God as he sees it, and argued that agnosticism is an unreasonable position in light of the evidence.

          • Mike

            Thx for that; there's alot there.

            Here's how i think pascal's wager works even if you see no evidence for any god: no matter what, no matter what, you know you will die, agree?

            Ok, so no matter what if all the millions of gods prove to be false you lose nothing as you are dead and don't know you lost anything you are just gone forever and ever.

            But if you're wrong and you "wake up" at least one of those millions of gods will have proven to be true therefore if 1 way leads to nothing just death and another way, even though it may be extremely unlikely like say 1 in a trillion trillion, leads to a god then why not make a wager for that 1 god? Even though your odds are crazy it still makes sense to place that bet.

            Say i don't believe that a cosmic lottery exists one for which you don't "buy a ticket" but enter the lottery by imagining a number and that number somehow magically gets taken down and entered into the lottery. Even if the odds of that being real are 1 in a trillion it still makes sense to "pick a number" so to speak as it costs me nothing but may result in a big win.

            So i am not saying wager as in start going to church and praying i am saying if one is truly confidently agnostic or atheist he will have no reason not to "pick a number" by saying something like "christian god, in spit of everything i will think do and say in my life, i want you to know that if you exist that i want your love and eternal life with you"...that's it and never think about it again - if i was certain of my atheism i would do that immediately.

            In case you are curious if i was not a christian, say if judaism and christianity and islam never existed i would DEFINITELY be something else maybe a hindu or a buddhist or some kind of pagan but definitely would place a wager on something. I am not saying i would "go all in" for buddhism or hindu but i would make that bet in my head just to cover my bases.

          • Damon

            Thx for that; there's alot there.

            You're welcome, and apologies if my responses seem unnecessarily long-winded. Brevity is not my strong suit.

            Ok, so no matter what if all the millions of gods prove to be false you
            lose nothing as you are dead and don't know you lost anything you are
            just gone forever and ever.

            You're assuming that atheists and agnostics don't gain
            anything after they die. Most atheists would probably agree with you, but
            there are other possibilities besides just meeting your creator vs ceasing to
            exist, such as progression to another plane of existence, or hanging around as
            a ghost, or being reincarnated. None of these require the existance of gods to be
            possibilities.

            But if you're wrong and you "wake up" at least one of those millions
            of gods will have proven to be true therefore if 1 way leads to nothing
            just death and another way, even though it may be extremely unlikely
            like say 1 in a trillion trillion, leads to a god then why not make a
            wager for that 1 god? Even though your odds are crazy it still makes
            sense to place that bet.

            So are you
            essentially arguing here that if the odds of any particular god existing
            is the same as any other particular god existing, we should aim to
            maximize our expected gain in the afterlife by "betting" on the god that
            offers the greatest reward to believers?

            If this is the case I
            would suggest that the Buddhist concept of reincarnation is
            the bet that gets the most gain, since it lets you play again, and
            again, and again... for eternity! Also, Buddhism makes no claims on
            which god, if any, is real, so you could attempt to cover more bases by
            directing worship toward one or more proposed deities that do not
            require exclusive worship. Either way it would be hard to justify
            betting on the Abrahamic god, which is ironic since I've only ever seen
            Pascal's wager used by Christians.

            So i am not saying wager as in start going to church and praying i am
            saying if one is truly confidently agnostic or atheist he will have no
            reason not to "pick a number" by saying something like "christian god,
            in spit of everything i will think do and say in my life, i want you to
            know that if you exist that i want your love and eternal life with
            you"...that's it and never think about it again - if i was certain of my
            atheism i would do that immediately.

            I've
            never heard the wager explained in this way but if so, then yeah,
            there's nothing to loose by trying to reach out to any deity that might
            be listening.

          • Mike

            Thanks; yes that's my only point that if nothing else you have nothing to lose by saying to the say top 5 gods yeah if you're real i want what you want...something like that - again it's a low appeal but as i am sure you know the only real debate today is between orthodox christianity and atheism imho at least.

            Anyway thx for engaging and all the best.

          • Krakerjak

            Hey Mike....if you really have an IN with GOD....you could pray for me that HE "reveals" himself to me....Krakerjak....Jon...in my daily reality....or even in my dreams.....and Hey man....if he does I will come back here and acknowledge that that is what I experienced....within a reasonable time frame of course. I don't do drugs etc. OK.? Thanks.....if it does happen;:-) I will be forerever grateful. But not holding my breath friend.

          • Mike

            Sorry i couldn't get back to you sooner.

            But it was already too late for my prayers when you decided to compose the email; that may have been all the "opening" the "holy spirit" needed.

            BTW the Christian God is NOT some kind of super computer or an all powerful magician so you can't "correlate" specific prayers to outcomes; i know this sounds either cheesy or stupid to you but he is most like a "person".

            But for what it's worth i did pray the sec i finished reading your post; so in either case i at least hope you had a good weekend.

            Thx for engaging.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is exactly what the Catholic Church desires. The Church does not judge the eternal state of any human being (except certain saints).

          • Ignatius Reilly

            We can and should hope all will be saved; but we can't presume.

            Tell that to Augustine, Aquinas, Jerome, the evangelists, and Our Lady of Fatima to just name a few.

          • Mike

            Ok, thanks that's interesting.

      • Loreen Lee

        This is but one of the many post of this subject of vincible/invincible ignorance.: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=1203
        I couldn't help, in irony, to compare this possibility with respect to non-believers and indeed people who cannot for one reason or another 'grasp' the 'truth' of the 'Catholic faith', in part or in its totality., with my relationship to ongoing attempts to understand the perspective and 'belief system' within the naturalist-a-theist- world view.
        In this respect, and imagining for a moment, that in cases where such beliefs, could indeed be given a label like 'scientism' for instance, that I could be cast out of the 'church' of 'materialism' for my vincible/invincible ignorance. I can only imagine how desperate I might feel for being among the damned within a secularist based religion.
        Please note that the above comments are 'satiric' in the tradition of Charles Hebdo. There is growing agreement among 'non-believers' that satire is warranted with respect to the mandates of 'religion', - not necessarily 'the believers'. As I have recently become more aware of the basis of Cartesian doubt with respect to empirical evidence, and the reliance of science on the mysteries of mathematics, I cannot help but be in a satirical mood when I reflect that, as 'unknowing' humans we all have a certain ignorance, and that revelation is something that can be considered both 'natural' and 'supernatural-for want of a better word'.
        Perhaps this comment will spark some critical thinking as well as what I expect will be some opposition to what I believe is the inescapable fact that to be human is to be involved in the 'unavoidable' fact that we employ concepts whose reality, or ideality, is beyond the facts of sensible experience, and that we are vincibly or invincibly unaware of their true meaning or 'reality'. and thus can only await 'further revelation', be it divine/metaphysical or empirical..

        • Loreen Lee

          Just thought I'd add this article on justification, grace, and soteriological relations to the concepts under discussion.

          Biblical Evidence for Catholicism: Salvation, Justification ...

          socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/11/salvation-justification-faith-alone.htmlNov 8, 2006 - The "Obedience of Faith" in Paul and its Soteriological Implications (Justification and Denial of "Faith Alone") [from Ferdinand Prat, S. J.; ...

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Aquinas didn't seem to think that invincible ignorance was possible.

        • Mike

          Interesting, thanks.

    • Mike

      "I would assume that a person who has studied the various religions and found them wanting would not be protected via the Catholic idea of "invincible ignorance"."

      Assume this at your own risk.

    • Krakerjak

      What you have said sounds very reasonable and I don't see where reasonable persons can have a problem with your comment, other than of course certain rigorous religious apologists.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      If Catholicism turns out to be true, God will judge the reasonableness of your non-belief as well as the rectitude of your behavior.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      If Catholicism turns out to be true, God will judge the reasonableness of your non-belief as well as the rectitude of your behavior.

    • TomD123

      Invincible ignorance I would say is better understood as inculpable ignorance. If someone sincerely seeks the truth yet does not find it, he is not at fault for being incorrect. That is true regardless of the actual reasons for not finding the truth so long as they are not a result of his own immorality.

      This however from a Catholic standpoint does not mean a person is saved, only that he is not culpable for not believing in Catholicism. Salvation vs. Damnation of course is more about works than beliefs

  • Mike

    There is enough evidence to believe and enough to not believe but the atheist contends there isn't enough while the Catholic contends there is.

    The key concept to keep in mind when considering God's Hiddenness is his omniscience. Bc "he" knows the effects, all effects, of all actions he knows which particular act of his is best in that particular situation EVEN though it can appear to us as pointless, wrong or even callous.

    The best analogy i've heard is to a partisan in occupied France during the war. HQ is in London and gives you instructions via a middle-man. The instructions seem crazy at times pointless, they involve great danger. They seem this way bc you don't know who else is a spy and who isn't and most importantly what the grand objective/illusion is and so bc your knowledge is limited compared to London HQ which gets reports from all the spies you have to Trust and carry out your orders to the best of your ability. It's like in chess, sometimes you sacrifice your pawns for some larger strategy of which your opponent may be unaware.

  • Peter Ascosi

    This is a very insightful article. Love the line, "the economy of revelation is... tailor-made for human maturation."

    • Doug Shaver

      God is withholding information I would need in order to have a justifiable belief that he exists, and you call it "economy of revelation." That sounds almost Orwellian.

  • Peter Ascosi

    This is a very insightful article. Love the line, "the economy of revelation is... tailor-made for human maturation."

  • Steven Dillon

    There have been a lot of insightful reflections on why God doesn't reveal himself to us more explicitly, and I think this one takes hold on a particularly intriguing fact about humanity: the integral role that hiddeness plays in the development of deep relationships.

    But, these reflections legitimize the concern that provokes them, when, it seems to me the issue raised presupposes an incorrect metaphysic: it's not up to God whether or not to reveal himself to any degree of clarity. Because God has no potentiality, he doesn't have control over his actions, he simply brings to reality whatever can imitate his essence in any way.

    • Mike

      That's a fascinating perspective.

    • It sounds like you think God has no freedom to choose. God had to make the universe and had to make it exactly this way.

      Do you think we have control over our actions? If love freely given is richer than love forced, is the human love richer than love between people and God? God can't choose but to love us, so in a sense God's much like a robot, programmed to love, without any choice in the matter.

      • Steven Dillon

        I think God creates everything that is creatable, even the contingent, out of necessity. I do think we have control over at least some of our actions, but that this control crucially requires the potential to do or not to do, a potential Pure Act could no more have than any other potential. That said, I think true freedom consists in willing what is good, and in that view, God's freedom is perfect and infinite. While not having control over whether we love may strike many as robotic, I don't think we do have that control: we "fall" in love, not decide into it.

        • Am I understanding you correctly if I say: "God creating everything that can be created would make every contingent fact (contingent in itself) necessary"?

          If you are saying that every fact is necessarily true, and made true because of God, would this God be similar to Spinoza's God? Do you think God and Nature could be one in the same?

          • Steven Dillon

            Nature seems to be a composite thing, either as a real substance organically knitted together with intricacy so unfathomable as to approach simplicity, or as a conceptual categorization of things visible and invisible.

            Which ever is the case, Nature depends on what composes it, either to be the way it is or simply to be. But, dependence is a form of potential, namely, the potential to be otherwise (or not at all) without what is depended upon.

            As such, I don't think Pure Actuality -- a way I describe God -- can be identical to Nature.

            How it is that a necessary act can produce a contingent effect has puzzled me something terrible. But, the key seems to be how God causes: as the ultimate cause, he doesn't just impart being through the creative act, but also modes of being (such as contingency and necessity). However, the mode of a thing's being is not determined by the mode of the creative act, which is not causal, but by the creative act itself. Thus, the contingency of beings is due to God's creative act, though the mode of that act is necessity.

          • I don't follow. Does God create everything that can be created or not? If so, then doesn't everything necessarily exist?

          • Steven Dillon

            God creates everything out of necessity, but not everything God creates is necessary. E.g. It's necessary that God creates our free decisions. The idea is a form of Divine Concurrentism, on which the causal actions of creatures are a concurrence of their powers and God's sustaining them.

          • Ok. So God does have a choice in what God makes. But that seems to conflict with your previous statement about divine hiddenness. God could have made things different, God just had to have made something. So God could have made the universe such that God's existence is more obvious. God chose not to, for some reason.

          • Steven Dillon

            I think choice requires the potential to do or not to do. So, while God 'wills' his creative act, desiring it do it, I don't think he technically 'chooses' it. I.e. He's not free to abstain from doing what he does, and that's no imperfection because there's nothing that could genuinely be done that he doesn't already do.

          • God then does everything God can do. How is God free? Since God creates everything (or maybe you don't believe this?), wouldn't everything that exists necessarily exist? Or does God only create some things and not others?

            Maybe the idea is God starts the big bang, the big bang produces a universe with things that God did not directly produce. This is a causally removed idea of God, and I could imagine the universe having some freedom under this notion.

            The classical idea of God is one who sustains everything continuously. God cannot choose to stop sustaining me. Therefore I necessarily exist. It is difficult for me to see a way out of this for the classical idea of God.

          • Steven Dillon

            I think God creates and sustains everything that can be created and sustained because he simply has no capacity to do any different -- making it necessary. But, what God does out of necessity sometimes involves sustaining contingent beings, and concurring with their free causations.

            In my view, God does not perform discrete acts that have durations: he eternally creates and sustains everything at once. His view of the different points of time is vaguely similar to one looking at two points on a table: they're different but simultaneous. So, I'd say from God's "perspective", the moments of our lives, with all their free decisions, from start to finish, are simultaneously present.

            The point at which God stops sustaining you -- which is simultaneously present with the points at which he continues to sustain you -- involves his necessary concurrence with the secondary causes operating at that point.

          • The point at which God stops sustaining you -- which is simultaneously present with the points at which he continues to sustain you -- involves his necessary concurrence with the secondary causes operating at that point.

            Which would seem to entail that everything God sustains (which is everything God can possibly sustain, or everything that exists) exists necessarily. Maybe these things behave in ways not determined by God, but their existence, their continued existence, is determined by God. God can do no other but determine that these things exist, and so everything in the universe exists necessarily.

            We don't really have the freedom to create or destroy anything. We only think we do. As it turns out, God couldn't have kept the thing we destroy from continuing any longer, and so stops keeping it going. God couldn't have started the artwork I think I paint, until I paint it. At that time, God brings it into being and sustains it, and can do no other, so the art must have existed, and I must have created it, at that time.

            Alternatively, I suppose you could have it that all that really exists is atoms, God created and sustains the atoms, and we are free to arrange them in whatever ways we like.

    • Sorry, what is the integral role hidden was plays in human relationships? The more one knows about someone the stronger the relationship,no? god is making his very existence hidden, how does that deepen the relationship.

      To me, there is no relationship, no communication.

      • Steven Dillon

        Well, we normally don't dump all of ourselves on to someone we just met. We hide things about ourselves, and incrementally reveal them over time. The idea here is that God does something similar, albeit in ways that we don't always recognize. The claim would need to go further, I think, by saying that if someone ultimately fails to recognize these revelations, it's their fault -- to put it crassly. But, that hiddeness is integral to meaningful and lasting human relationships seems plausible and insightful to me.

        • I wouldn't expect god to dump himself to me. I would expect him to show up and not make his very existence cryptic. The reasons humans withhold personal information from others is, I would say, because they need to establish trust before revealing vulnerable information about themselves. Surely this is no issue for the Christian god!

          Withholding of oneself is not an attribute I would call integral to human relationships, but rather a barrier to human relationship.

        • Doug Shaver

          Well, we normally don't dump all of ourselves on to someone we just met.

          No, but the very first thing we always do is confirm our existence.

    • TomD123

      I disagree with "because God has no potentiality, he doesn't have control over his actions." I think this is partially correct yet partially muddled.

      But even if correct, it does not follow that He brings into existence whatever can imitate His essence in any way. It seems equally plausible, and in fact to me, more likely, that if God does not have "open options" or robust libertarian freedom, then it is probably the case that God brings into existence the possible world which best imitates His nature. It seems like if He brings everything into being, His essence is in a sense less imitated because the world becomes too "crowded."

      • Steven Dillon

        If someone were incapable of doing otherwise than she does, in what sense would she have control over her actions?

        I think you're right that it doesn't follow from God's having no control over his act that he creates everything that can imitate his essence in any way. That latter thesis is established on independent grounds which, though essential to my response to Divine Hiddenness, require a lengthy detour through Scholastic metaphysics. If you're interested, I sketch out an argument for the thesis here: http://paganphilosophy.blogspot.com/2014/10/on-necessity-of-creation.html

  • This is an interesting idea, that divine hiddenness is a sign of love and respect of the other.

    The problem I have is that God is so well hidden, there doesn't seem to be much difference between a hidden God and no God at all.

    It's also odd. Maybe the father that abandons his son when he is an infant, with plans to return when his son grows up, loves him more, because he conceals himself from until such a time that he can reveal himself on his own terms? Absentee parenting could be reimagined as an economy of parental revelation.

    Would it be dehumanizing for his son if his father were instead a constant, obvious, undeniable presence in his son's life?

    • But hiding oneself, making one's nature cryptic and communicated through parables and metaphor and history are terrible ways to reveal oneself. Consider if anyone you knew began behaving like that. Instead of just talking to you, telling you how they felt, they began to withdraw, send you poems. Spoke in parables. Stopped actually meeting you in person, had you rely on the interpretations of what they did in the past. And ultimately were silent, expecting you to see their revelation in "little clues" they would leave in your life, that were so subtle they could be just chance?

      You would interpret this as an indication they were playing games with you and not interested in a relationship.

      The matter is so much worse for God, because you never meet him in the first place, you get to rely on stories of other people meeting him thousands of years ago, in languages you don't understand in a historical context that takes years to properly understand.

      When all along, this person is utterly capable of presenting himself immediately to you in no uncertain terms. But doesn't and doesn't explain why. But you are told that your beleif in him has eternal consequences for you.

      • "The matter is so much worse for God, because you never meet him in the first place, you get to rely on stories of other people meeting him thousands of years ago, in languages you don't understand in a historical context that takes years to properly understand."

        Of course this, like many of your comments, begs the question. It assumes people are unable to encounter God today and instead have to "rely on stories." Me and billions of other classical theists would disagree.

        • It does no such thing. This article and comment take the view that god does not directly communicate with people, rather reveals himself through history, prophecy, metaphor and so on. It say that these indirect methods are excellent and tailored for humans.

          I disagree, such methods are the worst way to reveal your existence, communicate clearly or engage in a relationship, particularly a loving relationship.

          If you and the others are instead saying that you have direct encounters with God, please tell us about them. I would ask that you just communicate this directly to us in plain language. Not say things like he "enters the sanctuary of our hearts", what does that mean, you get a vague feeling when you pray? He literally affects your biology?
          Or do you mean you literally see, or hear him speak? Feel something distinct? Or is it an interpretation of a sunset?

          What do you mean when you say you encounter god?

          • "This article and comment take the view that god does not directly communicate with people"

            Neither the article nor my comment suggests that. A few quotes from the article:

            "[God] employs theophanies and angelophanies."

            "God appeals to man according to each of his faculties"

            "God chooses to enter the sanctuary of each individual heart in a manner that is profoundly personal and distinctly human."

            "It say that these indirect methods are excellent and tailored for humans."

            Indeed they are, which is why billions of people have come to know God.

            "[S]uch methods are the worst way to reveal your existence, communicate clearly or engage in a relationship, particularly a loving relationship."

            The worst? It's hard to take such exaggeration seriously.

            "If you and the others are instead saying that you have direct encounters with God, please tell us about them."

            I don't think any Christian would claim to have a "direct" encounter with God, only because God cannot, by definition, be encountered directly. As the sheer act of being, we can't simply speak to him or talk to him as we would a friend. So I'm afraid the things you're looking for--direct sensory experiences of God, direct biological affects of God, etc.--are simply category errors.

          • Caravelle

            So I'm afraid the things you're looking for--direct sensory experiences of God, direct biological affects of God, etc.--are simply category errors.

            So are all people who claim to have had direct sensory experiences of God mistaken ?
            Nor do I understand how this squares with how God's relationship with humanity is described in the Bible. It contains many descriptions of direct sensory experiences of God.

          • Mike

            "category errors" BINGO!

          • Okay! Now that I have looked up what theophany means I take your point. It means a literal manifestation of a deity to a human? Or does it, because you say later He cannot be encountered directly. Can we really not speak to him as we would a friend? I thought he was literally Jesus. Is the New Testament being entirely metaphorical when is speaks of Jesus literally inhabiting a human body and conversing with people? he did it then, surely my salvation is worth appearing and talking to me at least once?

            This expectation is a category error? how so? What category is it that I can have a true relationship with this entity, I can know him, but not like I know personalities? I am thinking of the category of relationship. To me this means some kind of distinct communication. I understand a relationship to be two way. Kevin Aldrch, above, says just this week he became aware of three people who have had such direct experiences.

            Perhaps you could describe the category, talk about what a theophany actually is? What your experience of God actually is. My attempt ps at this have been repeated prayer, and asking god to enter my heart, reveal himself to me. I simply do not get a response.

        • George

          Right, Brian has to rely on your stories.

        • Doug Shaver

          It assumes people are unable to encounter God today and instead have to "rely on stories."

          The assumption is warranted in some cases, such as mine. Stories are all I've got.

      • Krakerjak

        You'll understand it better in the "sweet by n by" Brian when you have had a chance to mature and age more gracefully like a vintnage wine.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Two stories I learned just this week of God directly communicating with people:

        > Pete Maravich, the miserable, alcoholic, drug-addled former greatest basketball player in the world claimed he heard God speak to him directly and Pistol Pete then changed his life completely.

        > And a second person who is not a public figure so I will not name him was a high school junior--also a talented basketball player who was living a pretty pagan lifestyle, had a direct experience he says of God's love and mercy that also totally transformed his life. He later found out that his future wife whom he would not meet for a few years was praying intensely for his conversion the week that his conversion actually happened.

        Plenty of people have experiences like this. I never have.

        • Mike

          John C. Wright who was a rabid atheist apparently swears our lady appeared to him in a dream and spoke to him.

        • So God reveals himself through actual direct contact? I will believe it when I experience it, but then don't the Dominicans just say that, rather than all this talk about metaphor, history, and entering the sanctuary of our hearts.

          What did God say to these people!? How did they know it was God? Did they have a conversation?

          I know of one story personally, a friend who heard God's voice directly, became a devout Catholic. Going to mass daily. Even arriving an hour early to pray. Went to post secondary education to learn ancient languages so she could understand the Bible better. But God never spoke again, she never felt his presence. Is now an atheist activist and wrote a book about it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here is one testimony. You can evaluate yourself. I know Katie and Mark well enough to know they are totally sincere. Click on the video. http://www.womaninlove.org

    • "The problem I have is that God is so well hidden, there doesn't seem to be much difference between a hidden God and no God at all."

      As a Christian, there is a load of difference. Our sense of objective moral values and duties; the existence of a contingent world; my religious experience and that of billions of others through history; the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. All of these things are compatible with, and indeed exist, with a relatively hidden God. However, without God, none of them things would exist (or would exist in dramatically different forms.)

      • Doug Shaver

        However, without God, none of these things would exist (or would exist in dramatically different forms.)

        You say so. We're just saying that, aside from your say-so, we see no reason to think so.

      • You seem to have uncovered evidence of God imbuing choices with moral value, of God creating this world, of God granting you or many others some sort of religious experience, of the resurrection of Jesus. This would indeed suggest, to you, that God is not entirely hidden.

        Each of your examples appears to me to fit into one of two categories: things that probably didn't happen (Jesus's bodily resurrection) or things that make just as much sense without God as with God (objective moral value, existence of the universe). From what I've seen of the world, there's little if any difference in the way it looks whether God exists or not.

        The hope is that God, if one exists, will act in the world in some future time, and will fix things. Maybe God is already acting in the world. Maybe, if Jesus really came back from the dead, this is evidence that God is only capable of resurrecting one person every thousand years or so. God'll get around to the rest of us someday.

    • Mike

      Point taken: why have children at all if you know for a fact that life is hard and full of hurt and disappointment and pain?

      Why risk so much for seemingly so little?

      • I greatly prefer life to non-life. I want my life to be as long as possible. I hope my children will have lives full of joy, but even the sorrow they experience will not render their life worthless, or worse.

        But I do think that I'll avoid the absentee parenting strategy with my kids. It may work out for God, but I don't think it will work out so well for me. ;)

        • Mike

          I know what you mean but you have to admit that having kids, and say one of them gets into an accident at say 3 and has to live with day to day care for the rest of their lives and then they get to 15 and rebuke you saying WHY'D YOU HAVE ME IN THE FIRST PLACE? THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT...to which you and your wife say...well what can you say? You say you're sorry that your heart is breaking and maybe you do regret it but you had the child for (i believe) only 1 real reason: Love. We risk it all for the chance at real love a real connection.

          Anyway i know how unsatisfying an answer like this is but to me at least "thematically" the best answer comes in the all powerful all knowing God hanging dead from a cross like some common criminal - it's like God addressing the most important issues there is: evil and why he allows it to occur.

          Anyway all the best.

  • Caravelle

    This article doesn't seem to me to solve the problem posed in the quoted paragraph, in fact it seems to worsen it. I don't mean the problem posed in the paragraph cannot be resolved, or that this article doesn't give a true and valuable perspective on God; I specifically mean the article doesn't solve the quoted paragraph's issue.

    Namely, the quoted paragraph doesn't say "if God existed, He'd zap us all with knowledge of His existence". It says, "He would make sure that all of us believed in Him", no statement on the method. The example of the schoolteacher is an excellent one; it's true that different methods work best on different children under different circumstances. So the teacher uses many different methods, in order to make sure all the children learn. If a significant number of children fail to learn, that's an issue. It can be a problem with the children, but this article doesn't make that argument. And if the teacher isn't using a method that would help certain specific children learn who currently aren't learning, any parent would ask that teacher why they aren't using those methods, don't they want the children to learn ?

    Especially if that teacher is a perfect pedagogue.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      "[O]n standard theisms, God supposedly loves us, and so desires our ultimate well-being. But that ultimate well-being necessarily involves having a positive relationship with God, and in order to have such a relationship one must first believe that God exists. So if God really existed and really loved us, He would make sure that all of us believed in Him."

      I think this argument contains a false premise and so reaches a false conclusion. A person does not have to believe in God to have a positive relationship with him. Vatican II teaches that person who has never even heard of God can be saved by doing good, assisted by God's hidden grace. God's love is shown by his hidden grace. The non-believing person shows his love for God by doing what is right. Thus the positive relationship is actually there. So is that person's ultimate well-being.

      • Caravelle

        Right; as I said, I wasn't saying that the problem presented in the paragraph can't be resolved (or shown to be unfounded, such as by your argument).

      • Loreen Lee

        Biblical Evidence for Catholicism: Salvation, Justification ...
        socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/11/salvation-justification-faith-alone.htmlNov 8, 2006 - The "Obedience of Faith" in Paul and its Soteriological Implications (Justification and Denial of "Faith Alone") [from Ferdinand Prat, S. J.; ...

        I post this elsewhere as well as I believe it fundamental to the question of ignorance and 'waiting' for 'revelation' as it relates to the concept of 'grace'.. Thank you.

      • Doug Shaver

        Vatican II teaches that person who has never even heard of God can be saved by doing good, assisted by God's hidden grace. God's love is shown by his hidden grace. The non-believing person shows his love for God by doing what is right.

        What does Vatican II say about those who have heard but still don't believe?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Here is a window via the necessity of Baptism.

          Catechism of the Catholic Church #1260:
          “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

          Many people remain "ignorant" of something they have heard of because it has not penetrated them.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm not sure what you mean by the church's message not penetrating. I have heard the church's message, but I don't believe it because the church has not given me a good reason to believe it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I guess that is between you and God.

  • To me the methods described above are very poor ways to reveal oneself to human beings. A relationship, a personal relationship for human beings involves two way communication.

    History is a one way communication and it is unclear from whom this communication is emanating. We have stories of other people entering a relationship with him. Indeed these stories are replete with him revealing himself directly to human beings. He is said to have spoken directly to Adam, Moses, Abraham, Noah, Saul and many others. He even deemed it appropriate to take human form and engage with and preach to humans. I would say that these stories exemplify an excellent way to reveal oneself to humans. But I do not get experiences like this, I get 2000-year old stories that this happened to a select few, but no longer. There is no good explanation for why this ceased happening.

    We are told his revelation is in analogy, metaphor and imagery. I cannot think of a more ineffective method of revealing one's message or very existence. Such methods are the most susceptible to misinterpretation. What could be more likely to be misunderstood? Randomness?

    His choice of when to visit is very strange. He must have known his message would not even have a chance of spreading to all humans for another 1000-1800 years. But we were ready then, prescisely then for Jesus' message of equality, though Christians would not realize this meant an end to things like slavery, witch trials, crusades, torture, sexism, racism, form many more centuries.

    Had he come today, or even 200 years ago his message could have been communicated to everyone instantly.

    I am not saying he should zap our brains with knowledge of his existence, but just answer my calls. If you really exist, talk to me, why communicate with me through ancient prophecies which often involve you looking like a genocidaire?

    "Enters the sanctuary of each individual heart" ? What does that even mean. We are using metaphor to explain the metaphor?

    The argument from divine hidden was or for non-resistant unbelievers properly says that if a god who wants a relationship with a someone who was not consciously resisting him, he would reveal himself in such a way as the individual would accept and believe. If just one such person exists, the god described cannot.

  • Great Silence

    Over the years God's hiddeness has moved, for me, from an incomprehensible difficulty to an explanation that I now find completely acceptable, logical - accepting the existence of God I accept that it has to be this way. A self-evident, visible God would lead to intolerable results.

    Of course we must not argue that such hiddeness proves God's existence, but simply that it is perfectly compatible with such existence.

    Andre

    • Caravelle

      A self-evident, visible God would lead to intolerable results.

      That's interesting, what do you mean by this ?

      • Great Silence

        Again, mostly my own take, developed over the years. As a few examples : if the whole world knew that (say) the Catholic God existed, and that He awaits us when we die, would that not devalue life immensely? We would all be rushing through life to get to the good part, that is if we had that certainty. Would it not encourage suicide? More importantly, if we could see God, be absolutely sure of His existence, would that not devalue, even destroy freely given love from our side? There wouldn't be a single non-believer in the world, but what we would be given would be compelled, nearly extorted. From God's perspective, would that be a worthwhile love, would it be love at all?

        I know that from there we could argue that all my objections would be present in heaven, but maybe earth is the testing ground, the place where we prove that love.

        Maybe I'm blowing soap bubbles, but that's how this question works out for me. I accept that if God exists, this is the way it has to be.

        • Caravelle

          I don't know, those questions remind me of the litany of Gendlin:

          What is true is already so.
          Owning up to it doesn't make it worse.
          Not being open about it doesn't make it go away.
          And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
          Anything untrue isn't there to be lived.
          People can stand what is true,
          for they are already enduring it.

          If we knew that we'd go to Heaven when we died (which already assumes universalism), would that devalue life? Or would it make life even more precious because we knew we only had one shot at these Earthly experiences, the memories of which we'd then get to live with for all eternity (as opposed to having one shot but after that it's all gone)? Would it make us braver and happier, knowing that if worst comes to worst we will be comforted? How to the people who believe in the afterlife feel about it, do they think the concept devalues their lives?

          Whichever reaction we had, wouldn't it be the appropriate reaction to have to reality, and wouldn't we be better off having that appropriate reaction ? I mean, what if it did lead people to kill themselves - your assumption seems to be that this would be bad, but why ? If Heaven was real and we were going there ? And if it is bad couldn't God make His disapproval of suicide known (as the Catholic Church already does) ?

          Would it devalue the love freely given to God... Knowing God exists doesn't force anyone to love Him, so the love would still be freely given. I know the argument is that God is so lovable that knowing him would lead everyone to love him, but again... Gendlin's litany. If God is that lovable, how could it be wrong for everyone to love him ? Does knowing their child devalue a parent's love ? Does knowing their parent devalue the child's ? When two people fall in love at first sight, get to know each other and still love each other after fifty years married, does their fifty-years-on love have less value because they know each other better ? Actually isn't it the other way around ? Ethically it is considered that the freest choices are made in the absence of constraint and in the possession of all the relevant information; hence why consent must be informed. Why wouldn't this principle apply to the most important truths there are and the most important decision we could make ?

          Love aside I know there's also an argument that if God existed our actions would all be affected by this, endangering our free will; leaving aside the question of why that would be a bad thing, if that's so I wonder why God would reveal himself at all. He could inspire ethicists to argue for the correct moral positions and explain why they're good, so that people would do them because they're good, not in the hopes of eternal reward or fear of eternal punishment. Heck, he could instill an innate sense of morality into us.

          Maybe I'm blowing soap bubbles, but that's how this question works out for me. I accept that if God exists, this is the way it has to be.

          Thank you for answering (and hope you're okay with me blowing soap bubbles back :)). When you used the word "intolerable" I was expecting something different but I guess tolerance is a very personal thing...

          • Great Silence

            All (well, most

          • Doug Shaver

            I meet my wife every time I come home. To what am I being coerced?

          • Great Silence

            That's an unfair analogy. Your wife is a wonderful relationship, maybe the strongest and best one in your life, but it's still a relationship with another human being. For human relationships to work we need to know each other. For a divine relationship with our Creator I believe that hiddeness is crucial, at least while we are alive, for the reasons I have set out in my earlier discussion with Caravelle. A better analogy would be to ask you what your relationship with your wife would be like if ever you felt obliged or coerced to love her.

            Andre

          • Krakerjak

            But we can meet with him in person every day, if not at the mall but in church on the altar in the Eucharist or Holy Communion. The church is pretty clear that His presence in the Eucharist is real....not "hidden".

            http://cosmictransit.blogspot.ca/p/blog-page_94.html

          • Great Silence

            Indeed, but faith is still necessary.

          • Doug Shaver

            For a divine relationship with our Creator I believe that hiddeness is crucial

            It's also mighty convenient for apologists.

            A better analogy would be to ask you what your relationship with your wife would be like if ever you felt obliged or coerced to love her.

            That would not be an analogy with anything. It would be an impossibility. My behavior can be coerced, but not my feelings. I cannot feel anything toward any being, human or otherwise, whose existence I doubt.

          • Great Silence

            In my view the hiddeness of God is perfectly consistent with either Him not being there, or being there but wisely choosing not to be a brute, given fact.

          • Doug Shaver

            In calling it "hiddenness of God," you beg the question. I call it absence of evidence.

            I would say it is perfectly consistent with either his not being there or being there but totally indifferent to whether anyone knows he is there, and either hypothesis requires fewer presuppositions than yours.

          • Great Silence

            There is no question begging. This article sets out one explanation for what we experience. Your explanations offer other possibilities. We just seem to be less dogmatic about our views than what you are.

          • Doug Shaver

            There is no question begging.

            Oh? You mean God could be hiding even if he didn't exist?

          • Great Silence

            You can surely do better than that. Your sarcasm isn't adding anything of value.

          • Doug Shaver

            Your sarcasm isn't adding anything of value.

            Neither is your unsupported speculation about who is being more or less dogmatic.

          • Doug Shaver

            That's an unfair analogy

            Then what point were you trying to make when you said, "I would feel a bit coerced if we could meet Jesus at the mall every Sunday"?

            A better analogy would be to ask you what your relationship with your wife would be like if ever you felt obliged or coerced to love her.

            If X cannot happen, it is irrelevant to ask what would follow if X were to happen. Feelings cannot be coerced. Only behavior can be coerced.

            For a divine relationship with our Creator I believe that hiddeness is crucial, at least while we are alive, for the reasons I have set out in my earlier discussion with Caravelle.

            OK. Forthwith, my responses to that post.

            if the whole world knew that (say) the Catholic God existed, and that He awaits us when we die, would that not devalue life immensely?

            I don't see why.

            We would all be rushing through life to get to the good part, that is if we had that certainty.

            If this life is not the good part, should we deceive ourselves into thinking that it is? If anything devalues our lives in this world, it is your doctrine that they are nothing but a preparation for our lives in the world to come.

            Would it not encourage suicide?

            That would depend on how much of the church's teaching were to be made unambiguously clear. If the Catholic God were to appear to me, in such a way that I was absolutely convinced it was him, and if he said to me, "If you kill yourself, you will burn in hell forever," then I can guarantee you that I will not kill myself.

            More importantly, if we could see God, be absolutely sure of His existence, would that not devalue, even destroy freely given love from our side?

            You have to rephrase this. I can't make enough sense of it to formulate a response. It seems just incoherent to me.

            There wouldn't be a single non-believer in the world, but what we would be giving would be compelled, nearly extorted.

            If it is not extortion when we don't know what's happening, then it doesn't become extortion when we do know.

            From God's perspective, would that be a worthwhile love, would it be love at all?

            You tell me. I'm not the one claiming to know what God's perspective is. I'm just asking why I should the believe the church when the church tells me that it knows what God's perspective is.

          • Great Silence

            I did not say, or try to imply, that I know what God's perspective is. We are all speculating wildly, that's what makes these discussions so fun (potentially). I also just posted a reply to Caravelle where I make it clear that I do not have all or most of the answers, and that I struggle with my faith. I value these debates, as it makes me test my own assumptions and ideas. Like in that thread, I thank you also for the opportunity.

            Maybe God is hidden, or busy, or thinking up a better plan than evolution. Maybe you're right and the skies are empty.

          • Doug Shaver

            I did not say, or try to imply, that I know what God's perspective is.

            OK. Most apologists I have talked with seem to think they know very well what his perspective is.

            I also just posted a reply to Caravelle where I make it clear that I do not have all or most of the answers, and that I struggle with my faith. I value these debates, as it makes me test my own assumptions and ideas. Like in that thread, I thank you also for the opportunity.

            I appreciate your candor.

          • Caravelle

            Do you have any insight as to why you'd feel coerced ? And coerced to do what ? (I assumed "to love God" given the context, but when I imagine meeting Jesus in the mall I can picture other alternatives)

          • Great Silence

            Let me try. If God was a brute fact, someone that we could see or at least hear, someone that has become a fact of life, with no doubt, I would probably feel compelled to love Him, dedicate my life to Him, do as He says, because He's there, we see Him every Sunday. I don't mean that it would primarily be a negative experience, but I would probably think that my actions are expected of me, that this is the right way to do things. Even if God should tell us to go ahead and not mind Him, I would still feel that He now has to be recognized, loved even.

            As it is at the moment, I believe that my love is freely given - because I have a choice.

          • Caravelle

            So if you knew God existed you'd feel compelled to love Him, dedicate your life to Him, do as He says. Wouldn't this be due to God's nature and the fact of His existence ? i.e. wouldn't you act this way because this would be, in your mind, the appropriate reaction to God existing and being God.

            If so, why doesn't believing God exists cause the same feeling?

          • Great Silence

            Faith is less certain. God's existence is not certain. Love is freely given, or withheld. If God was a proven fact, the choice would either be non-existent or severely limited.

          • Caravelle

            Somebody who doesn't believe God exists isn't making a choice to withhold their love; it's impossible to love something one doesn't think exists. And if it is possible, then the question of loving God is independent of God's existence and our beliefs on the subject.

            And if one does believe that God exists, then it seems to me the choice to give or withhold one's love for God is the same one whatever one's level of certainty. You seem to disagree but I still don't understand why.

            For example, can you imagine yourself in your current state of believing God exists, nevertheless choosing to withhold your love for Him ? If so, for what reasons do you think you'd do this, and how would it be different if you were certain He existed ?

          • Great Silence

            I accept that because of God's hiddeness that makes it a perfectly rational choice to conclude that God does not exist, and to then live accordingly. It must follow on my understanding of that hiddeness. It also has, I would argue, fatal consequences for the angry God theory.

            If you believe that God exists you still do so on faith. Any love and dedication given to God under those circumstances would be freely given, and hence valuable. I would argue that even then the option of withholding your love is still a necessary option, and that the recognition of that option simply adds to the value of the love that does get given in the end.

            I can indeed anticipate myself withholding my love even though, on faith, I may believe in God's existence. As I moved from nearly ten years of dedicated Buddhist practice I eventually formed a very theoretical acceptance of God's existence, but still convinced myself that He was a deist God, or that I was wrong. Again, faith makes all of these options possible, while God as brute, proven fact would in my view make matters a lot more settled, decided.

            I know Christians overuse analogies, and I dislike them generally, but I suppose it's like if you were a very rich guy, you would want your wife to fall in love with you before she knew about all your money. Ok, analogy fail.

            I have friends who do concede the strong possibility of God's existence and still choose not to act on that view, and again, I accept that as a valid response.

            If I had certainty that God existed, with absolutely no faith involved, I would feel compelled to love Him. But, seeing that we are speculating so far and wide, maybe we should try to see it from God's point of view. Maybe he prefers our love without us being certain of his existence. Like a rich guy :)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It also has, I would argue, fatal consequences for the angry God theory.

            Not at all. The angry God just withholds his wrath until after we die. His hiddenness just makes him more capricious and more unjust.

            Regardless, the angry God theory is used to show that the Abrahamic God does not exist - us atheists don't believe that there is an Abrahamic God or that he is angry.

          • Great Silence

            Him not existing would have an influence on his anger, I agree.

          • Caravelle

            Thank you for answering my questions and helping me understand your point of view !

            If you believe that God exists you still do so on faith.

            Nevertheless it implies being of the opinion that God exists, and acting in accordance with a mental model of the world that includes a specific God, no ?

            I can indeed anticipate myself withholding my love even though, on faith, I may believe in God's existence. As I moved from nearly ten years of dedicated Buddhist practice I eventually formed a very theoretical acceptance of God's existence, but still convinced myself that He was a deist God, or that I was wrong. Again, faith makes all of these options possible, while God as brute, proven fact would in my view make matters a lot more settled, decided.

            This example however isn't of you choosing to withhold your love from the God you presently think exist, but of having different beliefs about God that entail different actions regarding whether to love Him or not. Beliefs that you "convinced yourself" of, though.

            Are you saying that the choice in whether to love God can be conflated with the choice of what to believe about God ?

            I know Christians overuse analogies, and I dislike them generally, but I suppose it's like if you were a very rich guy, you would want your wife to fall in love with you before she knew about all your money. Ok, analogy fail.

            The analogy does have many issues. We could talk about how the rich guy here is worried about the wife not really loving him, but God knows people's hearts. We could talk about how a power imbalance can complicate love, but this is true whether or not the second party knows about it. We could talk about the rich guy's desire for a more "pure" love doesn't trump his wife's right to know what she's getting into, and that by lying to her he's proving his own "love" to be rather selfish. We could also point out that the rich guy would actually lie about his wealth in this scenario, not leave coy hints to his true wealth all over the place and refuse to give straight answers when his wife asks him about it.

            I have friends who do concede the strong possibility of God's existence and still choose not to act on that view, and again, I accept that as a valid response.

            Thinking there's a strong possibility something is true doesn't mean believing it is true, so I'm not sure what "not acting on that view" entails. Either way surely God would know which people believe He exist and are pretending not to to withhold their love, and which people genuinely don't believe He exists (regardless of which under-50% probability they estimate the odds of His existing are).

            If I had certainty that God existed, with absolutely no faith involved, I would feel compelled to love Him.

            How can love be compelled though ?

          • Great Silence

            You have some good questions there, and I certainly don't have all or even most of the answers. This is all a bit intuitive for me, when we unpack it like this then I suppose we get to the faith part.

            I've been struggling a lot with my faith this last year and a bit, so it's good to open the windows like this. Thank you.

          • Caravelle

            Cool ! Thank you for answering as much as you could; I hope I didn't upset you, if you've been struggling with your faith. If it helps, I'm not sure what the answers are here either. (I mean, I don't believe in God so that's not an issue, but I'm not particularly confident that the questions I raised about your specific arguments don't have excellent answers I haven't thought of. It's not a question I've discussed much with believers before)

          • Great Silence

            I prefer to drag my faith out into the sunlight. If it survives and grows, great, if it doesn't, great.

        • George

          about your example of everyone knowing the Catholic God exists: if you were wary of what that would result in, do you think there should be limits on evangelization? Would it be possible for an apologist to be *too* convincing? Would it be good to tone down all the articles purporting to show proofs of gods existence?

          • Great Silence

            I wouldn't think that such an approach need limit evangelization at all, as that simply seeks to transfer such faith as we have already. There is still no absolute certainty. it is that complete certainty that, in my view, would be the problem.

        • Marc Riehm

          What about the untold billions of people who, throughout history, lived their lives without having ever properly heard of the methods of Christian salvation? What was the point of that?

          • Great Silence

            The Church has a long answer to that. I believe that God fully understands that. Maybe Christians through the ages could have done a better job of evangelizing. But I'm the wrong guy to ask about that, I don't worship an angry God.

          • Marc Riehm

            I'm sorry, but what do you mean by, "God fully understands that."? And by, "I don't worship an angry God."?

          • Great Silence

            I'm trying to say that their lack of knowledge of God will not count against them, they will not be judged on that. God, in my understanding, is not "out to get us". If those people lived good lives, by their lights, that would be enough.

            I hope we're not getting off topic with this.

          • Marc Riehm

            I don't think it is off-topic, because the point I'm going after is that the supposed hiddenness of God is a double-edged sword. The argument is not universal. For those who are immersed in a Christian society, it might make some kind of sense to deny them heaven should they reject God, for they've heard the message and they've had every opportunity to embrace God.

            But for those who lived, or still live, in highly-non-Christian societies , it does not make sense. Why was He so completely hidden from them, for so very long? Why does He remain so obscure, for so many?

            And then you get into all kinds of other theological problems. Okay, so God is merciful and will not condemn to hell those who have not heard the message, leaving only their goodness as the basis for eternal judgment. But at what point has a potential convert learned enough of Christianity so that (s)he has now moved from the realm of being judged by goodness to the realm of being judged by their belief?

            And would it not be better - far better - to NOT convert the ignorant? By converting them, you move them to the realm of being judged on their beliefs from that of being judged by their personal merit. How many good people have been damned to hell by this process?

          • Great Silence

            The Church has a very long response to your concerns. Can I suggest that you have a look at Fr. Robert Barron's work on this, including the YouTube videos?

            At a very basic level - is the fact that millions of people have not heard about God, thousands of years after revelation, to be placed on God's tab, or are we Christians to blame for that? Maybe if we spend our time and money on less war and more helping and teaching those groups there wouldn't be any such groups left.

            Maybe God is ok with people coming to him via their own religions. Have a look at Shusaku Endo's "Deep River".

          • Marc Riehm

            I mentioned pre-Columbian Americans because there were more than 1400 years between Christ's death and the arrival of Christianity in the Americas. Men cannot be blamed for not having the requisite technology or understanding.

            I appreciate your open viewpoint about other religions, but I don't believe that's the canonical view. I have no doubt that apologetics have been leveled against this issue. But I would prefer to discuss them here.

          • Great Silence

            As far as the Canonical position is concerned the rather nuanced position can be found in CCC 839-843. Several popes and authors have weighed in on the position, and here we see greater differences of opinion between say JPII v Pope Benedict v Pope Francis.

            I would say that even on the canonical position these groups are not blamed.

          • Marc Riehm

            Thanks - I just looked up that section of the Catechism. The relevant paragraphs are 846-848. In 846 I read, "they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it."

            While the CCC does not delve into the nuances, I believe my "realm" criticism, above, is valid.

          • Great Silence

            Yes, well ... Let's just say that I should not be appointed as the Church's spokesman on that topic.

          • Caravelle

            Maybe if we spend our time and money on less war and more helping and
            teaching those groups there wouldn't be any such groups left.

            This was a significant part of the rationale for colonization.

          • Great Silence

            Ostensibly so. I would think that was at the bottom of the actual to-do list however.
            By now, if we really wanted to, everyone could have been informed.

          • Caravelle

            For something at the bottom of the to do list they sure achieved remarkable success.

          • Great Silence

            Mostly, yes.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            But it made for an excellent excuse to pillage other civilizations, destroy their wealth, and obliterate their culture.

          • Great Silence

            Evidently, those things happened. History is quite clear on that. But we should also be clear that there were many reasons for expansive colonialism, of which evangelization was but a small aspect.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I think wealth was the primary motivation, but Christianity was the primary justification.

          • Great Silence

            I'm not aware of any studies to that effect. I cannot, in fact, think of a single example where a colonial power claimed that evangelization / Christianity was their primary justification. Can you?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The Church has a very long response to your concerns. Can I suggest that you have a look at Fr. Robert Barron's work on this, including the YouTube videos?

            Have you read Augustine, Aquinas, Jerome, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the evangelists, or read the messages of approved apparitions like Fatima? I would say that until modern theology the church's history has been pessimism.

            With the exception of the Catechism they are all quite clear that many people go to hell. Indeed, they seem to believe that most people go to hell. Aquinas did not believe that invincible ignorance was a thing - it was not enough to live a good life. The CCC states that various minor sins are actually grievous and can cast serious doubt about the future of one's soul.

          • Great Silence

            Yes, I have read those, and worse, including some modern Church proponents of the idea. There are however also many authors, old and new, who argue against the hardline position. As I have said before though, I will not defend the old fire and brimstone argument.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Why doesn't the Church reject the hardline position, instead of tacitly support it?

            The CCC and most tools of Catechesis comes closer to the hardline position than the other. The examination of conscience, the mass, and the Catholic sacraments of baptism, confession, and extreme unction all support the hardline position. I don't really see much evidence in Catholicism for the "everyone is saved" position. If you have it I would be very interested. I think it stems from philosophical considerations of who God is.

          • Great Silence

            Hans Urs Von Balthazar wrote a compelling book ("Dare we hope..") wherein he very effectively shows that the position of the hardliners (St. Augustine et al) was not the only position. Referring to Church fathers like Origen, Gregory of Nyassa and others, he clearly shows that the position even then was more nuanced than the fire and brimstone crowd would have us believe. The book really is well worth the read. These latter fathers adhered to a near Universalism. Of course, nowadays the Church hardly speaks of the topic, and there are countless modern authors trying to make sense of the controversial subject. I would certainly agree with you that the catechism and several specific pronouncements would firmly place us in Augustinian country. Fr. Robert Barron has done quite a few takes on it also, incl. on YouTube.

          • Phil

            Hey Ignatius Riley,

            The Church has actually rejected a hardline position. This was recently most explicitly done at Vatican II. I will try and dig up the specific document. In the end, the Church has always said that salvation only comes through Jesus Christ (salvation can't come from something that doesn't exist, or that can't actually grant salvation! As that is simply the rational position).

            The Church says that it is always possible for a person that doesn't know Christ, or was never presented with Christ to come to salvation through him. e.g., If the person would have been presented with Christ in a proper manner, then they would have come to know Christ. We can't know a person's heart in this sense for sure, but God can.

            The person that is most in danger of never entering the glory of God, is the person that explicitly chooses to deny and turn away from Jesus, and from God the Father as well. We have free will, and God will give us what we truly desire. If we do not truly want to be with him, he will not force us to be with him. This complete cutting of ourself off from God's love (fullness of God's love=heaven) is what we call "hell". That is why it is true to say that heaven or hell starts right here in this life, both in which we are choosing and in the experience of God's love we allow in this life!

  • Krakerjak

    Is there a new topic on Strange Notions?

    • Mike

      methinks doth protest too much ;)

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Is this supposed to be an insult?

      • Krakerjak

        No! Some people on both SN and EN need to lighten up and sharpen their funny bone.
        Those who understood my history with EN perhaps would see the humor in it. I once posted a comment to Andrew on EN pertaining to the fact that since EN existed to address the articles on SN....and EN was sometimes a few days late in putting the most recent article up for comments. I got banned for that.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Okay. An inside joke.

          • Krakerjak

            Okay. An inside joke.

            Yah....you could say that. But since you opened the can of worms, I also did not garner any love over there for Krakerjak having posted the following comment on EN.

            "Just am fed up with the intolerance and contempt shown to theists and even some nontheists and agnostics. Oh well...this should give them something to chew on other than theists like Jim, Peter, Sean and others. Sayonora."

      • Michael Murray

        As Andrew can't post here let me just point out that the history of moderation actions taken at EN which Krakerjak aka Ray Vorkin is complaining about can be found at

        http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/the-moderation-actions-thread.html

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Thanks but EN is too toxic for me.

  • GCBill

    Just like a good 2nd grade teacher who communicates the same point in myriad ways equally accessible to her classroom filled with visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners, God appeals to man according to each of his faculties.

    The second grade teacher has his/her students' natures as givens to work with. God has the power to create beings of various natures in any logically-possible configuration. The two are not analogous, and the way in which the analogy breaks down impacts the strength of your counterargument.

    Suppose God wants to create beings who know and freely choose to love Him. He can create them with all kinds of limitations on how they can acquire knowledge, and given that choice it's reasonable for God to work within those limitations when revealing Himself. But that's just pushing the hiddenness argument back a stage: why choose to create beings with those epistemic limitations in the first place? God is just setting obstacles in place for His eventual goal, obstacles which are likely to lead some people into a permanent state of separation from God.

    So, rather than zapping all brains with an intuitive knowledge of his existence — an act that would risk dehumanizing the object of his love in a certain sense — God chooses to enter the sanctuary of each individual heart in a manner that is profoundly personal and distinctly human.

    I dunno, the zapping sounds pretty nice to me. Possessing clear knowledge of something doesn't force you to act in a certain way; if it did, informed consent would be the greatest of all evils. On the contrary, possession of knowledge makes our choices more free, since we're able to more effectively discern what is good for us. I'm pretty sure my own conception of freedom isn't too far off of the Catholic one:

    "Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought." – Pope John Paul II

    If worshiping God is what we ought to do, then explicit knowledge cannot dehumanize us in the slightest. Quite the opposite – it enables us to realize what we ought to do, which is a necessary precondition for freedom.

  • Doug Shaver

    I think that what atheists take to be an argument against the existence of God actually shows the deep wisdom of God’s chosen manner of making himself known.

    But of course. If you start with the assumption of God's existence and perfect wisdom, it necessary follows that any actual situation exemplifies God's perfect wisdom.

    So, rather than zapping all brains with an intuitive knowledge of his existence — an act that would risk dehumanizing the object of his love in a certain sense

    I used to believe without my brain having to be zapped, so it must be possible for me to believe again without having my brain zapped.

    And so, far from being a strike against God’s goodness, the economy of revelation is, I contend, tailor-made for human maturation.

    If a moral imperative says that something must be done by any means necessary, it is a false economy that rejects some methods in order to minimize costs.

    For instance, in one of the more extreme cases — casual sex — we observe how moving too quickly can short-circuit the normal course of growth in trust, dependence, friendship, and love.

    Is that supposed to be an analogy? With what? When two people have sex, they at least have no doubt about each other's existence.

    In so doing, we lay the foundation for true communion and new vistas of shared love.

    The one who wants the foundation has to begin putting it in place. I can have no communion with, or love of, a person of whose very existence I am in doubt.

    And if you say, "God has already put the foundation in place," I have only your word for that. If God wants a relationship with me, he'll have to do more than send messengers. He'll have to speak for himself.

  • For some, the more God would disclose the more his disclosure would be demanded “…they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Luke 16:31

    • Doug Shaver

      they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead

      So says a someone who thinks we ought to believe that a man rose from the dead just because somebody says a man rose from the dead.

      Just because I'm not convinced by what convinces you doesn't mean nothing would convince me.

    • Doug Shaver

      For some, the more God would disclose the more his disclosure would be demanded

      I am demanding nothing from God. I make all my demands, if you must call them that, of those mortal people who tell me what I must believe about God.

      • Hi Doug,
        Seems you're not part of the "some" I was speaking of.

        • Doug Shaver

          You were not specific about the population you were taking some of. I've heard that same complaint from other apologists who, when they said "some people," meant "all unbelievers."

  • David Nickol

    I think this is a pertinent story:

    ‘Boy Who Came Back From Heaven’ actually didn’t; books recalled

    Tyndale House, a major Christian publisher, has announced that it will stop selling “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven,” by Alex Malarkey and his father, Kevin Malarkey.

    The best-selling book, first published in 2010, purports to describe what Alex experienced while he lay in a coma after a car accident when he was 6 years old. The coma lasted two months, and his injuries left him paralyzed, but the subsequent spiritual memoir – with its assuring description of “miracles, angels, and life beyond This World” – became part of a popular genre of “heavenly tourism.”

    Earlier this week, Alex recanted his testimony about the afterlife. In an open letter to Christian bookstores posted on the Pulpit and Pen Web site, Alex states flatly: “I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.”

    Referring to the injuries that continue to make it difficult for him to express himself, Alex writes, “Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short. … I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.”

    Thursday evening, Todd Starowitz, public relations director of Tyndale House, told The Washington Post: “Tyndale has decided to take the book and related ancillary products out of print.” . . . .

    • Caravelle

      Is this the one where the father kept exploiting his son's story to the hilt while the mother took on the actual work of caring for the boy, and the whole thing just made their lives so much more difficult ?

      If that's them then I don't know what took the publisher so long.

    • Great Silence

      The lot of them should be charged with a series of criminal offences.

  • Charleston George

    Too much is weighed on the scales about God and what his intentions are for us,so much so, that humanity has found itself more than capable of guiding a heavenly vessel created out of the DNA of an omnipotent being ."Take the helm and steer the ship of conviction to convince another of their salvation......Wall the bride in the liabilities of the world and turn or burn condemnations .Bag the souls for a great cause.and alienate those who truly need the love of Christ.Convince man that priesthood recognition is the only way to God "my version is the right version..wait here is a version for you Oh my God I have an algebraic equation to prove what I say is true!!!!" Religion is man trying to reach God(Babylon),Relationship with God is God coming to man..SIN means without,not EVIL Leave it to a ritualistic Pharisee to ruin the person needing divine acceptance and affirmation.Or to give the individual who believes he or she is the next best hybrid of primordial ooze many accolades for their own intellectual prowess .I only exist because of my own evolutionary efforts and attributes.Way to go!!!you sure crawled through the muck better than the rest of us!!!Special genetics..we need to clone you.!!!You can be a product of intelligent design with a purpose...or a squirt of semen evolving on a non purposeful journey.How screwed up is it that many died in the Holy wars??? That people were tortured with fire and pain until they professed Christianity? That pious individuals squandered every dime they could from the poor in the name of God.How could God let my father touch my genitals???How could God let my Mother not love me and give me away???How could God let others be so cruel to say mean things about me professing Christianity???How could God let suffering occur in third world nations???Imperialism???,Capitalism??? Rain forest depletion??? If you are an atheist and deny yourself a relationship with your creator based upon an earthly aspect you surly are not claiming all that you are entitled to.What God does and what happens are inconsequential, if you do not have a relationship with him..Therefore without a relationship with God...You can only speak on how great or bad your life is without him . If you do not believe in him....do not blame him. I myself am not just sperm.I was created with purpose,We can speak life or death.I think speaking life validates the worthiness of all.You are great,way to go,good job i am proud of you.God is the model of the perfect father and if someone is not validating your human spirit and praising you and lifting you up and gently correcting you when you are wrong, but not stripping you of your value,regardless of their title, the collar they wear or what they profess......they are not speaking on behalf of God..

  • Peter

    God wants us to obey his commandments because we love him. If God appeared in all his omnipotence we would obey him out of fear, not love, and that would defeat the object.

    • Caravelle

      So why would God reveal himself at all? Why tell us about potentially scary things like Hell ?

      Looking at Mike's comments right at the bottom about how we should hope all will be saved but "we can't presume" - that kind of walking-on-eggshells uncertainty is very conducive to fear in human psychology. But since God is love, and loves us, and wants us all saved to the point of sending His Son to die for us... Why wouldn't knowing this cause us to obey such a wonderful being out of love ? Isn't that how believers who do think God is like this react to this knowledge ?

      • Peter

        Hell is locked from the inside not the outside. It is we who would confine ourselves to hell, not be forcefully confined there by God. Therefore hell is scary only insofar as what we are capable of is scary.

        Many people who believe God loves us do obey God out of love. The fear such people have is not fear of damnation but fear of offending God whom they love.

        • Caravelle

          I said potentially scary. However you interpret the doctrine of Hell, the fact is a lot of scary, fear-inducing things have been said about it - up to and including by Jesus himself in the Gospels. Why say things that anybody who understand people would know will induce fear, if one doesn't want to be feared ?

          And if such fears (of being cast into a burning furnace where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth for not believing the correct things, for example) are unjustified, then wouldn't God revealing Himself reduce those fears, not increase them ?

          Many people who believe God loves us do obey God out of love. The fear that such people have is not fear of damnation but fear of offending God whom they love.

          Exactly. Do you believe that if God revealed himself your love for Him would change, and become based on the kind of fear God doesn't want ?

          You also didn't address my point about uncertainty - and how it relates to ever-present fear lurking in the back of one's mind.

          • Peter

            You are conflating two types of fear. The fear of damnation in the next life on the one hand and, on the other, the fear of being faced in this life with an omnipotent God.

            As for uncertainty, yes it does exist even among those who love God and do not wish to offend him. This is because such people are only human and prone to temptation. They are unsure that they can go through life without offending God.

            It is by constantly offending God that we ultimately end up locking ourselves in hell.

          • Caravelle

            You are conflating two types of fear. The fear of damnation in the next life on the one hand and, on the other, the fear of being faced in this life with an omnipotent God.

            I don't see where I conflate those two. In my first two paragraphs I'm talking about the fear of damnation in the next life, and that's also what I mean by "the kind of fear God doesn't want".

            But I guess I must be misinterpreting your point then - you meant that the "kind of fear God doesn't want" is the fear of being faced with an omnipotent God ? But you seemed to say that people who believe in God and follow Him out of love do feel this fear. So how does keeping His existence hidden improve things, if the kind of fear He wants to avoid by not revealing Himself to all already occurs in those who do believe in Him ? Hence my original question, why reveal Himself at all ?

        • Doug Shaver

          Hell is locked from the inside not the outside.

          Can it be unlocked from the inside?

          • Peter

            No, it's a permanent state. The very sentiment which confines one to hell prevents one from wanting to unlock it.

          • Great Silence

            Why does one not get a second chance, based on the new facts? Why not a third chance? A review board every billion years? Why not use rebirth and teach you a lesson that way? Why must anything be permanent? Who created hell with the bolt on the inside? If Jesus loved us so much that he descended into hell, why can't he do so again? Have we asked him? Why not skip earth completely and get straight to the good stuff? Crazy, huh?

            This "hell is locked from the inside" is offensive, illogical bollocks, and we should toss it into the, um, fire.

          • Doug Shaver

            And what sentiment is that, specifically?

    • Doug Shaver

      God wants us to obey his commandments because we love him.

      Is that what he told you?

      • Peter

        Although it says so in John 14:15, it also makes a lot of sense. Love is a quality that can't be forced or coerced, no matter how powerful the enforcer or how weak the coerced. If an all-powerful Creator wanted his creatures to love him he would not display his omnipotence, otherwise at the back of their minds there would always lurk the fear of what he could do. And there can be no love with fear.

        • Doug Shaver

          If an all-powerful Creator wanted his creatures to love him he would not display his omnipotence,

          He would not display it, but he would reveal it? He would, in some way, make us aware of it?

  • Marc Riehm

    The bible is full of the miraculous. Full of stories of the kinds of events that, were I to witness one, would cause me to become deeply religious.

    But it just never happens. In 53 years I have never witnessed anything that cannot be simply and fully explained within the confines of the material world.

    Another option would be to accept the stories and theologies of others. But I see no reason to favour any particular branch of religion over any other - all of them can be reduced to blind faith and irrationality at some level.

    And so I wait.

    • Great Silence

      Wait here with us, Marc.
      All the best with the wait.

      • Marc Riehm

        I wait, and I disbelieve.

        • Great Silence

          Understood.

  • Marc Riehm

    It is possible to make an argument like this if you possess a Christian worldview and you come from a society which is largely Christian. It serves to rationalize the dichotomy between "I believe in God" and "I cannot observe god". And there is a certain logic to it, because, were god to manifest him/her/itself unambiguously to all, it would mark end of history (and the end of this website;).

    But it does only make sense from the inside of a Christian world view. Consider a non-Christian world view - a completely non-Christian worldview. Such as pre-Columbian American societies, or some remote Chinese village or the like. A time and place where Christian missionaries had not yet reached.

    What was the point of there being no Christian revelation to such people? Think of the untold billions who, throughout history, were born, lived, suffered, and died without ever having heard of the Abrahamic God and the everlasting life which supposedly may only be had by holding particular ideas about Him in one's mind?

    God really kept Himself hidden from these people, much to their detriment. It wasn't a matter of, "I cannot observe God, and I struggle to overcome my doubts, but this argument explains why God's lack of tangibility makes sense." They just had, fundamentally, no notion of Him whatsoever. Why? It seems that a little revelation would have been a good thing. And yet there was none.

    • First, I don't think they have no knowledge of God at all. They know God through creation and conscience.

      Second, their lack of knowledge is mostly our fault. We failed to evangelize and so people failed to learn about God through us.

      Thirdly, your argument fails on empirical grounds. Christian societies produce atheists. Really no other societies do. Remote Chinese villages don't have atheists.

      • Marc Riehm

        They know God through creation and conscience - an empty statement. My point was that they had no knowledge that would help them towards salvation.

        I deliberately chose examples which can not be labelled as "our fault", e.g. pre-Columbian Americans. Their lack of knowledge cannot be blamed on Christians.

        Please provide supporting evidence that "really no other societies" "produce atheists". Especially in the light of recent news of Muslim atheists. And Socrates was put to death for atheism about 400 years before Jesus was born. And there are many atheists in Asia, in which monotheism never dominated.

  • Loreen Lee

    What I shall copy here is from an e-mail I am sending to my son. It may seem out of place to the discussion, except for the fact that for me it illustrates that revelation could be considered a continual process. Before we had the 'gifts of the Holy Ghost', the pagan societies attributed even aesthetic insight to the muses. It is common today to talk, for instance, of coincidences, which are characterized as somewhat supernatural, because they often accompany discoveries of fact or 'points of view', etc. without any prior expectation. This however, may not be the entire truth. For the last week or so I have been involved in a new found interest in a specific proof, as well as being most interested in attempting to understand just 'what is happening' on the Continent. Today, while reading the New Advent article posted before, it was another case, of things 'coming together'. Does this not describe what could be considered revelatory of what before was hidden, or not thought about or even considered. The question of how these 'discoveries' come about is of course, another issue, the answer for which I would certainly like to 'discover'. !!! Here's the e-mail I am sending.
    http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/islams-demotion-of-reason

    This article relates to what I am studying now. (thanks to some help of
    another SN commentator, Johnboy) Within the trilogy God the father,
    Will, God the Son Intellect and the Holy Ghost - say order, although
    this concept is rather broad), the primacy is generally within
    Christianity given to the Intellect, may I suggest. However, within
    philosophy since Kant, including Schopenhauer,(Will and Representation,
    i.e. language) Nietzsche, (The Will to Power) and post-modern
    continental philosophy the emphasis is on will/desire over reason.
    That's what this article describes as the basis of Muslim mind.
    Interesting.

    This priority or univocity of will over reason also characterized
    medievalists like Duns Scotus. In the Islamic tradition one 'submits'
    to God, and thus frees his will so that one is not required to be
    submissive to another (human). Relevant to this, 'Jesus preached' that
    the 'way' to the father/The Good Will was through Truth and Beauty,
    i.e. the son and the Holy Ghost/empirical reason? There's that
    'trilogy' again! But Jesus also taught 'submission' to the Will of the
    Father - (The Lord's prayer, the sacrifice of the Eucharist, his body
    and blood), but also held it necessary, I understand, to submit to
    reason and the good of others within an 'ordered' relationship.. Thus I
    do not see a necessary incompatibility between Islam and Christianity.
    The emphasis on reason, for instance, can produce an excessive
    legalism, one of my 'criticisms' of the Catholic Church. But it remains
    difficult to determine what constitutes 'The Good Will' within current
    tradition.

    I shall continue to research the insight reported by Thomas Aquinas, which he said made all his previous knowledge and understanding, seem negligible. Perhaps
    he was referring to his only original 'proof' of God's existence, that
    is the ipse essendi actus, or proof of the 'being' of the Will, as the
    'essence' of 'what is'. .I find it interesting that this possibly is a
    secondary tradition/understanding within Catholicism, even since
    Augustine,. However, although it is possibly most important to remember
    the truth of the Primacy of God's Will to Reason, within the procession
    or downward relationship of 'consciousness' within the depiction of the
    trinity, this is a distinct movement which is contrary to an
    'ascension' found within a growing human understanding of 'morality'.

    This is thus only a revelation of what was previously 'hidden' within the perspective of an individual understanding, but I hope I have made the point that such 'insight' can happen 'all the time'. Thank you.
    ..

    • Krakerjak

      Interesting comment no doubt....can you condense that into a point by point post, leaving out references and links....and just break things down a bit into your own words. Thanks. A few paragraphs should suffice....and then we mortals can begin to unpack what you have said....questions etc. As it is..there is a lot in your post that seems to be meandering, though not without purpose to you I am sure, just too much for me to condense into even ,a general opinion which I have no doubt you are trying to express.

      • Loreen Lee

        l. I did not intend this comment to be in any way related to either a
        'left' or 'right' position regarding freedom of speech. It is not a 'political interpretation' of events.
        2. However, there could be found some conflict between this presentation of differences and similarities between Christian/Islamist positions taken with respect to whether the will or the reason is primary.
        3. Christianity has generally held, I believe that reason need be emphasized. This can be related to 'law', (and even Sharia as well as Natural Law), as well as the 'message of Jesus'.
        4. The will, as associated with God the Father, creation emanation, etc. be given different interpretations, whether it is thought of as will interpreted as the giving of a good will, This would be the downward motion described in the Creed, as a procession or movement of consciousness from will to establishment of reason/law what have you.
        5. This can be confused with will interpreted as 'voluntarism', or a 'selfish' will, or will that is not based on a conscious reasoning process. This could describe an upward motion from reason to will, for instance.
        6. As a response to the article enclosed, I have merely attempted to suggest that the lack of reason attributed to Islam in the article does not mean that Islam and Christianity are ultimately 'incompatible'. Even though their definitions of what constitute law/reason are obviously at variance with one another. (Sharia and Natural Law) both impose a religious interpretation of reason on their faithful.
        7. These interpretations of what constitute a Good Will, may not reflect an 'absolute' understanding of what would constitute a Good Will' of a Supreme Being.
        8. There is a circularity here, as is reflected in the Theodicy arguments of secularists regarding 'contradictions' found within the tri-partite God, etc.that is not included in my comment.
        9. I merely was attempting to note that some Catholic theologians, (my interpretation) have emphasized the priority of God the father, as will, which I interpret to be the primary Islamic focus when it comes to 'defining' God as 'Great'. Both are attempting to 'do God's Will', with however, often horrific consequences, and results.
        10. I continue to read political interpretations of on-going issues which have been particularly dramatic over the last week or so.This involves secular interpretations of what would constitute rational approaches to 'freedom of speech', for instance, as well as whether there is indeed 'real good will' when it comes to racial issues, for example, and power relations, and thus trust that this comparison between Islam and Christian concepts of God will not be related directly to this issue.

        My comment merely expanded on the tri-partite interpretation of God, perhaps unnecessarily. I just get these 'intuitions) that I have made another connection between ideas or events by means which are unexplainable even scientifically. It is these insights that I believe are common to everyone, which can be talked of as revelations, I suggest, as well as the more dramatic theological explanations.

        However, as science, I believe, cannot explain even within a evolutionary context, how such developments (or even evolutions) of consciousness occurs, the religious thesis remains a valid interpretation. This language is expressed in such concepts, as gifts from the Holy Spirit, to being empowered by the 'muse' within ancient texts. I merely was attempting to show that within a more 'mundane' context, revelation could simply be put within the context of being part of the 'learning process', and that every new insight could be thought of as becoming 'closer to God', when it involves a development of good will, and a rational understanding which, to use the language of religion, reflect the reality/ideality of what is understood to constitute the Being of God.

        Hope I did a better job here. I'm obviously not the best medium for expanding on 'revelatory truth's, especially as I am conscious that my attempts to do so merely skim the surface of the issue. It only makes one realize the depths of religious exegesis and hermeneutics, which are often so personal that they cannot be explained within the 'limits'? of language.