1/26/2012 | Share this article: View CommentsBy WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~
"I've never understood how God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion by faith -— it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe." - Jubal Harshaw in Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
According to Christian theology, an invisible god created the universe and sustains and rules it today, making this god the most powerful force in the universe. But, why then is he so hidden from us? We know of many lesser invisible things, such as gravity, electrons, and magnetism, which we have discovered, measured, and described by their effects on visible things, but such evidences of a god are highly ambiguous at best.
Amongst the apologists, there appear to be four main arguments for the “hiddenness” of god: the testimony of the Bible argument, the free will argument, the mysterious ways argument, and the “spiritual sight” argument.
Christian and fence-sitting visitors to this site should think seriously about these arguments, and learn what they can about both sides.
Testimony of the Bible Argument
The essence of this argument is this (from http://www.gotquestions.org/God-hidden.html):
“So why does God no longer speak audibly to us? There are several reasons for this. As noted above, God has already spoken, and His words have been miraculously kept for us down through the ages. Now we have the completed canon of scripture, and we need no further miracles to “validate” the Bible. In His perfect Word is everything we need “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible is complete and is perfectly able to make us “wise to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). . . “
But how can we be sure the Bible is the “word of god?” Surely the fact that the Bible says it is the “word of god” can’t be taken as proof. Anyone could write that. So, what evidence does this gotquestions.com writer offer?
Well, here’s a bit of that evidence: “His first miracle – creation – was the primary evidence of God’s existence and exhibited many of His attributes. From what was made, man could conclude that God is powerful, sovereign, and good.”
There are a number of things wrong with that statement, but let me point out just one of them. The claim is that man could conclude that god is good from what was made. But, is cancer good? How about grotesque birth defects? Are murderous earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes and tornadoes good? It could be argued that nature is trying very hard to kill us. Why should we infer from this that god is good?
Personally, I think the very best argument against the Bible being the word of god is the enormous number of obvious tall tales in it. For example, there are talking snakes and jackasses, a magical fruit tree, 900 year-old men, a wooden boat which could carry multiple samples of all the animals on earth, and a man who walked on water, calmed a storm with a command, made food materialize, healed people with a touch, etc., etc. There is no evidence in the world today, which anyone can point to, that would prove any of these claims, not one. Perhaps these stories read like myth and legend because that’s what they are. After all, that is the simplest explanation, in keeping with Occam’s Razor.
Free Will Argument
It is often argued that if god were to clearly show himself, and prove his existence, that would remove our free will in the matter. My short version response is . . . so what? I have no free will in the matter of gravity or hunger, either. I know they exist. So what? That knowledge helps me to survive in this world, so why isn’t that a good thing? Why should we accept that a lack of knowledge about something is a good thing? This seems to be an all too common claim when it comes to religion.
One writer (at http://www.seekerstrove.com/hidden.html) argues: “If God were to reveal himself in his awesome glory who would not come? All would fall on their faces, trembling in terror. Do you think that God wants a personal relationship with people who came to him because they were afraid of him? What God wants from you is your love.” This is clearly contradicted by Matthew 10:28, where Jesus says: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” If Jesus isn’t saying in this passage that we should fear god, then what the hell is he saying? There is also Proverbs 9:10: "The fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom." And if god wants us to fear him, then why doesn’t he prove his existence to us unambiguously. After all, I am not going to be afraid of something I don’t believe to exist. And what kind of love is it that fears the object of that love, anyway? How does one bring himself to love a being that he fears? That is not a healthy love.
Why should the knowledge of the existence of a god who can hurt us be hidden? What could be more important for us to know? Why should it be a secret? Is it because it wouldn’t be a proper guessing game without this hiddenness? Is it that god simply wants to turn our salvation into a guessing game? Is god some kind of child? And if the New Testament god is the one true god, then why are the cards stacked so heavily against people who live outside of Europe and the Americas? Isn’t this unfair? So, god not only wants us to guess, but he stacks the cards against most of us? Why does this sound more like the work of a Satan than a god who loves mankind and justice?
How can we take seriously the argument that god wants to remain hidden when there is so much contrary evidence in the Bible? God spoke with many people in the Bible; Abraham, Noah, Job, and others. Why wasn’t their free will important? Also, god was once so anxious to show himself off and spread his message that he came down as Jesus and appeared to thousands of people, performing all sorts of miracles. What about their free will? Why is it important to preserve our free will in the matter, but not theirs? The free will argument is clearly chock-full of holes.
Mysterious Ways Argument
To my mind, this is perhaps the silliest argument of all. Essentially, this argument says that if there is something that makes no sense about a god’s ways, such as his hiddenness, then we should just ignore it, that we’re just not sufficiently intelligent to make judgments about such things. Does it ever occur to the proponent of this argument that he is just taking someone else’s word that he is dumb?
The faithful tell us that we can’t know the mind of god - that our puny minds can’t hope to understand him. Yet, this god supposedly wants us to believe in and worship him (or so the Bible claims). So this ultra intelligence, who created us and knows our every thought, can’t make himself understood by us? Does this really make sense? How could anyone expect to sell me a philosophy, a car, or a religion, if he can’t speak my language and make a sales pitch that I can understand?
Worse still, because most believers are satisfied with the “mysterious ways” claim, we have a world of hundreds of religions and thousands of sects, and we argue and fight and kill each other over who’s right. How can it make sense to infer from this that a real god, who loves people, is in charge? And how can I know which god’s “mysterious ways” I should believe? Should I accept Allah’s mysterious ways, or Ganesh’s, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s? If a god doesn’t have to make sense, then how can I possibly choose which is the real god, or even if there is one? Would a real god expect me to just guess, or take someone else’s word for it, that he’s the real one?
In the end, the mysterious ways argument is a red herring, designed to take our attention away from the nonsensical claim that there’s a god who desperately wants our worship, yet stays carefully hidden, providing only the most ambiguous signs. But it is the handiest argument of all. When the believer is pushed into a corner by logic, he can pull out this argument to show he is no longer interested in logical argument. Maybe believers are willing to accept that they’re too dumb to spot nonsense, but I’m not.
The “Spiritual Sight” Argument
According to this argument, god is not hidden at all, but is known through the human spirit. Here’s one explanation of this theory (from http://groups.northwestern.edu/christians/Why_is_God.html):
“God made man with three parts - the spirit, the soul, and the body. The body is for contacting physical things . . . The soul is for contacting psychological things, such as thoughts, love, hatred . . . The spirit is for contacting God, who is Spirit. . . Maybe God tries to hide Himself so that only His true seekers will find Him.”
To begin with, no one has ever proven this “spirit” thing even exists. Try defining the word “spirit,” to get a sense of what I mean. It seems to be the kind of word that has as many shades of meaning as there are people. Also, I have five perfectly good senses, so why can’t god show himself thru at least one of these senses, instead of this so-called sixth sense of “spirit,” which can’t even be proven to exist? What better way for a god to leave me in doubt than to avoid using any of the more obvious senses? Now I believe in school spirit and team spirit, but these are just feelings. But many people have claimed that ghosts are spirits, or that they have been in touch with the spirits of long dead wise men, etc. An awful lot of nonsense has accumulated around this word “spirit,” and a very good argument could be made that spirit is nothing but feelings.
For example, the same site had this to say about connecting with god through the spirit:
“You Can See God . . . You cannot see God with your eyes, but you can see God with your spirit. To believe without seeing Him with physical eyes is more blessed.”
I’m betting that was written by a man who wanted desperately to see god, but never did. So he turns it into a good thing, that he never did. He continues:
“The way to use your spirit to see God is to talk to Him. Say, "Lord Jesus, I want to see You in my spirit. I want to contact You. I want You to reveal Yourself to me. I want You to come into me and live in me. Thank You, Lord." If you speak to Him in this way, He will be hidden from you no longer.”
Now isn’t this just telling us that if we try really, really hard to believe something, then we just might succeed? Might this approach work just as well for “seeing” Mohammed or Satan? How does this approach differ from self-hypnosis?
There are many cases on record of crime suspects being grilled for endless hours by police - the interrogators constantly suggesting how the crime was done, and insisting they knew the suspect was guilty - until the suspect confessed to a crime, and actually believed he was guilty. Later, DNA, eye-witness, or other evidence proved the original suspect could not have committed the crime.
Our minds, you see, respond amazingly well to the power of suggestion. One should remember that the point is not just to believe something (as the writer above suggests), but to find the truth. Through the power of suggestion, millions have come to worship Allah and dozens of Hindu or other gods. But their “spirits” didn’t find the truth, because they were merely responding to their feelings. Your feelings can tell you nothing about what exists outside your own head. For example, you may feel that you are deeply loved by someone, but that feeling may have more to do with your psychological need than with the facts of the matter. The “other” in this case may be merely acting a part. You would need to rely on concrete, external evidence to uncover the truth of the matter. And the same applies to gods.
The Bible insists, over and over, from beginning to end, that to believe in and worship this god is the ultimate obligation and meaning of man, and to not believe is the absolute worst thing a man can do, and assures him of misery and/or an early death (Old Testament), or everlasting torture in hell (New Testament). If god wants us to believe, and we don’t, then the ruler of the universe is not getting what he wants. Does this make sense? Otherwise (if we believe there is a god), we must accept that he wants us to play guessing games with our salvation. Does this make sense?
All we really have to go on are those ancient stories, those incredible tall tales of the Bible written by primitive, superstitious men. So, either we take their word for how the world works, or we are lost. Does this make sense? Those ancient scribes made many claims, but none of those claims can be supported by concrete evidence in the physical world. Under those circumstances, believing requires a leap of faith, but a leap of faith is just a guess by another name; it is merely presuming as fact something which can’t be proven.
Doesn't it seem reasonable that if a god truly interacted with this world, and wanted us to know it, then it would be obvious, and we would not be dealing with a god who hides? According to the Bible, he is all powerful and WANTS us to know it. So why are all the alleged signs of his existence so ambiguous? In fact, there in a nutshell, is a pretty decent argument that Bible-god does not exist.
Now, believers will often argue that we should believe something even when it makes no sense to us. In any other area of life, to believe something when it makes no sense would be considered stupid. Thus, to just believe, we risk stupid. Most folks seem willing to take that gamble, but I am not. And no god with a lick of sense or an ounce of compassion is going to fault me for honest skepticism. To me, the world appears to involve no gods. When I read the Bible, it's as if those primitive men with their endless tall tales are saying to me, "Who are you going to believe, us or your own eyes and mind?" No contest. I believe that my own mind, fortified with several hundred years worth of scientific discovery, is much the better suited to finding the truth about the world than those superstitious ancients.