If there is a God, why is there no objective evidence of his existence?
Asked from a skeptical perspective, this question becomes one of the strongest arguments against God’s existence, on par with arguments from the problem of evil. Trying to convince an atheist that there really is a God but he simply chooses to remain hidden can feel like trying to convince the child that the emperor really is wearing new clothes. Sometimes I tell my kids that I have super powers and then when they ask me to show them my powers I tell them “I could, but I don’t feel like it.”
Asked from a believing perspective, however, the problem of divine hiddenness may help answer the most vexing variations of the problem of evil. Supposing we have become convinced that there is a God, we still wonder why he chooses to remain so hidden from humanity. Surely there is some good reason God allows huge portions of his children to remain ignorant of his character, purposes, and existence.
The most obvious possibility is that he hides in support of free will and human development. By hidding, God makes us free even to deny his existence. Mormons often explain this life as a time of testing and development made possible by our separation from God. If your mom tells you not to take a cookie from the cookie jar the test gets decidedly more difficult when she leaves you alone with the jar — so said one of the primary teachers of my childhood. This was a justification of divine hiddenness, although I did not know it at the time.
C.S. Lewis said this in The Screwtape Letters:
[T]he Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs– to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be.
This explanation for why God never uses the Irresistable nor the Indisputable resonates with Mormon explanations of the purpose of this earth.
If we believe that there is a God, we must believe there is some good reason for his choice to remain hidden. If God’s hiddenness is crucial to his purposes then perhaps this dictates the degree and manner in which he intervenes in human affairs. He never leaves a trace that is Indisputable. I am fascinated by how true this is in the restored gospel. There is just a ton of evidence both for and against the Book of Mormon and the prophetic call of Joseph Smith. I often feel that if you study all the evidence for the Book of Mormon you cannot help but come away convinced of its divine origins. And yet, if you study all the evidence against it you cannot help but come away doubting its divine origins. Everything is disputable.
Perhaps God’s desire to remain hidden limits his ability to intervene in preventing and averting evil. It is awfully difficult to solve the worlds problems without anyone noticing.
The problem with this explanation, I think, is that if some justification is not good enough to explain why God allows evil then why would it be good enough to explain why God must remain hidden. And yet, I often feel that there is something to this. I do not expect God to intervene in the world without leaving plenty of room for unbelievers to keep unbelieving in him.
What do you think of God’s hiddenness?