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The Hiddenness of God*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2008

Robert McKim
Affiliation:
University of Illinois, at Urbana-Champaign, U.S.A.

Extract

Neither the existence of God nor the nature of God is apparent or obvious. If God exists, why is it not entirely clear to everyone that this is so? How can theists explain God's hiddenness, and how plausible are their explanations? God, if God exists, is an omnipotent, morally good, omnipresent being, than whom none greater can be conceived. Surely it is well within the abilities of God to let God's existence and nature be known to us. Why isn't the existence and nature of our Heavenly Father as apparent as, say, the existence of our various earthly fathers?

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1990

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References

1 This distinction, between facts about God and facts about the world, is a legitimate one, but I would not want to put too much weight on it: it is not a distinction between categories into which the relevant data can neatly be sorted.

2 The Christian gnostics are among the many groups who have appealed to God's transcendence in an attempt to account for God's incomprehensibility to us. For some discussion of their views, and of what they took to be the theological implications of those views, see Young, Francis M. ‘The God of the Greeks and the Nature of Religious Language’, in Early Christian Literature and the Classical Intellectual Tradition, ed. by Schoedel, W. R. and Wilken, Robert L. (Paris: Beauchesne, 1979) pp. 4574, esp. pp. 50 ff.Google Scholar

3 We can divide h-explanations into those which portray divine hiddenness as ineradicable and those which portray it as eradicable. Divine transcendence theories typically see it as ineradicable, whereas some human defectiveness theories see it as eradicable.

4 These remarks from Eliezer Berkovits are expressive of this idea. ‘Since history is man's responsibility, one would – expect [God] – to hide, to be silent, while man is about his God-given task. Responsibility requires freedom, but God's convincing presence would undermine the freedom of human decision. God hides in human responsibility and human freedom’, Faith after the Holocaust (New York: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1973), p. 64.Google Scholar

5 Might holding certain beliefs about God or belief in God be virtuousor supererogatoryeven if not obligatory? I am not sure what to say about this. It seems easier to think of belief in God as having such a status than it is to think of certainty that God exists in this way. an act is supererogatory, I take it, only if in addition to being permissable and not being obligatory, there is something very good and very admirable about it. Entrusting oneself to a beneficent, kind, omnipotent (etc.) being is one thing: one can see, I think, how this might have this status, or how it might be virtuous. But it is not so easy to see why certainty that God exists would have this status.

6 These thoughts struck me afresh recently on reading Phillips', D. Z.R. S. Thomas: Poet of the Hidden God (London: MacMillan, 1986), passim, but especially ch. 8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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