CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

I am going to approach the issued raised by Chris Price  (Layman) a couple of weeks ago, Divine Hiddenness, and come at for a perspective very different from his. This is not intended a criticism of Chris's view, I do not necessary disagree with him. I do have a different perspective from the one the takes to the problem. I'm going to began, not by summarizing all three posts by Chris but by quoting for J.D. Walter's summary of the argument in the comment section to the last post:

I think you [Mark] misunderstand how the argument from divine hiddenness is supposed to work. It generally goes like this: if the biblical God existed, due to his love he would make his existence more obvious. But he doesn't, therefore he probably does not exist. Notice the 'would' in that argument? How would Schellenberg or any other advocate of the hiddenness argument know to expect God's existence to be more obvious? They are taking for granted the Western classical conception of God, developed over centuries in dialogue with and reflection upon Scripture. Divine hiddennness is only a problem for certain conceptions of God, and the the conception of God targeted by Schellenberg's argument is the biblical God. Since Schellenberg has to rely upon this picture to figure out what God WOULD do if he existed, it is perfectly appropriate to look to the Bible for clues as to why God WOULD not make his existence obvious to all. The use of would in both arguments is exactly the same, and draws on similar sources.

As to your second point, remember that Chris says the severity argument explains a FACET of divine hiddenness; it is not the complete explanation, and perhaps it does not apply to everyone's experience of hiddenness. Remember also that one's relationship with God is diachronic: just because one is in a state of doubt now doesn't mean that one will be in a state of doubt for the rest of one's life, or that God will always be silent. I highly doubt that there are many people who search diligently for God all of their lives, making the kind of moral changes necessary to be receptive to God's presence (Paul Moser's The Elusive God should be consulted on this point), who will never experience even an inkling of His presence. God works in people's lives at different times and in different ways, so it is hard to generalize.
5/29/2010 01:53:00 PM

I have not read Schellenberg, but I have my own ideas of why God seems hidden to post people. This argument has been made, badly perhaps, by amy atheists on the net for years. It's used by Richard Carierrer although I'm sure if it's used in the same form. Be that as it may, my take on the matter is not that God is giving us a break until we are reading to know the truth, although I'm sure that's part of it
but also because it would screw up God's purpose in creating if he revealed himself i an obvious way. If God revealed him in such a way as to remove all doubt then it would run counter to everything he purposed in creation. Schellenberg apparently assumes that God's love would motive him to reveal himself if he really existed. that's the answer Mark takes to it the issue:

J.D.:Notice the 'would' in that argument? How would Schellenberg or any other advocate of the hiddenness argument know to expect God's existence to be more obvious?

Mark: Because of God's love towards those who actively want to be in a relationship with him, and the nature of the parent/child relationship. Are you going to try to defend some form of skeptical theism here, whereby we're never in a position to be confident about what God would or wouldn't do? I think that's going to cause many more problems for traditional theism than it solves.

My assumption does not negate God's love as his primary motive, but it does suggest another competing motive that has to be satisfied as well and the resolution invovles doing things a certain way. The other motive I assume is that God wants a moral universe. I'm sure Christ and J.D. would not disagree. I do believe that love is the basis of the good, and therefore, of the moral so ultimately those are the same interest. Yet, I further assume that God's purpose in creating corporal life is to have free moral agents who willingly choose the good. Given that assumption God must work through the need to internalize the values of the good. The search for truth that culminates in a soeteriolgocal encounter with the divine is predicated upon the God desire that we internalize the values of the good. Said internalization is the piviot upon which turns the entire ontological/soeteriolgoical set up. Here are my assumptions:

There are three basic assumptions that are hidden, or perhaps not so obivioius, but nevertheless must be dealt with here.

(1) The assumption that God wants a "moral universe" and that this value outweighs all others.


The idea that God wants a moral universe I take from my basic view of God and morality. Following in the footsteps of Joseph Fletcher (Situation Ethics) I assume that love is the background of the moral universe (this is also an Augustinian view). I also assume that there is a deeply ontological connection between love and Being. Axiomatically, in my view point, love is the basic impitus of Being itself. Thus, it seems reasonable to me that, if morality is an upshot of love, or if love motivates moral behavior, then the creation of a moral universe is essential.


(2) that internal "seeking" leads to greater internalization of values than forced compliance or complaisance that would be the result of intimidation.

That's a pretty fair assumption. We all know that people will a lot more to achieve a goal they truly believe in than one they merely feel forced or obligated to follow but couldn't care less about.

(3) the the drama or the big mystery is the only way to accomplish that end.

The pursuit of the value system becomes a search of the heart for ultimate meaning,that ensures that people continue to seek it until it has been fully internalized.

Notice that my answers on this question take us into my answers on theodicy, that's because I see  the question as related to and part of the theodicy problem.

The argument that I make from these assumptions goes like this:

(1)God's purpose in creation: to create a Moral Universe, that is one in which free moral agents willingly choose the Good.

(2) Moral choice requires absolutely that choice be free (thus free will is necessitated).

(3) Allowance of free choices requires the risk that the chooser will make evil choices

(4)The possibility of evil choices is a risk God must run, thus the value of free outweighs all other considerations, since without there would be no moral universe and the purpose of creation would be thwarted.


This leaves the atheist in the position of demanding to know why God doesn't just tell everyone that he's there, and that he requires moral behavior, and what that entails. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclined to sin.


(5) Life is a "Drama" not for the sake of entertainment, but in the sense that a dramatic tension exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultimate goals, ends and purposes for which we are on this earth.

(6) Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us

(7) We can assume that the reason for the "big mystery" is the internalization of choices. If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probably all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from the heart.

(8) therefore, God wants a heart felt response which is internationalized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; introspective, internal, not amenable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.


In other words, we are part of a great drama and our actions and our dilemmas and our choices are all part of the way we respond to the situation as characters in a drama.

This theory also explains why God doesn't often regenerate limbs in healing the sick. That would be a dead giveaway. God creates criteria under which healing takes place, that criteria can't negate the overall plan of a search.



Objection:

One might object that this couldn't outweigh babies dying or the horrors of war or the all the countless injustices and outrages that must be allowed and that permeate human history. It may seem at first glance that free will is petty compared to human suffering. But I am advocating free will for the sake any sort of pleasure or imagined moral victory that accrues from having free will, it's a totally pragmatic issue; that internalizing the value of the good requires that one choose to do so, and free will is essential if choice is required. Thus it is not a capricious or selfish defense of free will, not a matter of choosing our advantage or our pleasure over that of dying babies, but of choosing the key to saving the babies in the long run,and to understanding why we want to save them, and to care about saving them, and to actually choosing their saving over our own good.

In deciding what values outweigh other values we have to be clear about our decision making paradigm. From a utilitarian standpoint the determinate of lexically ordered values would be utility, what is the greatest good for the greatest number? This would be determined by means of outcome, what is the final tally sheet in terms of pleasure over pain to the greatest aggregate? But why that be the value system we decide by? It's just one value system and much has been written about the bankruptcy of consequentialist ethics. If one uses a deontological standard it might be a different thing to consider the lexically ordered values. Free will predominates because it allows internalization of the good. The good is the key to any moral value system. This could be justified on both deontolgoical and teleological premises.

My own moral decision making paradigm is deontological, because I believe that teleological ethics reduces morality to the decision making of a ledger sheet and forces the individual to do immoral things in the name of "the greatest good for the greatest number." I find most atheists are utilitarians so this will make no sense to them. They can't help but think of the greatest good/greatest number as the ultaimte adage, and deontology as empty duty with no logic to it. But that is not the case. Deontology is not just rule keeping, it is also duty oriented ethics. The duty that we must internalize is that ultimate duty that love demands of any action. Robots don't love. One must freely choose to give up self and make a selfless act in order to act from Love. Thus we cannot have a loved oriented ethics, or we cannot have love as the background of the moral universe without free will, because love involves the will.

The choice of free will at the expense of countless lives and untold suffering cannot be an easy thing, but it is essential and can be justified from either deontolgoical or teleological perspective. Although I think the deontologcial makes more sense. From the teleological stand point, free will ultimately leads to the greatest good for the greatest number because in the long run it assumes us that one is willing to die for the other, or sacrifice for the other, or live for the other. That is essential to promoting a good beyond ourselves. The individual sacrifices for the good of the whole, very utilitarian. It is also deontolgocially justifiable since duty would tell us that we must give of ourselves for the good of the other.

Thus anyway you slice it free will outweighs all other concerns because it makes available the values of the good and of love. Free will is the key to ultimately saving the babies, and saving them because we care about them, a triumph of the heart, not just action from wrote. It's internalization of a value system without which other and greater injustices could be foisted upon an unsuspecting humanity that has not been tought to choose to lay down one's own life for the other.


Objection 2: questions
this whole argument I lifted from my website Doxa and this section I lifted from a discussion the CARM message board. It's part of the article on Doxa.

(from "UCOA" On CARM boards (atheism)

Quote:


In addition, there is no explanation of why god randomly decided to make a "moral universe".


Why do you describe the decision as random? Of course all of this is second guessing God, so the real answer is "I don't know, duh" But far be it form me to give-up without an opinion. My opinion as to why God would create moral universe:
to understand this you must understand my view of God, and that will take some doing. I'll try to just put it in a nut shell. In my view love is the background of the moral universe. The essence of "the good" or of what is moral is that which conforms to "lug." But love in the apogee sense, the will to the good of the other. I do not believe that that this is just derived arbitrarily, but is the outpouring of the wellspring of God's character. God is love, thus love is the background of the moral universe because God is the background of the moral universe.

Now I also describe God as "being itself." Meaning God is the foundation of all that is. I see a connection between love and being. Both are positive and giving and turning on in the face of nothingness, which is negativity. To say that another way, if we think of nothingness as a big drain pipe, it is threatening to **** all that exits into it. Being is the power to resist nothingness, being the stopper in the great cosmic drain pipe of non existence.

The act of bestowing being upon the beings is the nature of God because God is being. Those the two things God does because that's what he is, he "BES" (um, exists) and he gives out being bestowing it upon other beings. This is connected to love which also gives out and bestows. So being and love are connected, thus the moral universe is an outgrowth of the nature of God as giving and bestowing and being and loving.

Quote:
Thus the question isn't really answered. Why does god allow/create evil? To create a "moral universe". Why? The only answer that is given is, because he wants to. Putting it together, Why does god allow/create evil? Because he wants to?

In a nut shell, God allows evil as an inherent risk in allowing moral agency. (the reason for which is given above).


There is a big difference in doing something and allowing it to be done. God does not create evil, he allows the risk of evil to be run by the beings, because that risk is required to have free moral agency. The answer is not "because he wants to" the answer is because he wants free moral agency so that free moral agents will internatize the values of love. To have free moral agency he must allow them to:

(1)run the risk of evil choices

(2) live in a real world where hurt is part of the dice throw.

see my answers to atheist attacks on this idea in my essay: "Twelve Angry Stereotypes"

To apply this to the discussion between Mark and JD, Mark points out the argument is culpable unbelief. Honest seekers who just want to know are the issue, God is hidden from them in such a way that they can't find him as long as they are intelligent thinking people who want proof, whatever typical atheist self aggrandizement one cares to plug in at this point. But the conception broached by the argument assumes something about the nature of belief and what God is trying to do in creating believers. This assumes that belief is not a transformation of values or of one's relationship with being-in-the-world but merely adding a fact to the universe. We are going to know a new fact, there's an additional thing in the universe besides trees and frog's, and swizzle sticks and tooth brushes there's so a God. That is counter to what God is trying to do. Belief in God can't be just adding a fact to the universe because is not just a fact, God is not a thing and God si not a ting in the universe alongside other objects.God is the basis of not only the universe but of relationship to any sort of universe. Belief in God is a gestalt, its a global holistic sea change of one's understanding of the root relationship we have to being itself. When we come to believe in God we go from seeing ourselves as autonomous and alone to understanding ourselves as contingent creatures and part of a universal whole of contingencies. That realization is transforming and transformational. It requires a whole new revaluation of values, it requires internalizing the values of the good. Without that just telling people there's' a God, even if God himself told them, would be counter productive to the purpose for which we are created.

Mark's allegation of skeptical theism (above) in which are never sure of what God will do could not be further from my point of view. Quite the contrary I think God wants to bring us into such an intimate relationship that we will be so totally sure of God's love and concern and what he will do that we will never doubt. In fact this relationship is so strong and so intimate the Eastern Orthodox call it "deification." Not that the believer becomes a deity in his own right, but the identification of love between creature and creator is so strong its' called "dedication," being "Godacidzed" so to speak. Parent child relationship, however, is like all ratiocinated understanding of God only an analogy.


Mark also argues:


Here's an analogy. Suppose I tell you that I'm actually the queen of England. That seems preposterous: what are the odds that the queen of England is posting on this blog? Quite high, I say: I'm the queen of England, and this is my favorite blog -- so of course the queen is liable to post on it! Well, maybe this really is the queen's favorite blog. But it's extremely unlikely that I know anything about the queen's blogging preferences unless I really am the queen, herself. So if you have doubts about whether or not I'm the queen, my assurances about my (the queen's) attitudes won't go very far toward settling them.

The same thing applies in the hiddenness case. According to Schellenberg, it's unlikely that a loving deity exists. Your scriptures, which purport to come from such a deity, give reasons for why the deity remains hidden. Even if the reasons are good ones, it's likely that a loving deity would have those reasons only if a loving deity exists in the first place and is responsible for those scriptures. Since Schellenberg denies that any such being exists (and hence can be responsible for anything), it's illegitimate to appeal to those reasons.

Of the assertion of God's unlikelihood is typical atheist question begging.  The argument is so typically circular, it's really part of the overall atheist argument from incredulity: "I refuse to believe therefore it can't be true." Mark's a sophisticated thinker so he's not going to make that argument in a schlocky way. But that is the argument. He says God can only have those reasons if he exists, well that's obvious, he says "Since Schellenberg denies that any such being exists (and hence can be responsible for anything), it's illegitimate to appeal to those reasons." What kind of logic is that? Then I can win any argument merely by making a truth by stipulation and they despairing that "your reasons for thinking otherwise are only valid if I agree wtih them and since I don't, they are not!" Certainly it's not illegitimate to appear to any reason that one things is the reason, we can use them as empirical pointers via the experience of co-determinate that is recorded and thus forms part of the data in divine/human encounter.

Mark argues about the bible: "Thus to invoke the NT as a guide to what God would or wouldn't do is to assume from the outset that this sort of God in fact exists, which is to beg the question." Now there's another problem. The Bible informs our understanding of the divine in a metaphorical way becuase it's an account of divine/human encounters. It can't be taken as a Peterson's field guide to god watching, the companion volume Petereson's field guide to bird watching. That's why it's a narrative. The Bible doesn't'  lay down literalistic statements comparable to a Chilton's Automotive guide. The ultimate point of knowing God is to know God. We have to have a relationship and that has to be lived out. Only so much can be communicated in words on paper. What the Bible does communicate we can be fairly sure if instructive and helpful and in large part prescriptive but we can't approach it as an instruction manual, it's meant to prompt a relationship, not to dictate the content of one. The Bible is there to the relationship on track and to verify the validity of it, not to dictate every aspect.

Mark argues from a totally unfair position assuming the believer must be totally certain at all times, and why sense of doubt or problematic acceptance on the believer's part is automatically taken as proof of inauthenticity:

Because those people are pretty clear about how much they want to believe in God, how much suffering their doubts engender, and how desperately they wait for an answer to their prayers. See, e.g., those letters of Mother Theresa that were disclosed a few years ago. There are many, many people who undergo religious crises like hers that leave them faithless. I don't know if there are any psychological studies of them in the literature (I wouldn't be surprised if there are), but it's difficult, and more than a little suspicious, not to take at least many of their stories at face value.

Obviously he has not read much of the literature of mysticism. The inauthentic thing would be pretend the belief is an intellectual exercise than than an existential search, and that it does not vex and contains no problematic. My suspicions  are raised that Mark's concept of god is very much a cookie cutter of the atheist straw God and his criticisms are based upon typical fear of the subjective.

16 comments:

You're misunderstanding my claims.

1. I never said that God is unlikely. I said it's unlikely that God would possess certain reasons if he existed, at least prior to conditionalizing on his self-ascriptions.

2. I am not arguing that it's illegitimate to appeal to God's reasons X, Y and Z since if God doesn't exist, he can't have reasons. That would be intensely silly. I am arguing that it's illegitimate because if God doesn't exist, then if God were to exist he probably wouldn't have X, Y and Z. This is a subjunctive nested in a material conditional, and it makes an important difference.

I never said that God is unlikely.

Whoops, I of course did say that: Schellenberg thinks God's existence is unlikely. But I meant he thinks God's existence is unlikely given the argument from divine hiddenness. There's nothing circular about that. I didn't start out by assuming that God's existence is unlikely as a matter of prior probability.

Mark, I think the label of question-begging is germane, here.

We are talking about the conception of God, and what it means for God to be "loving." The question of the authority of the NT doesn't really come into question here, because what's in question is the logical coherence of God's loving nature and His apparent "hidden" nature (whether or not these ideas come from philosophy or the NT). What Meta and Layman and JD are saying is that, given those other considerations, there is no logical incoherence to those two propositions. God's a priori likelihood is not a factor in determining the coherence of the doctrine.

In other words, if these considerations obtain, then the argument from divine hiddenness fails, and you have no initial reason to assume God's unlikely existence.

. I never said that God is unlikely. I said it's unlikely that God would possess certain reasons if he existed, at least prior to conditionalizing on his self-ascriptions.

2. I am not arguing that it's illegitimate to appeal to God's reasons X, Y and Z since if God doesn't exist, he can't have reasons. That would be intensely silly. I am arguing that it's illegitimate because if God doesn't exist, then if God were to exist he probably wouldn't have X, Y and Z. This is a subjunctive nested in a material conditional, and it makes an important difference.

O sorry that makes no sense at all. Since it's logically impossible for God to not exist and then to come into existence it seems that a moot point and doesn't carry any weight.

Really, I'm a very simple thinker. I just believe what I believe and if it explains a problem then I accept it as a solution. I can't understand the point of trying to negate a potential solution biased an impossible hypothetical.

I am also not as wise as you apparently because I don't claim to know God's inner logic. In my simple way I feel that something that is beyond our understanding can't be known. While the reality of God can be known, I have trouble seeing how God's potential motives and actions in a non existent possible world would be known.

Whoops, I of course did say that:

I noticed

Schellenberg thinks God's existence is unlikely. But I meant he thinks God's existence is unlikely given the argument from divine hiddenness. There's nothing circular about that. I didn't start out by assuming that God's existence is unlikely as a matter of prior probability.


but since his argument is circular to begin with I don't see the point in bothering about it.

BH:What Meta and Layman and JD are saying is that, given those other considerations, there is no logical incoherence to those two propositions. God's a priori likelihood is not a factor in determining the coherence of the doctrine.

In other words, if these considerations obtain, then the argument from divine hiddenness fails, and you have no initial reason to assume God's unlikely existence.



You say things so well BH! Good explanation.

Hi Brad.

What Meta and Layman and JD are saying is that, given those other considerations, there is no logical incoherence to those two propositions. God's a priori likelihood is not a factor in determining the coherence of the doctrine.

Really? Then they're certainly not touching Schellenberg's argument, since he's not trying to demonstrate anything like the logical incoherence of the existence of God with the facts of divine hiddenness. He is instead arguing that the facts of divine hiddenness make the existence of God (construed as essentially omnipotent, omniscient and loving) unlikely.


O sorry that makes no sense at all. Since it's logically impossible for God to not exist and then to come into existence it seems that a moot point and doesn't carry any weight.


Does not parse.

Really? Then they're certainly not touching Schellenberg's argument, since he's not trying to demonstrate anything like the logical incoherence of the existence of God with the facts of divine hiddenness. He is instead arguing that the facts of divine hiddenness make the existence of God (construed as essentially omnipotent, omniscient and loving) unlikely.

O good, for minute there I thought it might just be a semantic difference.

so rather than logical incoherence he's going for then it's unlikely. I see a huge difference there. Too had the unlikely part is predicated upon begging the question.

Mark, I hope I'm not repeating myself unnecessarily, but what Meta and Layman are saying is that the argument from divine hiddenness is not compelling. I think you should show why their responses to the argument aren't compelling, because stating that their rebuttal fails because the argument already obtains is begging the question.

In other words, you have to show why Layman's "distance" considerations or Meta's "story" considerations fail apart from appealing to the original argument.

Sigh. Forgive the impatience, but I can only explain that I'm not begging the question so many times on here. In no way have I stated that anyone's rebuttal fails because the argument it rebuts is sound. That is not even close to a fair representation of what I've been saying. What I've been saying is: We cannot rely on a document to be a trustworthy guide to God's reasons unless we've already established that God exists and is somehow responsible for the document. Which means a fortiori we can't rely on said document unless we've already refuted Schellenberg's argument.

Defenses like Layman's epistemic distance idea fall into the category of "retreats to the possible." That is, they give possible reasons God would obscure his existence from inculpable non-believers without attaching any sort of probability to such reasons. This would be a perfectly fine objection to Schellenberg's argument if the latter were actually suggesting God's existence and the facts of divine hiddenness are incompatible/incoherent. But as I've already explained, Schellenberg's is a probabilistic argument, not a deductive one. So until I see a good reason (which doesn't circularly depend on trusting that a loving divinity exists and wrote the Bible) to think that epistemic distance is such a great mercy when 1. there's every reason to think that many people would benefit from divine visitation and 2. most believers think God has already revealed himself in all sorts of ridiculously visible ways throughout history, I can't take this sort of theodicy very seriously.

Mark,

I too could emoticon my argument, but will spare readers the sighs. If you think you have said your piece and refuted our arguments, feel free to let it rest and let the readers decide for themselves that is the case.

I am curious, what probability did you and Schellenberg attach to the characteristics you decided to test God's existence against? Did you assume the Bible was a trustworthy guide to God's reasons when you decided to test whether an all-loving God could exist? No, and neither did I. That is because you and he (and I) are testing hypotheticals.

Hypothetically, according to you, if this all-loving conception of God -- a Judeo-Christian conception of God informed by the Bible -- were to exist, what would the world look like. Since the world does not look like you and Schellenberg think it would given this conception of God, you say it is unlikely God exists.

I've added, in three posts now, what I think is a fuller discussion of the conception of God to be tested. These conceptions have been informed, just as your and Schellenbergs has been, by the Bible. That does not mean that I assume the Bible is reliable in this argument, but that it informs the hypothetical God that is being tested.

I pointed out how the Bible emphasizes that God is a Just God who punishes sin as well as a loving God. Surely this affects the conception of a God who is all-loving who is unconcerned with sin and is not inclined to punish it. I also point out how the Bible describes God's overwhelming presence as too strong for humans and noted that the Bible teaches that the more evidence of God the closer that judgment.

These all flow from a different, hypothetical in this case, understanding of God's characteristics. There really is no probabalistic assessment here anymore than there is in Schellenberg's articulation of a particular conception of God. There may be flaws in this conception of God subject to critique, but I don't see how you can, or even if you can how you have, assigned low probabilities to them (or, on the flip side, assigned higher probabilities to your and Schellenberg's conception of God than my conception of God). What are the odds that God is all loving, anyway?

You come a little closer with No. 1 of your closing two points, if you modified it to say that more revelation would more likely result in greater numbers of believers. That is possibly reduced to probabilities, but you make no attempt to evaluate it in such terms. Even if you could determine that more revelation would result in more believers (and how did you determine that?), how do you balance that with the greater judgment others would face for not believing?

The last point does not really help your case. My point about epistemic distance did not posit that God cannot provide greater evidence of His existence, but that sometimes he chooses not to for reasons of His choosing. God is a person, not a mechanistic force.

You may complain that this makes it hard for Schellenberg to prove his point because of all the possible understandings of God and His characteristics. Quite, so. But that is par for the course for this kind of hypothetical argument.

To close, we have not even explored all the different understandings of God that could alter the debate. Some Calvinists -- I am not one -- might say that God is a loving God but that He does not want some people who do evil things to see the light so they can be examples of God's justice. To these Calvinists, God's lovingkindness is demonstrated by His sacrifice to save ANY people at all given that none of them deserve it. You may want this to be a sheer philosophical argument uninformed by the Bible except to the extent it helps your case, but given the nature of the argument it cannot help but implicate theology as well.

Ah, Mark, I see what the problem is now. I think what you are doing is committing the genetic fallacy. The trustworthiness of the Bible is not the question here, the question is whether or not the considerations given by Layman rebut the argument from hiddenness. The Bible could be reliable in only this, or it may have gotten it right by mistake, but the issue at hand is the considerations given in light of the argument.

Hi Layman and Brad.

I am curious, what probability did you and Schellenberg attach to the characteristics you decided to test God's existence against? Did you assume the Bible was a trustworthy guide to God's reasons when you decided to test whether an all-loving God could exist? No, and neither did I. That is because you and he (and I) are testing hypotheticals.

Right. Call the existence of a loving, omnipotent deity who wants to be in a relationship with humans the "Basic Hypothetical." Schellenberg is asking: Given that the Basic Hypothetical is true, what is the probability that there are inculpable non-believers? You are then free to build other features into the hypothetical - namely, that the deity claims to have all sorts of good reasons for allowing inculpable non-belief. Call this the "Extended Hypothetical." Now the probability of there being inculpable non-belief given the Extended Hypothetical may be actually quite high. That's fine. It's also no threat to Schellenberg, for reasons I have already explained repeatedly and at some length. Schellenberg doesn't have to show that divine hiddenness is a problem for every possible conception of God in order to show that divine hiddenness is a problem for theism. My totally empty guarantees that the this is the Queen's favorite blog won't settle your quite legitimate doubts about my being the Queen. If Schellenberg raises legitimate doubts about a loving deity existing, how are the exculpatory guarantees of an author who claims to represent said deity any less empty?

I pointed out how the Bible emphasizes that God is a Just God who punishes sin as well as a loving God.

And it's highly unclear what punishment for sin has to do with divine hiddenness. Given that you yourself believe God has historically seen fit to make himself manifest for all sorts of people while still apparently maintaining his justice, it's pretty unclear why his justice prevents him from manifesting himself to others who inculpably lack belief. Not to mention the fact that doing so would probably help such people live a more godly life.

I also point out how the Bible describes God's overwhelming presence as too strong for humans

Not a very good response. No reason to think God would have to appear in all his glory. He could just send an angel, or invisibly perform any number of private miracles for those who are eager to believe in him, or something like that. There are lots of people who would almost certainly be convinced by that. (Though I'm probably not one of them! Most likely I would resist belief even then.)

Even if you could determine that more revelation would result in more believers (and how did you determine that?),

Because it accords with everything we know about psychology and religious belief. Denying that miraculous intervention would convert anyone to theism is surely the most desperate response to Schellenberg one could mount.

how do you balance that with the greater judgment others would face for not believing?

Of course, your picture of judgment here relies explicitly on trusting the Bible, which I've already argued is fallacious in this context about ten times. But if you're not happy with that, I still don't see what force this thought is supposed to have. Maybe other people would face greater judgment for their more stubborn disbelief in the face of even greater evidence. But so what? If God does the best he can to reveal himself and some people nevertheless blow it, that's no reason for God to remain hidden. Would you seriously abandon your child in the woods just because you'd have to rightfully punish him if runs away on his own?

I think what you are doing is committing the genetic fallacy. The trustworthiness of the Bible is not the question here, the question is whether or not the considerations given by Layman rebut the argument from hiddenness.

No, that's not what's going on. Layman is pointing to some reasons R for God to refrain from revealing himself to inculpable nonbelievers (of which there are probably many). I am responding that 1. it's extremely unlikely that any deity would have R as reasons unless they explicitly say they do, and 2. appealing to the Bible as evidence for the deity actually having reasons R is illegitimate.

Neither the existence of God and an eternal afterlife, NOR the truth of any one particular religion or denomination is particularly obvious.

What is most obvious is this. . . You and I were born into a world we share, in which we both were born. We share the language of those around us in our shared culture, and we can all go see and touch things together, and scientists round the world are able to repeat each others experiments.

But none of us is born into the supernatural world that is said to lay outside the cosmos, we can't all go with friends and see, touch, smell, God, heaven, hell, the afterlife. Neither do we see people popping out of graves, nor even limbs regrowing after a touch from a holy man.

If miracles do take place in isolated locales round the world on widely separated dates or rare occasions, do you think "God" is going to damn the many people who question such stories?

Even people of rival religions and denominations question the isolated miracles and "proofs" offered by those of other religions and denominations.

There's also people who accept there may be some weird things going on round the world, from ghosts to angels and aliens. Such people could be mere nominal religious believers, mystics, agnostics, etc. Do you think "God" is going to damn such people?

Why not just admit you and I both know less than Christian doctrines and dogmas claim to be "absolutely certain" about?

Meanwhile draw me a map of the world showing where certain scientific theories are believed and not believed, and compare that a map to one showing where different religions and denominations are believed and not believed. The religious beliefs (and streaks of denominational beliefs within them) seem far more demarcated, geographically speaking, and may even influence were a few specific scientific theories are believed or not believed!

Dialogues need not start with "God's existence," because if you are dialoging with a member of a revealed religion with a particular Holy Book, it's really "their God" that they are discussing whenever they mention "God," and "their holy revelation of that God" as revealed in their particular holy book. But how do we know such books are holy? And why only those books? What questions do such books raise concerning their origin, editing, questionable teachings, errors, etc.? How do we know there's only one way of interpreting them? Lastly, why doesn't God inspire all devout Christians, Muslims, Jews, who pray for holy guidance, to agree on which holy books are indeed holy and also come to the same conclusions regarding their teachings?

The five books I've suggested ought to be read in order since the topics grow more complex and challenging. The first two are by Evangelical Christian biblical scholars who admit that non-Evangelicals have raised many valid points/questions:

1) INSPIRATION AND INCARNATION by Peter Enns

2) GOD’S WORD IN HUMAN WORDS by Kenton L. Sparks (a bit more complicated than Enns' book)

The last three raise additional questions, starting with BEYOND BORN AGAIN, an early work by Robert M. Price written not too many years after he began experiencing his own crisis of faith in his search for answers, and realized that many of the arguments employed by his favorite Protestant apologists did not answer all the questions raised by biblical scholarship, but left many matters unproven and/or up in the air:

3) BEYOND BORN AGAIN by Robert M. Price (raises questions concerning the NT rather than the OT as was the case in Enns and Sparks’ works, also examines the "born again" experience)

4) THE CHRISTIAN DELUSION, ed. by John Loftus (raises further questions, with recent biblical studies cited in the endnotes for further study)

5) THE CASE AGAINST THE CASE FOR CHRIST, very new by Robert M. Price http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/ Unless the previous books are read and understood, this one may not be fully appreciated.

Those five should spark questions, even in the minds of Evangelical apologists. The point is not to supply all the answers since no one has them, as even Sparks and Enns, the two Evangelicals above, admit. The point is that many questions remain, many unknowns. And belief in itself does not cross the bridge of questions, while reasoning might not even take a person halfway across that bridge, depending on just how many questions one notices and acknowledges. Neither do such questions have to do with whether or not "God" exists. These questions are matters of debate concerning "revealed religion," "holy books."

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