A prophet flees for his life from an evil queen – this is Elijah’s circumstance in 1 Kings. The Bible tells us he hides from Jezebel in a cave and seeks God in 1 Kings 19:11-12: “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” This eloquent passage shows that God sometimes reveals Himself in unexpected ways —not amid bluster, but in a “still small voice.”
A prophet flees for his life from an evil queen – this is Elijah’s circumstance in 1 Kings. The Bible tells us he hides from Jezebel in a cave and seeks God in 1 Kings 19:11-12:
“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”
This eloquent passage shows that God sometimes reveals Himself in unexpected ways —not amid bluster, but in a “still small voice.”
Divine Hiddenness Response Examples & Education
The Problem of Divine Hiddenness
But some nonbelievers say that there is no voice at all, that the “hiddenness” of God proves that there is no God. This is what apologists call the “problem” of divine hiddenness.
Although this argument is not new, its most well-known contemporary rendition is from atheist philosopher J.L. Schellenberg in his 1993 book Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason. Schellenberg contends that if the all-loving God of the Bible exists, “nonresistant nonbelievers” would not exist. He reasons that a loving God would make Himself more obvious to prevent such unbelief from those who ostensibly want to believe. Schellenberg claims that since nonresistant nonbelievers do exist, then God does not exist.
Argument Rebuttals: Divine Hiddenness Response Examples
Some common rebuttals to Schellenberg’s argument from theists are:
We Can’t Know if Unbelievers are Actually Nonresistant
Human history is replete with examples of people behaving in ways that are contrary to their knowledge.
In other words, it may be a heart problem, not a head problem. Jesus points this out when he tells Nicodemus in John 3:19 that “light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” That truth played out repeatedly in the Old Testament: The ancient Israelites abandoned God numerous times despite seeing the parting of the Red Sea, the manna from Heaven, the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night. See Exodus 13:21-22:
“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.”
If God Made Himself too Obvious, Humankind Might Follow Him Solely Out of Fear
This obviously should not be the primary motivation. God does want our reverent fear, but He also wants our love. See Proverbs 1:7 and Deuteronomy 6:5:
- Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
- Deuteronomy 6:5: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
God wants people to actively seek Him. Making His presence too overt would prevent that. As seventeenth-century philosopher and physicist, Blaise Pascal asserted, “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.”
Those are a few of the most common rebuttals.
Resources on Divine Hiddenness
Lord’s Library has compiled several resources that address divine hiddenness, commenting on its history, premises, variations, and counter-arguments:
Divine Hiddenness: A Christian Response
Inspiring Philosophy YouTube channel Christian apologist and philosopher Michael Jones summarizes the argument, including breaking it down to its premises. Then, with images and well-chosen text, he offers a thorough rebuttal.
Doubting Thomas and Divine Hiddenness by Reasonable Faith podcast
In his usual thoughtful style, Dr. William Lane Craig responds to an atheist blogger’s challenge concerning divine hiddenness. The atheist’s point is that since the apostle Thomas required and was given proof of Jesus’s resurrection, why shouldn’t everyone be afforded equally obvious proof of God’s existence? Dr. Craig offers a well-reasoned response that demonstrates the errors of that line of reasoning and the shallowness of the argument.
Blake Giunta’s BeliefMap on Divine Hiddenness
Christian apologist and debater Blake Giunta describes BeliefMap as “an apologetics tool” for answering four key gospel questions about the existence of God, historicity of Jesus, Jesus as Messiah, and Jesus’s resurrection. The divine hiddenness argument is part of the “Does God exist?” section of the site. Our above list of common rebuttals to the argument are just a small start. Giunta’s site covers many more common sub- and counter-arguments—all in an easy-to-consult, mobile-friendly outline.
Beauty and Divine Hiddenness by Apologetics 315 podcast
This podcast episode from the folks at Apologetics 315 features an interview with Dr. Doug Groothius, a Christian philosophy professor at Denver Seminary. Professor Groothius explains the problem of divine hiddenness and deftly rebuts its common assumptions (starting at 24:30). Despite his academic background, Groothius’ interview is more of an easy conversation than an academic commentary.
Doubt, Skepticism, and the Hiddenness of God’ by Doug Groothius
If you enjoy Groothius’ interview on the Apologetics315 podcast and want a deeper dive into the issue of divine hiddenness, check out this chapter from his Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. The 15-page divine hiddenness chapter is well-reasoned and clear. If you’re hesitant to buy this 800-page tome for one chapter, consider it a worthwhile investment as a reference source for nearly any apologetics issue.
Though even believers may sometimes wonder, “Where is God?” Acts 17:27 tells us that God “be not far from every one of us.” It may be that we sometimes hide from Him.
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