Divine Hiddenness More Basic Than Problem of Evil
August 24, 2010 — 16:21

Author: Trent Dougherty  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism  Comments: 6

I’d think this would be a common thought.
If problem in Problem of Evil is a problem for belief in God, then how could there be such a problem if God were sufficiently present. E&(God is present) is a hard way to argue against the existence of God. No Pr(God is present/E) might be low, that’s fine. What I’m saying is, if it were clear to one that God were present, then there’d be no problem of evil as we usually think of it.
What we’d have would be a more traditional problem of evil like that Augustine struggled with, i.e. evil suggested a finite god or some kind of Manichean dualism.
It’s no part of my thesis that the alleged fact of divine hiddenness wouldn’t be a piece of token evidence for the evil-based atheologian. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.
This suggests to me that the problem of divine hiddenness is more basic than the problem of evil, and that we ought to get clear on what the problem of divine hiddenness is.

  • “if it were clear to one that God were present, then there’d be no problem of evil as we usually think of it”
    I think that then there would be no epistemically relevant argument from evil. But there would still be a problem of evil, namely the problem of how God could be justified in allowing such-and-such evils. And that would be a deeply interesting problem, akin to the problem of change. These days, no Western philosopher who is interested in the problem of change doubts that there is change, but the problem of how there could be change is still a deeply interesting metaphysical problem.

    August 26, 2010 — 9:26
  • Luke Gelinas

    Purely bibliographically, I think Rowe moves in this direction in his 2001 Nous response to Bergmann’s skeptical theism.
    More substantively, we (at least some of us) could still be left with an existential POE. From time to time it seems to me that God is present. Yet I can simultaneously have a really hard time trusting God or ordering my affections as most theists probably think they should be ordered (perhaps because of the sheer horror of some evils, coupled with my lack of insight into what actually justifies God). This might be analogous to a form of akrasia, and it seems to me barely less a problem than the original POE (at least on the assumption, which I make, that having one’s will in the right place is ultimately just as important as intellectual assent to the truth).

    August 31, 2010 — 18:42
  • Edward T. Babinski

    Trent, Speaking of the opposite problem, that of the “UN-hiddenness” of God, Why don’t the authors of the Bible admit that God is hidden? Why did Paul preach to the Greeks that God was indubitably manifest? Or why such convincing language throughout the Bible concerning what “Yahweh said,” that you’re a fool if you believe otherwise, and that you ought to fear Him who can cast both body and soul into hell, as if God and hell are both so obvious?

    September 9, 2010 — 20:27
  • I’m reminded of the old story about the math professor who was writing a theorem on the board and said “From which this obviously follows.” A student then asks “Is it?” The professor looks at the board for a long time, sits down at his desk and scribbles. Finally goes into his office for 15 min, comes back with a stack of books, more scribbling at the desk, then, finally, lifts his head and says triumphantly “Yes! Yes it is obvious!”
    And then there’s Aristotle taking about how things most clear in themsevles are least clear to us.
    I think that for the most part it’s a matter of seeing in the right way. One has to have the gestalt and then the “Eureka!”
    I noted reasons why people fail to have this gestalt. And I’m sure someone who knows the Bible better than me can find passages also indicating hiddenness. However, in the context of a revelation, one expects more of the presence part to be recorded.
    Importantly, the Father seemed hidden in some way to the Son on the Cross. And Scripture is–for me anyway, as a Catholic–only the tip of the iceburg of revelation: the Saints have plenty to say about hiddenness.

    September 10, 2010 — 8:42
  • What I find intriguing about this discussion is the systemic nature of the problem. God’s hiddenness is a direct implication of His nature. If God is essentially personal non-matter, then His true essence cannot be perceived directly by human perceptive mechanisms: sight, smell, touch, hearing. Yet, these are the primary means of perceiving used by the natural human being. Hence, it is a logical conclusion that God MUST be hidden when one is looking for him in that way. Yet, God has made Himself known through symbol. In fact, the entire universe symbolically points to Him.
    “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

    September 18, 2010 — 14:43
  • I like the comparison with Akrasia, good catch. My experience is just the same, and this gives me a new way to think about it (except that akrasia is so puzzling!). 🙂

    October 5, 2010 — 15:04