Hiddenness of God

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2016)
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“Divine hiddenness”, as the phrase suggests, refers, most fundamentally, to the hiddenness of God, i.e., the alleged fact that God is hidden, absent, silent. In religious literature, there is a long history of expressions of annoyance, anxiety, and despair over divine hiddenness, so understood. For example, ancient Hebrew texts lament God’s failure to show up in experience or to show proper regard for God’s people or some particular person, and two Christian Gospels portray Jesus, in his cry of dereliction on the cross, as experiencing abandonment by God, whom he regarded as “Abba, Father”, an experience shared by many mystics, saints, and ordinary folk of all theistic traditions, described at its worst as “the dark night of the soul”. Understood in this way, divine hiddenness poses an existential problem for those who have such experiences. However, “divine hiddenness” refers to something else in recent philosophical literature, especially since the publication of J.L. Schellenberg’s landmark book, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason (1993). In this context, it refers to alleged facts about the absence of belief of God, on the basis of which one might think there is no God. For example, Schellenberg argues that, since there are nonbelievers who are capable of a personal relationship with God and who do not resist it, there is no perfectly loving God, while Stephen Maitzen argues that naturalism better explains the “demographics” of nonbelief than theism and Jason Marsh argues that naturalism better explains “natural nonbelief” than theism. Understood in this way, divine hiddenness constitutes putative evidence for atheism. Although some of the recent philosophical literature addresses the problem understood in the first way (e.g., DeWeese-Boyd 2016; Garcia 2002), this entry focuses on divine hiddenness understood in the second way. The first section discusses the relationships between nonbelief and another source of alleged evidence for atheism: evil. The second section states and defends the argument from nonresistant nonbelief. The third section sketches attempts to explain nonresistant nonbelief from a theistic perspective. The fourth section states other responses to the argument from nonresistant nonbelief. The fifth section discusses the argument from the demographics of nonbelief and the sixth section discusses the argument from natural nonbelief.



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Daniel Howard-Snyder
Western Washington University

References found in this work

Thinking, Fast and Slow.Daniel Kahneman - 2011 - New York: New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Providence and the Problem of Evil.Richard Swinburne - 1998 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
Propositional faith: what it is and what it is not.Daniel Howard-Snyder - 2013 - American Philosophical Quarterly 50 (4):357-372.
Rationality and Religious Commitment.Robert Audi - 2011 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.

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