Thinking About Religion
Volume 7 (2007)

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The Hiddenness of God as a Cluster Problem

P. Eddy Wilson
Shaw University
pew2003@yahoo.com 

Like Gordian knots some philosophical problems are not easily disentangled.  The hiddenness of God is a tangled philosophical problem.  In his essay, “The Problem of the Hiddenness of God”, Peter Van Inwagen says,

We might say that in the real world, the problem of the hiddenness of God has two aspects, a moral aspect and an epistemic aspect.  But it would be better to say that there are two “’problems of hiddenness of God’” a moral problem and an epistemic problem, or a cluster of moral problems and a cluster of epistemic problems.”[1]

When the problem of God’s hiddenness is stated in the form of an inference it lends itself to closer analysis.  In Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason, J. L. Schellenberg summarizes the problem in deductive form. He writes:

(1) If there is a God, he is perfectly loving;

(2) If a perfectly loving God exists, reasonable nonbelief does not occur.

(3) Reasonable nonbelief occurs.

Hence there is no God.[2]

Below I select two replies to the problem of hiddenness: a free will reply and a noetic corruption reply.  On the surface these rebuttals appear to be denials of the second premise.  I hope to show that the logical problem is not confined to an unsound second premise.  The free will reply calls for a more careful analysis of the first premise.  The noetic corruption reply focuses on the third premise, and it requires that we understand reasonable nonbelief in a qualified sense.  Before we can examine either reply we must determine what it means to say that God is hidden or epistemically inaccessible.

I. The Problem of God’s Hiddenness

Suppose someone reports he or she does not believe there is a loving God.  For the moment I shall assume that the individual finds God to be epistemically inaccessible, though that may need clarification. In other words, a loving God is hidden to that individual.  If the individual can offer reasons why he or she disbelieves, then this constitutes his or her warrant for disbelief. 

God’s hiddenness is unique. My hiddenness or your hiddenness is demonstrable.  I am hidden when you cannot find me at some place at some time.  Divine hiddenness is not easily reducible to time and space coordinates.  To say that God is hidden is to say that we are unable to perceive the universal, or it is to say that the existence of an omnipresent being is unbelievable.  Here I shall not explore the implications of the notion that one can or cannot perceive God.  Rather I shall be interested in determining how hiddenness relates to warranted unbelief.  J. L. Schellenberg calls this “reasonable nonbelief.”[3]

How are we to understand the proposition that God is hidden?  Is this proposition to be understood in an active or a passive sense?  In the active sense God hides, and one may infer the act of hiding is intentional.  In the passive sense God is hidden, and one must determine what the conditions are for God’s hiddenness.  Perhaps these are temporary or reversible conditions that the inquirer could effect.  For instance, if purity of heart is a sufficient condition for finding God, then one who purifies his or her heart would then satisfy the condition for finding God.

When I am hidden, I am concealed in the world by the world.  Perhaps we can say God is hidden in the world and by the world.  But where is God hidden in the world or by the world? Assuming that we are not pantheists, God’s presence or absence in the world is likely to be understood inferentially.[4]  The upshot of the teleological argument for the existence of God is that from the design of the world we may infer by analogy that there is a good God.[5]  If a sufficient quantity or quality of evil is present in the world, one infers that a wholly loving God does not exist.  Evil is the rationale for disbelief. 

In the opening pages of his book Schellenberg enumerates several assumptions important to his work.  His first assumption is that belief is involuntary.[6]  To say that belief is involuntary is to maintain that one believes when he or she is presented with sufficient evidence for a proposition.  Involuntary belief is the proper response to sufficient evidence.  Lacking that one may withhold belief, or one may disbelieve what is proposed.  One has freedom to believe or disbelieve some propositions without sufficient evidence, but with sufficient evidence one is compelled to believe.  Schellenberg maintains that his first assumption that belief is involuntary and his second assumption that individuals have free will are not contradictory assumptions.  Until reason may be given to think otherwise I shall assume Schellenberg is correct.[7]

Few philosophers give attention to the scope of God’s hiddenness.  The hidden God argument is thought to work if God is hidden to one, but to whom is God hidden and how?  Is God hidden only to some individuals who fail to believe?  Or is God hidden to all, and those who believe are merely mistaken?  We have the following possibilities:  All believe that God is hidden; none believe that God is hidden; some believe that God is hidden; some do not believe that God is hidden.  Consider the following proposition: If God is intentionally hidden from an individual, then that individual has warrant for reasonable nonbelief.  By substitution we have the following possibilities: All have warrant for reasonable nonbelief; none have warrant for reasonable nonbelief; some have warrant for reasonable nonbelief; some do not have warrant for reasonable nonbelief.  It seems clear that some do and some do not believe that God is hidden.  Should some believe that God is hidden? The answer to that normative question is contingent on our understanding of God’s intentions about hiddenness and our understanding of what constitutes rational belief.

In his discussion of the problem of God’s hiddenness Van Inwagen invites readers to imagine that a theist and an atheist enter a dialogue to resolve the problem. Each believes his or her view has sufficient warrant for its support. The atheist refuses to believe without ostensible signs of God’s existence. The theist tells the atheist that the demand for additional signs to overcome disbelief is mistaken. Van Inwagen’s theist says, “these signs you [the atheist] want God to place in the world would have to recur periodically, or, after a few generations had passed, people like you would say that the stories about the signs had grown in the telling."[8]  The atheist who requires demonstrable proof to resolve the problem of hiddenness treats the problem as if it could be solved only by multiple proofs to sundry individuals. The atheist is demanding an inductive solution to a deductive problem.

Is the request for proof on demand justified?  The project of better understanding our reasoning process to determine whether it is at fault is quite different than the project of stipulating what demonstrable conditions will lead to the inductive conclusion that there is a God.  Paul K. Moser maintains that hiddenness does arise as the result of specifiable conditions; therefore we cannot control those conditions.  He says “Divine hiding typically results from deficiencies on the human side of the divine-human relationship.”[9]   In his view the atheist who insists that demonstrable proofs be offered for belief in God is doomed to failure.  Moser says, “We commit cognitive idolatry when we demand a certain sort of knowledge or evidence of God inappropriate to a filial relationship with God.  We thereby run afoul of God’s rightful authority in the cognitive domain.”[10] [11]

Van Inwagen’s atheist required that a sign be given to overcome nonbelief, but inductive signs aim to establish the presence of God at a specified moment.  Thus, the problem is perceived as an instance of time when God seems absent rather than the enduring state of the world.  When religious individuals object that God is silent they confront a similar problem, the problem that God is epistemically unavailable to them at a specific moment.[12]  However the problem of the hiddenness of God under examination is not reducible to the quality of a single moment.  The judgment that sufficient good is absent from the world leads to the inference God does not exist, and that inference is drawn from an appraisal of the ongoing quality and quantity of evil in the world.  The inference that a wholly loving God does not exist is drawn when one concludes there is too much evil in the world. 

II. God is Hidden and Humanity is Free

In the active account of divine hiddenness there is an underlying intention.  God intends to be hidden, that is, God intends to be epistemically inaccessible.  This may seem counterintuitive, if God intends to reveal God’s self to humanity.  However, God may be hidden and still engage in a project of self-revelation under certain conditions.  Why would God intend to hide?  The account most often given calls for a value judgment. 

In his essay, “Argument from Divine Hiddenness”, Daniel Howard-Snyder formulates his own argument for hiddenness.  His argument includes the following premise: “There is no reason for God to permit [some people] to fail inculpably to have theistic belief.”[13]  This premise both assumes that some individuals fail inculpably to believe in God and that God permits their failure to believe.  This is doubly problematic.  One the one hand, this suggests that God is culpable for some instances of nonbelief.[14]  If God is all powerful, then this compromises the goodness of God.  On the other hand, Howard-Snyder maintains that if belief is a precondition for entering into a relationship with God, then hiddenness would prevent individuals from attaining that end.[15]  Why would God permit reasonable unbelief?   One possible reason is the freedom of humanity.

The claim is that God is hidden so that human freedom may not be compromised.  On the surface this assumes that God’s hiddenness is valuable for the preservation of human freedom.  Were God not hidden human freedom would be compromised.  This can be understood in an absolute sense or a qualified sense.  In the qualified sense God may be epistemically available under certain conditions that would not compromise freedom.  This view is a variety of free-will theodicy or a soul-making theodicy.  Hiddenness is an evil in this view, but it has instrumental value for the preservation of human freedom.

Underlying the discussion is a suppressed premise.  Recall the first premise of the argument: “If there is a God, then he is perfectly loving.”  The suppressed premise at work here is:  “A perfectly loving God would value theistic belief more than human freedom.”  This suppressed premise requires that one make a comparative value judgment regarding the value of theistic belief versus the value of the exercise of human freedom.  To suppose that a loving God does not share in the value judgment above is to suppose that a loving God values the exercise of human freedom above theistic belief. If this valuation was not contingent, then God would treat the preservation of human freedom as an ultimate good.  If this valuation was contingent, then God would regard the preservation of freedom as a relatively superior good.  For instance, during the natural life span of a human freedom could be a relatively superior good.  Assuming that there could be postmortem survival, then freedom might be given only a subordinate value relative to the good of theistic belief at that time.

If a loving God directly intended that the exercise of human freedom be valued above theistic belief, then the failure of some to believe would not be intended directly but only obliquely.  In the principle of double-effect the secondary effect is intended obliquely.  In a weak sense one permits the secondary effect, since it is incidental to the primary end.  Hence, it is conceivable that God has reason to permit some “to fail inculpably to have theistic belief.” 

Schellenberg believes that these free-will theodicies wrongly conflate two types of freedom – moral freedom and cognitive freedom.[16]  In his view a free-will theodicy justifies moral freedom as a good, and some evil may be justified as instrumentally valuable for this good.  Since moral freedom rather than cognitive freedom is the good that a free-will theodicy aims to justify, Schellenberg supposes that no justification for hiddenness is offered by a free-will theodicy.  In other words, free-will theodicies do not justify hiddenness as having instrumental value.  If one supposes that there is an intelligible difference between moral and cognitive freedom, is this conflation of two types of freedom a damaging problem?[17]  I think not.[18]

If moral freedom and cognitive freedom are two distinct types of freedom, what would lead to their conflation?  I would suggest that there is an underlying relationship between moral and cognitive freedom that may be overlooked.  Earlier I discussed Schellenberg’s assumption that belief is involuntary. I assume one’s exercise of moral freedom is contingent upon his or her beliefs about the world.  In an epistemic environment where belief is involuntary one may assume there is a quantitative or qualitative threshold when evidence becomes sufficient to trigger belief.  When one is presented with sufficient evidence, belief is forthcoming.  Lacking such evidence one is free to withhold judgment, free to believe without warrant, or free to disbelieve. 

By giving you sufficient evidence I may “make” a believer of you.  In some instances the evidence may take the form of an assurance that I shall make good on a threat or a promise.  If you believe that positive or negative consequences (Y or ~Y) will follow when you perform some action (X), then your decision to act will be contingent upon your belief in the assurance you were offered.  The evidence has a direct effect upon your cognitive freedom, and it indirectly affects your moral freedom.  If I am correct in assuming that some causal relationship between cognitive freedom and moral freedom does attain, then this may account for the conflation of moral and cognitive freedom in some free-will theodicies. Below I shall discuss how God’s availability may pose a threat to some individuals. So, the conflation of moral and cognitive freedom in some free will theodicies may be benign, since the preservation of cognitive freedom may be instrumentally valuable for the preservation of moral freedom in some free-will theodicies.

III. God’s Hiddenness and Human Depravity

The discussion above suggests that God is directly responsible for reasonable nonbelief, since God intends to be hidden, that is, epistemically unavailable.  This assumes that epistemic conditions for belief in God come under the direct control of God and epistemic conditions are ideal.  In contrast, John Calvin, Blaise Pascal and others maintain that it is the fallenness of humanity that accounts for unbelief.  In brief, it is suggested that under ideal circumstances God would be epistemically accessible to humanity.  Ideal conditions do not prevail at this hour.  Therefore, God is hidden.  Since humanity is responsible for its depravity, humanity is responsible for the loss of ideal epistemic conditions. If our belief forming mechanisms are corrupt, then nonbelief would lack warrant.  So, the claim that humanity has undergone noetic corruption qualifies what can count as reasonable nonbelief.

Depravity has been understood as a universal phenomenon and a particular phenomenon.  As a universal phenomenon depravity affects both human reasoning and behavior. In his essay, “Taking St. Paul Seriously:  Sin as an Epistemological Category”, Merold Westphal argues that depravity is not simply a moral corruption but also an epistemological corruption.[19]  Westphal suggests that total depravity not be understood as the notion that the will is totally corrupt and humanity is as evil as it could be.  Rather depravity extends beyond the will to the intellect.  Westphal says, “the intellect and not just the will has been distorted by sin and no longer functions as it was intended to in creation.”[20] Just as the affects of impaired vision may be many, so the cognitive affects of noetic corruption may be many. “Noetic corruption” is the inability of the human reasoning capacity to function ideally in some instances.

Can we specify what dysfunctions result from noetic corruption?  Schellenberg points out that one affect of the fall may be the inability of humanity to discern correctly the point of some instances of evil. In other words, we may erroneously doubt that “some evils of human experience serve inscrutable goods.”[21]  Underlying this doubt is a presumption of knowledge – one just knows some evils are pointless.  Since pointless evils may be seen as warrant for unbelief, and since depravity may lead one erroneously to believe that some instances of evil are pointless, this depravity may be a sufficient condition for some instances of nonbelief. To concede that some evils may serve valuable albeit inscrutable ends, one must be prepared to question his or her judgment about evils that appear pointless.  Will the pointlessness of nonbelief be suspect?  Schellenberg says,

“the probability that reasonable nonbelief will be apparently pointless if God exists would seem to be at most half that of the proposition that some instances of evil will be soBut then, given that we can surely say no more than that the latter proposition is as probable as not, the probability of the claim that reasonable nonbelief will be apparently pointless if God exists is clearly too low for rational acceptance.”[22]

Schellenberg’s discussion of the probability that attaches to the reasonableness of nonbelief seems to shift the focus of attention.  Are we to treat reasonable nonbelief as an inductive problem?  In his article, “Does Reasonable Nonbelief Exist?” Douglas V. Henry attacks the third premise of Schellenberg’s syllogism.[23]  His rebuttal includes both inductive and deductive reasons to reject the third premise as unsound, though his deductive reasons to reject the third premise differ from mine.  While Henry admits qualitative issues may be raised about the nonbelief, Henry contends that the inquiry of humanity is quantitatively inadequate to warrant the claim that unbelief is reasonable. The judgment is that unbelief is reasonable is made without having first arrived at parity.  Hence, we may arrive at unbelief as a result of hasty generalization.  Henry says, “adequate investigation is the exception rather than the rule”.[24] I maintain that even if one arrived at parity his or her nonbelief would lack warrant given the epistemic predicament of humanity; and that is a qualitative judgment.   Henry says,

Reflective persons whose investigative procedures are exemplary do not usually assume that all evidence is at hand, the only thing needed being an occasion to sort through its implications.  They search for additional evidence, its quantity and quality depending upon the importance of the issue for which the evidence is being sought.[25]

Henry questions whether there is warrant for nonbelief leading to the judgment that there is no God; I question whether the noetic faculty of the subject making this judgment has been compromised.    In “St. John of the Cross and the Necessity of Divine Hiddenness”, Laura L. Garcia says, “for anyone who thinks that it’s likely that God’s reasons for some things are going to be inscrutable to us, it will also be very likely that involuntary nonbelief falls into this category.”[26] Is this an argument from ignorance?  Not if we assume some instances of nonbelief are generated by faulty reasoning mechanisms.     

The “classic” view of depravity is discussed at length by writers like Augustine and John Calvin.[27]   In Calvin’s view the ideal noetic state was corrupted by human depravity.  Calvin says, “After the impious have willfully shut their own eyes, it is the righteous vengeance of God upon them, to darken their understandings, so that, seeing, they may not perceive.”[28]  More recently Alvin Plantinga has discussed transworld depravity.  He says, “What is important about the idea of transworld depravity is that if a person suffers from it, then it was not within God’s power to actualize any world in which that person is significantly free but does no wrong – that is, a world in which he produces moral good but not moral evil.”[29]  The classic view and the view of transworld depravity both treat noetic corruption as a universal problem for human psychology.

A more recent, existential approach has been developed by Blaise Pascal who maintains that God’s hiddenness is responsive to the desires and inclinations of humans. So, in Pascal’s view God does not directly intend to remain hidden.Pascal writes,

Thus wishing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart and hidden from those who shun him with all their heart, he has qualified our knowledge of him by giving signs which can be seen by those who seek him and not by those who do not.
‘There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.’”
[30]

If humanity either collectively or individually is responsible for hiddenness, and if God seems to be hidden due to noetic corruption, does that mean hiddenness has no positive instrumental value?  No.  It may still be instrumentally valuable for humanity even if it is the consequence of fallenness.[31] At least one view of hiddenness suggests that fallenness is a necessary and insufficient condition for the good of humanity, the Irenean soul-making view of fallenness.  John Hick, a defender of this view, suggests that God intends to remain hidden in this physical world, and the physical world becomes a threshold for divine hiddenness.[32]  Hick says, “By means of matter and living flesh God both builds a path and weaves a veil between Himself and the creature made in his image.”[33]  God’s hiddenness shall be overcome beyond this veil. In the soul-making view hiddenness does have instrumental value.  However, this fails to answer the relevant question: Why is God not more accessible in this world? 

In his essay “Why does God Hide His Existence?” Michael J. Murray points out that in some instances epistemic availability may constitute a threat.  In other words, God’s epistemic availability would have moral implications and not just epistemic implications. Hiddenness mitigates against an irresistible lure of evidence to believe that could be perceived as a threat or a promise.  If belief is involuntary, and if epistemic availability would trigger this involuntary response, then God must temper God’s availability to insure that God does not coerce humans into belief.  Murray says,

It seems clear that fully robust and morally significant free-will cannot be exercised by someone who is compelled by another in the context of a threat.  Further, I will argue that if God does not remain ‘hidden’ to a certain extent, at least some of the free creatures He creates would be in the condition of being compelled in the context of a threat and, as a result, such creatures could not exercise their freedom in this robust, morally significant manner.[34]

If Murray is correct in surmising that God’s presence may negatively impact the ability of humans to exercise their freedom, then God’s availability threatens to impinge upon both cognitive freedom and moral freedom contra Schellenberg.  I suspect Murray is correct, and that the threat to moral and cognitive freedom cannot be so easily disentangled.  Furthermore, until we are prepared to investigate what comparative value God places on the exercise of human freedom, we may not be warranted in asserting that a perfectly loving God would not allow reasonable nonbelief. 

Murray suggests that the hiddenness of God in this world can be directly correlated with the threat God’s availability would pose.  Murray then offers an analysis of three factors that may impact the gravity of the threat – threat strength, threat imminence, and wantonness of the threatened.[35]  Let us call this the risk of nearness.  In Murray’s view God intends to minimize the risk of nearness to preserve human freedom. 

Individuals have a personal, psychological space that can be invaded, and when it is invaded they feel threatened.  Even a desirable presence may prove overwhelming at times.  For instance, the young woman may say to her significant other that she is being smothered by his attention.  This invasive presence may leave the individual feeling violated or coerced.   Murray’s point is that God must maintain a certain distance from humanity to avoid coercion. When this threshold is breeched, the individual’s freedom is compromised. Murray says, “If God does not remain ‘hidden’ to a certain extent, at least some of the free creatures He creates would be in the condition of being compelled in the context of a threat and, as a result, such creatures could not exercise their freedom in this robust, morally significant manner.”[36]

I take wantonness to be a manifestation of humanity’s fallenness.  If this is correct God is not directly responsible for at least one condition that determines the risk of nearness.   Murray says, “[wantonness] can be roughly characterized as a feeling of indifference for one’s well-being in cases where that well-being is threatened should there be a refusal to submit to the terms of some restriction on one’s freedom.”[37]  In Murray’s view a wanton individual suffers from a form of insensitivity and does not take ample thought for his or her well being when given fair warning of an imminent threat.  For instance, a wanton individual might ignore a flashing red light at a railroad crossing as he or she hastens forward.  In this view extraordinary measures would be needed to warn the wanton person adequately of an immanent danger.  The threat that would move the wanton would coerce the normal individual. 

While Murray’s analysis exposes how the nearness of God may pose a threat, his analysis of wantonness seems one-sided.  It accounts for those who would be desensitized to a normal threat, but it fails to give an account of those who would be overwhelmed by a normal thereat.   I would expand the class of the wanton to include also those who suffer from other forms of paranoid delusion.  These individuals include not only those who are insensitive to dangers but those who overestimate the risk posed to them.   For some individuals only a mild threat would be needed to elicit a response, and a “normal” threat would be seen as overbearing. Of course, to assume that humanity is fallen is to assume that humanity suffers the ill effects of wantonness individually and collectively.  Given their psychological state the unbelief of the wanton is not necessarily reasonable.

Suppose we grant Murray’s point that God’s nearness in this world could constitute a threat.  Suppose further that threat strength and threat immanence can be managed by God, that is, they are subject to God’s intention to be hidden or relatively available.  What remains is the wantonness factor, and that is contingent upon human psychology.  Wantonness in the classical view of depravity is a universal phenomenon.  God would have to remain unnaturally distant from humanity to insure that God’s presence did not pose a threat to humanity.  In this epistemic environment we would be mistaken to identify nonbelief as reasonable.

Conclusion

The discussion above focuses on the problem of the hiddenness of God.  Belief is assumed to have positive value, while nonbelief is assumed to have negative value. Although it is important to understand in greater detail the negative consequences of nonbelief, that topic cannot be explored here.   Here we have only explored the relationship of hiddenness to nonbelief in an attempt to understand why some individuals find God to be epistemically inaccessible. 

On the surface Schellenberg’s argument for the hiddenness of God appears to be a sound and valid argument for a simple problem.  Shellenberg’s aims to defend the soundness of the second premise, and I suggest that this masks the complexity of the problem.  Once we begin to unpack the premises it proves to be a cluster problem.  In the first premise one moves from the existence of God to the existence of a totally loving God.  Some significant value judgments about God’s preferences must be made, before one can determine the logical connection between a loving God and unbelief.    The final premise assumes nonbelief in the existence of God is reasonable.  I have suggested that there is sufficient reason to suspect the reasonableness of nonbelief, given the epistemic predicament of humanity.  If it ultimately proves to be the case that the evil of the unavailability of God had an instrumental value, then the goodness of God shall have been vindicated. 

 

Notes

[1]Peter Van Inwagen, “The Problem of the Hiddenness of God” in Divine Hiddenness (Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 29.

[2] J. L. Schellenberg, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason ( Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), 8

[3] J. L. Schellenberg, p. 58 ff.

[4] For the moment I shall not explore how a panentheist or pantheist would respond to the claim that God is hidden.  For good reason the panentheist may contend that the issue of hiddenness may be a wrongheaded notion.

[5] On the teleological argument see William Paley, “The Argument from Design,” in Harrison Hall and Norman E. Bowie, The Tradition of Philosophy (Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company), 1986, p. 517.

[6] Schellenberg, p. 8.

[7] Even if one assumes belief is involuntary, one’s beliefs may still run contrary to one’s wishes or desires.  One could desire to believe and still not believe.  One could desire not to believe that which he or she is compelled to believe.  I shall not be addressing this psychological conflict of interest here.

[8] Van Inwagen, p. 28.

[9] Paul K. Moser, Philosophica  Christi  3(1, 2001): 96.

[10] Moser, p. 100.

[11] To say that God is hidden is to admit that there is someone or something that conceals God.  I take reasonable nonbelief to be either the belief that there is no God or the belief that there is no God who is supremely good and all powerful in the traditional sense. The first form of nonbelief is atheism.  The second form of nonbelief is a qualified skepticism.  The qualified skeptic may be prepared to believe in God providing that the notion of God was redefined. 

[12] For a discussion of the silence of the God of the Bible see Nicholas Wolterstorff, “The Silence of the God Who Speaks”, in Divine Hiddenness (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 215-228.

[13] Daniel Howard-Snyder, “The Argument from Divine Hiddenness”, Canadian Journal of Philosophy , p. 437.

[14] Daniel Howard-Snyder reports Michael Dummett says, "God is just and cannot wish or require anyone to believe that which there is no reason to believe.”  So, God’s hiddenness may be the occasion for unwarranted belief. P. 435.

[15] Howard-Snyder, p. 435.

[16] Schellenberg, p. 96.

[17]There may be some warrant to suggest that Schellenberg is wrong in his assumptions about the difference between epistemic and moral freedom.  Both are simply expressions of the freedom to bring an unresolved conflict to closure by the exercise of one’s will.

[18] One way of understanding the difference between moral and cognitive freedom is to associate moral freedom with action only and to associate cognitive freedom with belief only.  That strikes me as a false contrast.  In some instance the formation of belief is best understood as an action, and in some instances one’s decision to believe or not to believe carries moral implications.  Here I am interested only in suggesting that if one’s freedom to believe is restricted, then that restriction may limit what one can do. 

[19] Merold Westphal, “Taking St. Paul Seriously:  Sin as an Epistemological Category” in Christian Philosophy (Notre Dame, Indiana:  University of Notre Dame Press, 1990).

[20] Westphal, p. 201.

[21] Schellenberg, p. 90.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Douglas V. Henry, “Does Reasonable Nonbelief Exist?” Faith and Philosophy 18 (1, 2001): 75-92.

[24] Henry, p. 82.

[25] Henry, p. 79.

[26] Laura Garcia, “The Necessity of Divine Hiddenness”, Divine Hiddenness (Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 86.

[27]Calvin says, “the human mind, even by natural instinct, posses some sense of a Deity. For that no man might shelter himself under the pretext of ignorance, God hath given to all some apprehension of his existence.” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, n. d.), Vol. I, p. 54.

[28] John Calvin, p. 59.

[29] Alvin Plantinga, Nature and Necessity (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 186.

[30] Blaise Pascal, Penses (Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books, 1970), p. 80.

[31] Schellenberg, p. 132.

[32] In the thought of John Hick the threshold between God’s accessibility and God’s hiddenness is simply understood as the physical world.  Only if we could transcend that barrier could we come into the presence of God.  Hick says, “The physical universe is a divine creation, determined by a purpose which has deliberately made it an autonomously functioning sphere in which its creator is not evident.”  John Hick, quoted in Schellenberg, p. 114.  The physical world is a less than ideal environment for belief in God in his view. 
If the threshold is simply the physical universe, then that universe as a whole suppresses or blocks rational belief and the universe as a whole gives rise to rational nonbelief.  Of course, this is a metaphysical claim about the instrumental value of the universe as a whole.  It justifies reasonable nonbelief as the appropriate response to the universe as it stands.  And God must remain relatively absent from that universe. 

[33] John Hick, p. 296.

[34] Michael J. Murray, “Why Does God Hide His Existence?”  in Questions About God (Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 61.

[35] P. 53

[36] Murray, p. 52f.

[37] Michael Murray, p. 57.

 

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