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,
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.”
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:
If there is a God, he is perfectly loving;
If a perfectly loving God exists, reasonable nonbelief does not
Reasonable nonbelief occurs.
Hence there is no God.
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
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
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
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.
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.
the opening pages of his book Schellenberg enumerates several
assumptions important to his work. His first assumption is that
belief is involuntary.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Why would God permit reasonable unbelief? One possible reason is
the freedom of humanity.
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.
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?
I think not.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.”
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 so.
But 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.”
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.
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
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
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
Is this an argument from ignorance? Not if we assume some instances
of nonbelief are generated by faulty reasoning mechanisms.
“classic” view of depravity is discussed at length by writers like
Augustine and John Calvin.
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
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.”
The classic view and the view of transworld depravity both treat
noetic corruption as a universal problem for human psychology.
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.’”
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.
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
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
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?
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,
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
Van Inwagen, “The Problem of the Hiddenness of God” in
Divine Hiddenness (Cambridge University Press, 2002), p.
J. L. Schellenberg, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason
( Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), 8
J. L. Schellenberg, p. 58 ff.
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.
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.
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.
Paul K. Moser, Philosophica Christi 3(1, 2001): 96.
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
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.
Daniel Howard-Snyder, “The Argument from Divine Hiddenness”,
Canadian Journal of Philosophy , p. 437.
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.
Howard-Snyder, p. 435.
Schellenberg, p. 96.
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.
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.
Merold Westphal, “Taking St. Paul Seriously: Sin as an
Epistemological Category” in Christian Philosophy
(Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press,
Schellenberg, p. 90.
Douglas V. Henry, “Does Reasonable Nonbelief Exist?”
Faith and Philosophy 18 (1, 2001): 75-92.
Laura Garcia, “The Necessity of Divine Hiddenness”,
Divine Hiddenness (Cambridge University Press, 2002), p.
“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.
Alvin Plantinga, Nature and Necessity (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 186.
Blaise Pascal, Penses (Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin
Books, 1970), p. 80.
Schellenberg, p. 132.
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
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
Michael J. Murray, “Why Does God Hide His Existence?” in
Questions About God (Oxford University Press, 2002), p.
Michael Murray, p. 57.