The Problem of Divine Hiddenness

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First, Schellenberg sets up a series of false premises about God.

  1. God is perfectly loving, so he would be available for a relationship with any human who was open to one.
    False. God is love, not just “loving”. He is not just “available”, but rather purposefully seeks out relationship with his creature, mankind. He does not respond to “openness”, but rather to faith based on what has been written about his character and his dealings with mankind. Openness alone does not gain any ground in relationship with God.
  2. Therefore, God must have a relationship with every willing human. There can be no “nonresistant nonbelievers” (nonbelievers who are open to a relationship with God).
    False. “Willingness” gains nothing with God. Faith alone moves God, and only faith based on what has been written about his character and his dealings with Man.
  3. But there are people who have desperately desired relationships with God, failed to find them, and now are nonbelievers.
    False construct. God rewards those who seek him in faith. Desperation to have a relationship with a false idea of who God is, is never rewarded with relationship. Those who come to God must seek him in faith and on his terms – terms that are written. It is not surprising that disappointment at not finding God on our terms should ultimately lead to nonbelief.
  4. Because 2 and 3 contradict, this god can’t exist.
    False. Since 2 and 3 are false and false constructs, 4 has no merit.

Second, WLC, as he is usually wrong about so much these days, is wrong again in saying that God is “not hidden”. Yes, God does hide himself, that much is written. One must seek him and seek him on his terms – written terms – or else the endeavor is in vain.
When it comes to finding God, the written truth about him cannot be circumvented or ignored. Without it, disappointment will always be the outcome.

I suggest you read his books. Because you aren’t getting it at all.

Define “written terms”.

Hi Patrick,

Schellenberg’s argument seems to be full of categories that need subjective agreement.
Take for example the idea of a human being “open” to a relationship with God.
How do we know a person is really “open” to having a relationship with God until he/she actually does have a relationship?
If we are going by what people say, its a fact that people say a lot of things about themselves/their attitudes which later on turn out to be false.

Also how does this idea of “openness” operate? As far as i can see, people have varying degrees of interest in knowing God at different times of their life.
Can i think about openness in terms of what the person is willing to give up in order to know God?
Or is it more of a passive thing?

Then there is the concept of “nonresistent nonbelievers”. How do you know there are any “nonresistant nonbelievers”.
Let me propose a scenario for “nonresistant nonbelievers” in the world.

  • A does not believe fact B. (Implies he knows what he is not believeing in. Otherwise, he would be just ignorant).
  • A stopped resisting against fact B.
  • So A became a believer in fact B.

The logical conclusion to the above scenario is that there are 0 “nonresistant nonbelievers”.

All these objections are addressed in “The Wisdom to Doubt”.

Hi T.j,
Hope you are doing well.
Pointing to the book doesn’t really move the conversation forward. All you are saying us that you find the argument in the book valid.
However, if you are able to articulate the argument and tell me why my objection doesn’t work, it will be helpful.

If you don’t have time for that… it’s fine. But then, saying “it’s in the book”, doesn’t really help.


So the argument from divine hiddenness, and its varieties, are I think the most misunderstood and misrepresented arguments out there. First, it’s good to note there isn’t just one argument from hiddenness. So addressing one doesn’t solve the general problem of hiddenness. Much like there isn’t just one PoE. Solving one PoE doesn’t solve the general PoE. You can say there is a general fact about divine hiddenness and then more specific facts. Such as hiddenness during suffering or the demographics of theistic belief (Maitzen). Anywho lets look at the argument:

  1. Necessarily, if God exists, anyone who is (i) not resisting God and (ii) capable of meaningful conscious relationship with God is also (iii) in a position to participate in such relationship (able to do so just by trying).
    (2) Necessarily, one is at a time in a position to participate in meaningful conscious relationship with God only if at that time one believes that God exists.
    (3) Necessarily, if God exists, anyone who is (i) not resisting God and (ii) capable of meaningful conscious relationship with God also (iii) believes that God exists.
    (4) There are (and often have been) people who are (i) not resisting God and (ii) capable of meaningful conscious relationship with God without also (iii) believing that God exists.
    (5) God does not exist.

Now, most philosophers tend to focus on (2) and (3). Most non-specialists tend to focus on (4). Let’s ignore the fact that denying (4) involves lots of patronizing armchair psychoanalysis and just focus on why it’s reasonable to believe there are non resistant non believers.

In The Wisdom to Doubt, Schellenberg lists four types of people that show non resistant non believers do in fact exist:

(a) The evidence of former believers:

Consider, for example, those who have always believed in God and who would love to go on believing in God but who have found, as adults, that serious and honest examination of all the evidence of experience and argument they can lay their hands on has unexpectedly had the result of eroding their belief away. These are individuals who were happy and morally committed believers and who remain morally committed but are not longer happy because of the emotional effects of an intellectual reorganization involving the removal of theistic belief. Perhaps they will be happy again, but the point is that for for the time being, it is the removal of theistic belief that they are inclined to resist, if anything. For they were still on friendly terms with God and benefitting in a variety of ways from what they took to be contact with God when their belief in the existence of such a being was whisked away. (p. 205)

(b) The evidence of isolated nontheists.
Consider also all those–both at the present time and throughout the past–in whom theistic belief has never been a live option. In some such individuals, quite other beliefs, supported by authority or tradition or experience, have held sway instead of theism. In others, the basic conceptual conditions of so much as entertaining the idea of a being separate from a created physical universe who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good and loving in relation to it have never been satisfied. (p. 205)

© The evidence of lifelong seekers:

… individuals who don’t start out in what they consider to be a relationship with God and may not even be explicitly searching for God, but who are trying to find out where they belong and, in their wanderings, are open to finding and being found by a Divine Parent–all without ever achieving their goal. These are individuals who seek but do not find. (p. 233)

(d) The evidence of converts to nontheistic religions: these are individuals who investigate other serious conceptions of the Ultimate and who turn up evidence that produces religious belief in the context of nontheistic religious communities and/or on account of nontheistic religious experiences–and the truth of atheistic claims may be seen to follow by implication. (236)

“It takes something like willful blindness to maintain that all nonbelief is itself the result of willful blindness.”

All I have time for at the moment.


Hi T.j,
Thanks for the reply.
My objection to the idea is that Schellenberg treats the concept of resistance as something like an on/off switch or a door. In my experience, (and hopefully yours also), it’s not.
Let me counter his argument with the following example:
A believer who resists. A believer is not a passive person necessarily non-resistant to the idea of a relationship with God. All of us question our beliefs, and we also can have emotional resistance to the idea of God because we may feel the very fact of His existence restricts us in many ways. This is especially true with regards to having a relationship with God. This is something done in Gods terms, people are often resistant to the idea of submitting to God according to his terms.

Schellenberg needs to establish that the resistance he is talking about can be zero. His examples all presuppose the following -

  1. Believers who are in a relationship with God have no resistance to the relationship. I.e their resistance switch is off.
  2. Unbelievers who are seeking God, will have no resistance to having a relationship with God.
  3. Believers who become unbelievers have no resistance towards having a relationship with God.

Take the example of a marriage. Can we assume the husband or wife has no resistance to the idea of staying married just because they continue to stay married? There might be a ton of positive feelings to the relationship, but there will also be some negativeness (whether consciously known or not).

Thanks for taking the time to reply. Maybe the above is covered in the book too.
Pla dont feel pressured to respond. I know how these discussions can turn into long to and fros and then distract us from other more important work.

God bless.