One of the reasons cited in favor of atheism and against the idea that the God of Christian theism exists is known as the “hiddenness of God” objection.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers this definition: “‘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 a previous article (see “Is God’s ‘Hiddenness’ a Rational Objection to Christianity?“) I offered a historic Christian response to this skeptical claim. I explained that the biblical religions of Judaism and Christianity are religions of revelation. This means they claim that God has unveiled himself. So from a biblical perspective God is not hidden, absent, or silent the way some atheists claim. Rather, God is revealed in nature, in the human conscience, in the history of the nation of Israel and the historical person of Jesus Christ, and in Scripture.
In this article, I will address the role that arguments can play in responding to the charge that God is somehow hidden.
Four Traditional Arguments
For centuries, Christian thinkers have provided plenty of substantive philosophical and historical arguments for God’s existence and the truth of Christianity.1 These arguments correspond to the areas that Scripture indicates God reveals himself (nature, conscience, history) and comport well with the modern findings of science and history.
The four traditional arguments for God’s existence are the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the moral argument, and the ontological argument. There are many versions of these classic arguments along with many other arguments apologists can marshal from different academic disciplines (history, science, mathematics, aesthetics, etc.).2 I have chosen specific versions of the arguments and have presented them in introductory, outline form. In logic, an argument is defined as a supported claim. The claim is called the conclusion and the support (facts, evidence, reasons) are called the premises. For each argument, I have briefly identified the basic support for the premises and noted the biggest objection to the argument followed by a rejoinder.
Several different arguments reside in the cosmological category (how to account for the cosmos). Here is one popular version of the cosmological variety known as the Kalam cosmological argument:
Premise #1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
Premise #2: The universe began to exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause (God).
The first premise comports well with the basic principle of causality. Causality holds that if something emerges into existence or being it cannot be uncaused nor can it be self-caused. It must be caused by another.
The second premise is consistent with science’s traditional big bang cosmological model (the cosmos had a singular beginning a finite period ago).
The Kalam cosmological argument is also compatible with the biblical doctrine of creation ex nihilo, which affirms that God created all contingent entities out of or from nothing, not from preexistent entities.
Arguably the biggest objection to the Kalam cosmological argument is the speculative scientific view known as the multiverse. This view posits that there is a near-infinite number of universes. Thus, if our universe had a beginning it was not the true beginning of everything. However, the multiverse theory comes with flaws. One major weakness is that these claimed multiple universes are currently unverifiable and unfalsifiable and may always be so, causing many scientists to deem them philosophical speculation, not science.3
Under the teleological category we also find several different arguments. Here is a popular version of the teleological argument known as the fine-tuning argument.
Premise #1: The fine-tuning of the universe (the fact that the cosmos exhibits all the necessary and narrowly drawn parameters to make human life possible) is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
Premise #2: It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
Conclusion: Therefore, it is due to design (God).
The first premise seems to reasonably set forth the three possible options to account for the universe’s fine-tuning.
The second premise is supported in two ways: (1) the scientific awareness that the physics of the universe could have taken a different pattern,4 and (2) the statistical probability of the fine-tuning resulting from chance is so extraordinarily improbable as to be virtually impossible.5
Thus this argument is compatible with biblical design and science’s anthropic principle—the idea that the cosmos seems designed to allow for human life.
The biggest objection to the fine-tuning argument is again the proposed multiverse. But the multiverse seems to imply the existence of something supernatural or above the natural realm of reality. Can a theory dependent on forces outside space-time be considered naturalistic? Appealing to mechanisms rather than empirical data clashes with old-school atheistic naturalism (physicalism or materialism). Thus, if the multiverse is a reality, it may best comport with an act of God.
Christian thinkers have presented a number of different arguments that are designated under the moral category. This popular version appeals to objective morality.
Premise #1: There are objective moral obligations.
Premise #2: If there are objective moral obligations, there is a God who explains these obligations.
Conclusion: Therefore, there is a God.
The first premise is largely affirmed by both theists and atheists. One such moral obligation avers that all human beings have inherent value and dignity. Therefore, moral offenses like rape and murder are always morally wrong.
The second premise is supported by the position that the existence of God can ground objective moral values. For example, if people are made in God’s image then their value and dignity come from an objective source outside of human experience.
The biggest objection to this moral argument is the claim that God isn’t needed to ground objective morality. But the sources that secularists often appeal to in order to justify morality (the results of evolution, collective consensus of humanity) don’t seem reliably objective in nature.
Ontological Argument (Maximally Perfect Being)
Christians have marshaled several different arguments under the ontological category. This contemporary version contains five premises:
Premise #1: It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
Premise #2: If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
Premise #3: If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
Premise #4: If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
Premise #5: If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
Conclusion: Therefore, a maximally great being exists (God).
The original ontological argument dates back to St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109) and some people think it may have its basic roots even earlier in St. Augustine. The basic argument has always been controversial. Notable defenders include René Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz, and Alvin Plantinga and objectors include Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, and Graham Oppy. The modern version above reflects a modal (logical reasoning that uses words like possible and necessary to guide thoughts toward a rational conclusion) version of the argument.
Anselm’s basis for the argument is said to have reflected his prayerful thought about Psalm 14:1, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”
Criticisms of the argument center on definition of terms, coherence, and logical assumptions. Yet this argument refuses to go away and some distinguished philosophers today find it to be logically sound.
Takeaway: Hidden or Revealed?
I recognize that arguments on one hand and personal persuasion on the other are distinct things and maybe especially so when it comes to belief in God. But since there are well over 100 arguments (or varieties of arguments) for God’s existence that competent scholars in various fields affirm to be logically sound and cogent, then it is difficult—at least in my mind—to accept the position that God’s existence is somehow truly hidden from human beings.
In the next article I plan to consider what value there may be for both atheists and theists for God’s existence not being too overt.
Reflections: Your Turn
Of the traditional arguments for God’s existence summarized above, which one do you find the most probative or engaging?
- For further discussion about God’s revelation, see Kenneth Richard Samples, Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions.
- For a discussion of some of historic Christianity’s greatest thinkers and their arguments for God (including Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis), see Kenneth Richard Samples, Classic Christian Thinkers: An Introduction.
- For evidence and arguments for God and Christianity, see Kenneth Richard Samples, 7 Truths That Changed the World: Discovering Christianity’s Most Dangerous Ideas andKenneth Richard Samples, Christianity Cross-Examined: Is It Rational, Relevant, and Good?
- For a book-length treatment on the topic of divine hiddenness from a Christian philosophical perspective, see Michael C. Rea, The Hiddenness of God.
- For a series of essays on divine hiddenness from various perspectives (Jewish, Christian, atheistic, agnostic), see eds. Daniel Howard-Snyder and Paul K. Moser, Divine Hiddenness: New Essays.
- For an analysis of these arguments and others, see Ed. L. Miller, God and Reason: An Invitation to Philosophical Theology, 2nd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995); William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008); Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994); Jerry L. Walls and Trent Dougherty, eds., Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God: The Plantinga Project (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018); Kenneth Richard Samples, 7 Truths That Changed the World: Discovering Christianity’s Most Dangerous Ideas (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012); Kenneth Richard Samples, Classic Christian Thinkers: An Introduction (Covina, CA, RTB Press, 2019); Kenneth Richard Samples, Christianity Cross-Examined: Is It Rational, Relevant, and Good? (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2021).
- Chad McIntosh, “Over 100 Arguments for the Existence of God,” on Capturing Christianity with Cameron Bertuzzi, YouTube, February 25, 2001.
- George F. R. Ellis, “Does the Multiverse Really Exist?” Scientific American (August 2011).
- Paul Davies, The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 169.
- Roger Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 339–45.