Imagine a woman named Julie who discovers a beautiful book which describes a man who is deeply in love with her. Julie is also told he has the ability to remain hidden from her, though he is allegedly never more than a reach away. The book claims that, unless Julie believes the man is actually there beside her, she is, in effect, rejecting the love of that man, and this rejection will result in his eternal anger. Yet Julie never actually encounters the man. Assuming Julie is rational, what should she conclude about these claims?
What should we conclude about any book making similar claims about an omnipresent God deeply in love with us, yet who is never actually encountered in any way beyond the vague sense of divine presence found also among those who believe in other Gods?
The Christian God is said to have the following traits:
- Omnipresent. He is currently next to you and watching you.
- Desiring of a personal relationship with each and every human.
What would keep such a God from having a normal face-to-face personal relationship with each and every human? Why would such a God maintain a degree of visibility all other proposed Gods can lay claim to? Why would a God so enraged when forsaken for other alleged Gods (Numbers 25:9) employ a modus operandi of hiddenness identical to those other Gods?
A couple of arguments have been offered.
1: Encountering an unequivocal God would be a violation of our free will.
Does this follow? Would your freedom to reject a potential suitor be violated if that suitor approached you personally in full sight? Is this not confusing the acceptance of the existence of someone and accepting their proposal? Can you rationally accept a relationship with someone who you are not fully certain exists? Would not an actual God who desires our love and worship eliminate any obstacle to our love and worship? Can we call the God of the Bible omnipotent when he does not seem capable of manifesting personally to the very humans with whom he claims to want a personal relationship?
2: Humans have more than enough evidence for the Christian God.
Is this what we see when we survey humans around the world? Do we hear of encounters with the Christian God by individuals not exposed to the notion of the Christian God? The Christian God initiates an actual personal relationship with neither those who have cultural exposure to the Bible, nor with those who don’t. Even Christians brought up within a Christian culture know nothing more about the Christian God or Jesus than what they have read about or have been taught. Can this be called a personal relationship?
And would not an actual God desiring a personal relationship want a clear two-way dialogue that eliminates the possibility of miscommunication?
It seems that, instead of actively pursuing a personal relationship with humans, the “personal” Christian God is employing the same dubious method of communication that hundreds of other alleged Gods have employed: a book written so vaguely that it has given rise to thousands of sects and disparate doctrines.
The “personal” God of the Bible appears suspiciously afraid of appearing.
The God of the Bible was allegedly not always so invisible to everyone. He had no problem appearing to Saul of Tarsus in a way that would leave his existence unquestionable (e.g., Acts 9:3). In addition to many Biblical accounts of God’s appearance, there have been many claims of miraculous appearances of God throughout the history of Christianity. It is informative to note the inverse relationship between the development of scientific scrutiny and the decreasing claims of miraculous appearances of God. It could be argued that God changed his methodology in a way that accidentally suggests he is shy around cameras and the availability of other more scientific methods of documentation. This phenomenon is identical to the decreasing alleged appearances of other competing Gods.
The implications of this hiddenness of God can not be stressed enough. Even a non-personal God could be expected to make an appearance now and then, if even by accident, indifferent to human observation. The God of the Bible appears to be actively hiding. The full depth of this problem is realized once we take into account the apparent silence of God in respect to both 1) intercessory prayer and 2) human suffering. Is not the absence of a visible Christian God in the individual’s life sufficient reason for that individual to reject that Christian God as improbable as all other alleged yet invisible Gods?
(See also #29.)
Other resources that may be helpful on this topic.