August 15, 2002

The Hiddenness of God

It’s easy to imagine a universe in which God was “less hidden.” For instance, we could imagine a world in which God frequently spoke to humans from a loud, booming voice from above, or a world in which he wrote messages to us in the clouds, or a world in which he performed miracles just as awesome as the parting of the Red Sea every day. We could easily imagine numerous ways in which God could make himself less hidden.

So the question arises, then, if God is there, why has he made himself so hard to find? If God is there, why have I never seen a large body of water part?

In answering this question, we should first note that there do appear to be instances in which God has makes himself obvious. Many believers tell of various times in their lives in which prayers were answered in such amazing ways it seemed undeniable that something greater than themselves had taken over and intervened.

Moreover, God’s fingerprints are over the universe to such an extent that his existence seems quite obvious. For instance, the mere fact that the universe exists seems to be a strong argument that God exists. If God does not exist, then it seems ludicrous to say that the Big Bang occurred. For how could the universe have come from nothing if nothing was there to create it? But it seems that something like the Big Bang did occur, and, for this reason, it seems apparent that something like God was there to create it.

But the mere fact that there are many facts which seem to make God’s existence obvious does not really answer the question at hand: why hasn’t God made his existence more obvious than he has? After all, if God really exists, then why hasn’t he made his existence so obvious that we can’t doubt it?

As a believer in God, I should point out that, first, I am not God, and, second, I do not fully understand God. I have no clue why he does some of the things he does. Why does he allow people to suffer? Why does he allow so many deceivers to infiltrate religious institutions? Why does he not make himself more obvious? These are good questions and I’m not convinced that I have the right answers to any of them. Nevertheless, even though I’m not certain I have the right answers to these questions, I do not think it is futile to consider possible explanations.

So why might God not make himself more obvious? Perhaps God looks at us more like potential lovers to woo than potential members to enlist. Perhaps God doesn’t want just anyone to be a part of his family. Perhaps he wants only those who want him.

If he wanted to, God could certainly “show off his splendor.” He could make everyone aware of his existence. If he wanted, he could also scare everyone into submitting to Him. Like an overbearing drill sergeant, God could get in everyone’s face and terrify them into his kingdom. But maybe God doesn’t want to relate to people in this way.

Instead, maybe God wants to enter into a relationship of love with people. God, I believe, wants people to come to him who love him, who truly love him. He is like the ancient king who, desiring to love and to have someone truly love him, one day stripped himself of his kingly majesty and put on the garb of a peasant. Wandering through the countryside, the king met a beautiful young peasant woman and fell in love with her and she with him. Knowing that he had at last found someone who truly loved him, and not just his privilege and wealth, the king unveiled his identity to the peasant, and the two lived happily ever after.

God, I think, is similar to this ancient king—he has stripped himself of much of his great power and speaks to people, not with a roaring thunder, but with a whisper because he wants people to come to him for the right reasons. He wants people to come to him because they love him, not because they fear him. By requiring people to seek him in order to find him, God has ensured that only those who truly love him will come to him. For those who truly love God are willing to seek him—even when he is not easily found.

Whether this explanation is true remains open to debate. Perhaps God hides himself for other reasons. If we assume that God is a loving, personal being, however, this explanation makes much sense.

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