h1

The problem of divine hiddenness?

June 22, 2007

Van Inwagen’s formulation:

“(1) If God exists, he wants all finite rational beings to believe in his existence.

(2) If every finite rational being observed signs and wonders of the right sort, every finite rational being would believe in God.

(3) There is, therefore, something that God could do to ensure that every finite rational being believed in his existence.

(4) If God wants all finite rational beings to believe in his existence and there is something he can do to bring this about, he will do something to bring it about.

(5) But not all rational brings believe in God.

Hence,

(6) God does not exist.”

The Problem of Evil, p. 143.

Advertisements

6 comments

  1. But Pony, this argument is riddled with problems!

    >>Premise 1: If God exists, he wants all finite rational beings to believe in his existence

    I am not sure from where this premise is based on. A few substantiating quotes? Even if there is, in line with the Great Commission, i am not sure if it applies to “all.”

    >>Premise 2: If every finite rational being observed signs and wonders of the right sort, every finite rational being would believe in God.

    I am not sure if God would choose to convict hearts through signs and wonders:

    And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. (Mark 8:12)

    Moreover, equally convincing signs and wonders that pull people towards the other camp also exist:

    For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Matt 24:24)

    >> Premise 3: There is, therefore, something that God could do to ensure that every finite rational being believed in his existence.

    I am not sure if this is coherent with God choosing to give libertarian freedom to His creation.

    Premise 4 is built on questionable premises 1, 2 and 3.


  2. Building on the fault of premise 1, “believing in the existence of God” is also quite different from “believing in God.” Hmm…


  3. >>Premise 1: If God exists, he wants all finite rational beings to believe in his existence

    PP: i’m assuming for the sake of argument that the doctrine of limited atonement is false. I will put up van Inwagen’s justification for (1) when I get home, but here’s my try: God desires that all rational beings be in a loving/meaningful relationship with Him. To be in such a relationship with Him, it is necessary that we believe He exists. Thus, God’s desire that all finite rational beings believe in his existence derives, necessarily, from His desire to be related to them meaningfully.

    >>Premise 2: If every finite rational being observed signs and wonders of the right sort, every finite rational being would believe in God.

    I am not sure if God would choose to convict hearts through signs and wonders:

    PP: Good point – signs and wonders might not suffice for moving people to believe that God exists. This is where I think van Inwagen’s formulation could be modified. Could we make it:

    (2) If every finite rational being observed evidence of the right sort or were made so as to necessarily believe that God exists or if God made His existence self-evident, every finite rational being would believe in God.

    >> Premise 3: There is, therefore, something that God could do to ensure that every finite rational being believed in his existence.

    PP: With regard to (2), would you deny (3)? If so, could you explain how you’d defend its denial? One might defend (3) by arguing that God could make his existence to be at least as obvious as the existence of the physical world.

    “I am not sure if this is coherent with God choosing to give libertarian freedom to His creation.”

    PP: how is it not? The bible says that even the demons believe that God exists. Like you said, “believing in the existence of God” is also quite different from “believing in God.” We must differentiate the two ideas. In this argument, we are concerned with the first, even if it is related to the second.


  4. I agree that if we hold the doctrine of limited atonement as false, then premise 1 stands. So this argument is valid on the condition that the holder stand by the doctrine of universal atonement.

    >> 2) If every finite rational being observed evidence of the right sort or were made so as to necessarily believe that God exists or if God made His existence self-evident, every finite rational being would believe in God.

    Keeping that in mind, i think your formulation of the (2) makes sense, and thus (3) too. (In fact everything is easier if we adopt doctrine of universal atonement)

    >>PP: how is it not? The bible says that even the demons believe that God exists. Like you said, “believing in the existence of God” is also quite different from “believing in God.” We must differentiate the two ideas. In this argument, we are concerned with the first, even if it is related to the second.

    Correct. I was misled by (5) to think that it is the second- so we need to revise (5) to

    But not all rational brings believe in the existence of God.

    Ok having said that, if i accept doctrine of universal atonement, does that mean i agree that this argument is valid? Erhm not really:

    >>(4) If God wants all finite rational beings to believe in his existence and there is something he can do to bring this about, he will do something to bring it about.

    Guess the question is when. 🙂


  5. great thoughts herring!

    when you say that “Guess the question is when”, do you mean that it is rational for some people, sometimes, to believe that God does not exist? How do you think this squares with Rom 2: 18-23?

    I’m also interested in knowing a bit more about the “when” issue: what is the problem with some people’s nature and how does timing become a factor? this is an interesting and promising path, i think.

    by the way, this is van inwagen’s explanation of the problem: “If God existed, that would be a very important thing for us human beings to know. God, being omniscient would know that this would be an important thing for us to know, and, being morally perfect, he would act upon this knowledge. He would act upon it by providing us with indisputable evidence of his existence… It’s quite obvious that we don’t have it and never have had it… And, therefore, the absence of evidence for the existence of God should lead us to become atheists, and not merely agnostics.” p. 135

    sidenote: van Inwagen does not think this argument works.


  6. Hmm that depends on whose rationality.. if the law is innate in a person, and yet he did not believe, or rather God’s will is such that he does not believe, then he might be misled by some false belief, and is thus irrational (on that person’s side.) But it is rational (on our side) to understand that this kind of irrationality exists.

    I guess i see the time factor as God’s will- Ecclesiastes 3’s a time for everything? Consider maybe how the encounters of different people weave together to become a web for the whole story. Or maybe it is such that knowledge comes at different stage of spiritual maturity for a person.

    I would have to read the context of the last paragraph to understand what he meant… Erhm maybe say withholding indisputable evidence cultivates faith and patience? 🙂



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: