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Divine hiddenness Philosophy of Religion 2008 Lecture 6.

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Presentation on theme: "Divine hiddenness Philosophy of Religion 2008 Lecture 6."— Presentation transcript:

1 Divine hiddenness Philosophy of Religion 2008 Lecture 6

2 Today  Possibility and necessity  What is the problem of divine hiddenness?  Hiddenness as an argument for atheism  Theistic responses to hiddenness  Reading etc

3 First procedurals: possibility  Logical possibility: Anything which is not self-contradictory There is a possible world in which …  Empirical possibility Anything in accord with the laws of nature It can be, in this world  Technical possibility Anything we can do right now …  Clearly, logical possibility is the most inclusive

4 First procedurals: necessity  Necessity and contingency  Necessary truth: must be true in all possible worlds. E.g A cat is a cat Everything is either a cat or not a cat – but not both = 4  Are all necessary truths analytic?

5 Divine necessity  Necessary existence, and necessary attributes  Divine necessity: Is God’s existence a logical necessity (ontological arguments: denying God’s existence leads to contradiction)? Or in some weaker sense … (maybe cosmological arguments)? Are all Gods’ attributes necessary (if there is a God must he have these attributes)?

6 Hiddenness  Moser: ‘if God exists, God is hidden. Pascal was dead right’  ‘Any religion that does not say that God is hidden is not true, and any religion that does not explain why does not instruct’ (Pascal Pensees 242)

7 Hiddenness  ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry by day, but thou dost not answer, by night, but find no rest…’ (Psalm 22)  ‘Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! … Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand I seek him, but I cannot behold him; I turn to the right hand, but I cannot see him’ (Job 23)

8 Hiddenness  The existence of God seems apparent to some, but not others; even some who seek for Him.  Given this, is it more reasonable to believe that God does not exist?  If God does exist, why is this not apparent to all?  An argument for atheism?  Or can divine hiddenness be explained – should it even be expected ?

9 Hiddenness  Like the problem of evil, the problem of hiddenness may come in different forms: Logical (in which case the theist need only show that a consistent position is possible) Evidential (here the theist needs a more convincing answer) Focussed on lack of evidence Focussed on lack of belief Focussed on evidence against (e.g. lack of divine action against evil)  Concentrate on Schellenberg’s argument …

10 Schellenberg’s argument for atheism … P1: If there is a loving God, all creatures capable of a relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God should be able to have one. P2: To have this relationship one must believe that God exists. C1: So if there is a loving God, all will believe that God exists P3: But this is not the case: there is ‘non-resistant nonbelief’ C2: So it is not the case that there is a perfectly loving God P4: If God exists, God is perfectly loving. C3: It is not the case that God exists

11 In a nutshell  If God exists, then all capable creatures should be able to believe in Him  All capable creatures are not able to believe in Him  Therefore God does not exist (Modus Tollens)

12 Unpacking the argument ‘Some creatures in the world… have the equipment required to believe that God exists and trust in God and feel God's presence … I am suggesting is that there is something remarkably odd about the idea that, supposing there really is a God whose love is unsurpassably perfect, such creatures should ever be unable to exercise their capacity for relationship with God--at least so long as they have not got themselves into that position through resisting the divine … What sense can we make of the idea that capable creatures should be open to relationship with a perfectly loving God, not resisting it at all, perhaps even longing for it, and yet not in a place where they can have such a relationship, if there really is a perfectly loving God ? (Schellenberg 2008)

13 Unpacking the argument  Why should God’s love imply that we should be able to be in relationship with him?  Howard-Snyder (1996): relationship enables goods that a loving God would want us to have: moral benefits: help in overcoming flaws in our character; more likely to emulate God’s love; more likely to flourish as human beings. experiential benefits: peace and joy in knowing our creator, security, pleasure at God’s presence intrinsic benefits: relating to God is just good in itself improved relations with others as a result of these Also, a loving God would want a relationship with us not just for these benefits, but for its own sake

14 Unpacking the argument  The argument depends on 1. God’s necessarily being loving 2. God’s love always requiring that we relate to him 3. God being able to make Himself known 4. Creatures being capable of relationship 5. ‘Inculpable non-belief’: creatures don’t resist relationship 6. There being genuine sincere unbelief  Can the theist challenge these?

15 Possible responses  Is God necessarily loving (1)? Maybe not - perhaps Schellenberg can only have the weaker claim: C2: So it is not the case that there is a perfectly loving God  Probably acceptable to the theist (Cf problem of evil)?  Is God able to make himself known (3)? Presumably so … but in what way? And more later  So concentrate on: First, (2) God’s love always requiring that we relate to him Also, (4,5,6) Creatures able, willing, sincerely unbelieving

16 Coercion  Is God was evident in this world, would we lack moral freedom? (Murray – Cf soul-making theodicy) The capacity to choose freely between good/evil is a necessary condition for us to achieve moral maturity If God made himself obvious to us, we would be coerced into acting in certain ways (through fear of punishment, hope of reward) To allow moral freedom a loving God must be hidden

17 Coercion - objections  Knowing of God’s existence wouldn’t coerce us But if God is to bring us into relationship, he must reveal something of his nature as well  If the knowledge wasn’t certain, we wouldn’t be coerced ‘our belief that negative consequences sometimes follow evil acts can suffice for coercion’ (Murray)  We would still have a choice between obligatory and supererogatory acts Are there minimum standards or supererogatory acts for God?

18 Coercion - objections  Surely even those who claim experience of God go wrong, so it can’t be coercive? That’s OK: the theist can claim that the limited experience God does allow is not coercive  So why doesn’t everyone have experiences of that sort Maybe they do, but do they ‘dispose themselves to rightly forming beliefs on the basis of these’ (MJM) ? This is at least a possibility …

19 ‘Separated from God’?  What sort of ‘disposition’? Individual? Arrogant/unreceptive to belief? Generic? Humans separated from God by individual/original sin ‘..your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you’ (Is.59)

20 ‘Separated from God’?  Challenges conditions 4, 5, 6 – is everyone willing and able to believe? But is there never honest, open-minded disbelief? Why would God allow those people to continue in disbelief? Might God prefer honest disbelief to wrongly motivated belief (See van Inwagen! An aspect of soul-making?) Do they freely resist God, or is this separation forced on them (and maybe on God) by the fall? Can God act unilaterally, while respecting free will?

21 Hiddenness as helpful …  Moser: reasons why a loving God might be hidden  For those open to God: to discourage triumphalism, or the demand for proofs A ‘presumption theodicy’: some people would not relate to God in appropriate ways if they believed ‘… an evil generation seeks for a sign’ (Matt.. 16)  For those hostile to God: To ensure they do not rebel against God, who alone can bring them through death Or perhaps so not to ‘throw pearls before swine …’

22 Cognitive idolatry?  Moser: we cannot demand how God should reveal Himself; He can reveal Himself as and when he chooses  God’s intentions in hiding may be unknowable to us and: ‘cognitive idolatry denies God’s supremacy in recommending ways of knowing God’ (Moser in H-S&M)  But God is sovereign, and so we should not expect Him to meet our demands for evidence

23 Cognitive idolatry?  Also ‘we have no right to demand evidence of God’s reality that fails to challenge us to undergo volitional transformation towards God’s character. So God’s hiding from a casual or indifferent inquirer does not count against the reality of God’s existence’ (Moser, H-S&M)  We cannot expect God to reveal himself if we are not willing to be changed by this revelation …  But are there sincere seekers who do not find God?  If so, should they be persuaded by the testimony of others, or (DH-S) accept God’s existence without belief ?

24 Some other theodicies  Stimulus theodicy : God does not provide overwhelming evidence because an intense faith requires risk.  Intellectual virtue theodicy: God does not provide evidence so that individuals will engage in investigation, reflection, and wrestling with doubt (Cf soul-making)  Diversity theodicy: religious diversity would be reduced, and religious variety of this sort is good  Investigation theodicy: God permits inculpable nonbelief so that human beings can help each other to learn about Him, gently assisting nonbelievers  … and others, perhaps of varying value. (See Howard-Snyder 1996, and ‘Introduction’ to Howard-Snyder and Moser)

25 No problem?  Kvanvig (in DH-S): ‘… nothing about the hiddenness of God has the power to change the epistemic status of theism’  It is merely a special case of the problem of evil  If the evidence for/against God is equally balanced, and the theist can live with the problem of evil, she can live with hiddenness  And theists have knowingly done so for a long time: if it has epistemic import, this is ‘epiphenomenal’ (Kvanvig)

26 Weighing up the arguments  As with the problem of evil, these arguments aim to show how hiddenness and the existence of God might both be true  Religious traditions are unfazed by hiddenness  Are the arguments ad hoc, or do they follow from what the traditions say about God?

27 Weighing up the arguments  How should a disinterested observer react?  ‘You should have given us more evidence’ (Russell)  What evidence should we expect/would we accept?  Testimony of religious experience? ‘ … they have Moses and the prophets…’ (Luke 16)  What sort of evidence do we expect in other cases? More next week!

28 Reading  Seminar reading  Other reading as advised in list and  Penelhum, (1960) ‘Divine necessity’ Mind 69  Mann, ‘Necessity’ in Blackwell Companion…  Howard-Snyder, (1996) ‘The argument from divine hiddenness’ Canadian Journal of Philosophy  Schellenberg, (2008) ‘W hat divine hiddenness reveals …’ at  Van Inwagen, in Howard-Snyder & Moser  ‘Introduction’ to Howard-Snyder and Moser

29 Things to think about  Is hiddenness primarily a logical or an evidential issue?  Is it distinct from the problem of evil?  What would it be like if God was obvious to us?  Does this issue really help us decide whether there might be a God?  How?


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