Friday, 6 March 2015

The Hiddenness of God

The God of Christianity, as defined as an all-powerful, all-knowing being, has been observed over the centuries to be more absent, hidden and distant than people expect. A supremely powerful (God) being would know the intricate workings of the brains of the creatures that he created and cares for.  Due to this, God also knows what argumentation and evidence is the most effective at bringing these individuals freely into relationship with him and into his ultimate goal of salvation for eternity. He knows the argumentation and evidence that would convince myself and others, what arguments I respond best to and what evidence in nature would persuade. However, he hasn't done so and so far, seems to have refused to give me evidence which would convince me and others of his existence. Others have died after never seeing convincing evidence to be persuaded. The character of an all-loving God would surely not deliberately withhold information and evidence from individuals or not provide evidence which he knows would convince. This seems immoral for a supremely moral being.

I want to make it absolutely clear that no part of my mind is closed to the existence of God, the divinity of Christ, or the truth of Christianity or religion overall. Drastically changing my mind on a particular issue and making a U-turn is not just a hypothetical issue that I only give lip service to. Examples of this happening to me in reality include accepting the evidence of evolution and moving from a theistic evolutionist to an evolutionist and changing my mind on the overall truth of Christianity to become an atheist, amongst others, showing my desire to change if the evidence presented itself. Other individuals and atheists have quite clearly stated that they are desperate to believe, but just can’t bring themselves to do it based on the lack of evidence and seem very sincere in saying so.

I have heard responses by religious people, who say that even if the evidence was given to me and others, we would not change our mind, which I strongly disagree with. This is one of the defining hallmarks of science- the ability to change minds and only accept given facts tentatively, never dogmatically holding on to previous understanding when contrary evidence presents itself and as I scientist, I strive to make sure this is what I do in reality.

I am not denying there is evidence for God, Jesus and Christianity given by various philosophers and theologians over the centuries. However, this evidence is far from the quality of evidence given for other basic truths about the universe. As an example, take the evidence science has given us for the truth of a round, not flat earth. This evidence is practically universally accepted in civilisation and it seems almost comical to even suggest, or outright deny that the earth is round. This is not in the same category as the existence of God, divinity of Jesus or truth of Christianity. Hundreds of religions around the world and in history have radically differing views on all of the tenants of religions; with practically nobody knowing whom is correct.

The truth of the existence of the God of the bible and the many doctrines related to this seem far more important, with far more eternal significance, to humans and to god, than some of the more obvious facts of the world given by science such as the truth of evolution or the truth of a flat earth. The famous quote by C.S. Lewis seems relevant here- “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” I agree. If Christianity is true, it is enormously important. So why doesn't God provide the evidence to substantiate this?

Another common response to this objection is, “God doesn't want to overwhelm us with convincing proof. He needs to leave space for choice and freewill and that’s why the evidence doesn't seem too strong and obvious.” However, I find this response lacking and inadequate. We are not talking here about a slap on the wrists for not accepting the truth of Christianity and the salvation of Jesus and then being let off. The doctrine of hell or eternal separation from God is the punishment, or logical consequence for this decision and outcome. Whatever your theology on rejection of salvation, whether annihilation or eternal torture, it doesn't seem to be justified considering the severely lacking evidence.

In addition to this, nobody says, “The evidence for a round earth is too overwhelming. It doesn't leave people with the choice of accepting or rejecting this fact. We need to give people more of an chance and opportunity of freely accepting this, without feeling compelled to do so, as we may cause them to turn their back on this fact.” Obviously not. The truth of the overwhelming fact of a round earth is plain to see, based on the huge field of evidence supporting it and people can only reject it, perhaps based on a massive conspiracy theory or suchlike. The evidence to support the truth of this particular belief should not be censored, to rather patronisingly, protect humans from the body of evidence that we do have, from science in its favour. If the issue at hand is objectively true, whether the question of the shape of the earth, or the truth of Christianity, it is irrelevant to what extent the evidence should be broadcast or revealed to society. This example shows God could give overwhelming evidence for his existence and no drastic consequences will result from people having plenty of evidence at their disposal, but he simply doesn't choose to.  

Over the years of searching for evidence for the truth of Christianity, I have consistently been given evidence which is far poorer in quality and quantity than expected. Answers like, “all the evidence you need is in the pages of scripture”, or “it’s not about evidence, faith is all you need”, seems to be on the bottom end of the scales of the hierarchy of rational evidence. It is a poor reflection on the character of this deity, who only seems to be able to whisper in his followers’ ears, drastically poor arguments for his existence and which seem to give myself and other less confidence in the rational basis for this belief, than if they hadn't tried to give these poor answers in the first place.  
Now of course, the explanation for the lack of good quality evidence may be God doesn't exist in the first place, (the belief taken by atheists) or that God is deliberately hiding himself for an unknown (and immoral) explanation. 
To end, the quote from Delos Banning McKown seems very appropriate - “The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.”