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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The so-called 'Hiddenness of God': Dispatches from a clueless skeptic




Justin Vacula recently posited yet another, unique nail in the coffin pearl of wisdom to bolster his atheistic worldview, an argument concerning the so-called 'Hiddennes of God". Such arguments are nothing new and basically boil down to, 'if God exists, then why can't He manifest Himself in a manner that I can see him?'. Theists can argue that if one studies the fine-tuning of the universe to allow for life on this planet or if one were to examine the probability of specifically-coded DNA sequences arising by random chance, that the fingerprints of a Creator God are all over His creation. And yet, if I open my window in the morning and look outside, I don't actually see God Himself. In fact, there are no widespread claims that anybody is seeing God.



One big reason put forward by philosophers for God not manifesting Himself (assuming for a moment that He exists) is that God unmistakeably and clearly showing Himself to all would then diminish the overall amount of free choice we have when deciding what we would like to do. That is to say, that such a powerful manifestation would amount to coercion on God's behalf and God would rather that we behave and make our choices absent any sort of psychological pressure on people that such an appearance would entail.



One thing Mr. Vacula cannot deny is that people behave differently when they perceive they are being watched. That's not just me saying that as a general obeservation but, a cursory search would indicate, it's also what Newcastle University, UCLA and sciencemag.org are saying. I doubt that Mr. Vacula can deny that.



While involved in an online discussion recently, a certain clueless skeptic (MS) offered up the following 'questions' on this subject that I will attempt to answer....


1)Does not the bible 'record' such instances of God as visible, audible, etc? eg. Moses, the early Israelites? Were the Israelites coerced into accepting the covenant? Perhaps, and under yo...ur view, definitely.

The Isrealites were freed from captivity by the Egyptians and God made a covenant with them. God did lay down ground rules (laws). However, this is not like the topic of Justin's entry in that Justin is wondering why "-- since it is the case that theists profess God wants everyone to believe he exists – God simply doesn't unequivocally reveal himself so that persons can 'enter into a relationship' with God, no longer doubt, stop fighting one another because of religious differences, and go to Heaven."

However in looking at your question, it seems to me that the only alternatives would be that God's laws are revealed by someone other than God or that they are not revealed at all. That's a case you would have to make to convince me that either is preferable and the reasons you would think that is so.

As to when God actually WAS audible to the Israelites, exactly how did that work out?



2) Does not the threat of eternal hellfire amount to a coercion of worst order?

I find it only fair that we are forewarned of the consequences of our actions. It is explicitly stated that there are consequences for not obeying God's laws. A truly evil god would never reveal that there were consequences for certain actions until we stand in judgement and by then, it's too late. I doubt that you would argue that not knowing would be the better option here. There are two points I would like to bring up at this moment.

1) The temporal eminence of the threat. I think we could both agree that if we were to be held up at gunpoint by a robber and our wallets demanded of us, we would perceive such a threat as quite eminent and thus we would be coerced do something against our will like give our money to a stranger. However, if the robber said something to the effect like, "I have a blowdart in my hand and if you are shot with it, there is no antidote and you will die in 50 years", then we would assess things differently than if the threat were much more immediate as in the first example in which a firearm is used.

But, let's say that I concede that the threat of Hell alone, in and of itself, would still take away any free will in this matter, we would still have to examine another factor concerning the threat.

2) The epistemic eminence of the threat. What I mean by that is people do things everyday that can get them killed, but yet they do them anyway. For this reason, we see advertising campaigns urging people to "Buckle Up!" their seatbelts when getting in to automobiles and to quit smoking. It's not that people who smoke or don't use their seatbelts don't believe that they can die because these things, it's that somehow, if these things are shouted out from the radio/movie screen/computer screen/tv screen loud enough and especially, often enough, they can send a powerful enough message that can potentially alter behavior.

I would assert that if God were to "unequivocally reveal himself", make Himself known and constantly repeat the eminence of a threat, then THAT would be 'coercion of worst order'. Either you are Justin are free to tell me why this would not be the case.


3) Am I coerced into being in a relationship with other persons just because they are visible, audible, and present to my senses?

No. I assume that you are in relationships with people (assuming that you are), because you want to be.

This is ludicrous. If God expects a relationship, it is only natural that he would disclose his existence in an unmistakable way


I think you are either ignorant of, or forgetting the fact that such a revelation as described by Justin is not the only way we receive revelation from God. If either of you are willing to accept that personal revelation is a possible option, it would go a long way towards actually having a meaningful discussion here.



4)What's wrong with some general sense of 'psychological pressure' -- i.e. the pressure brought about by being compelled to acknowledge the existence of something

I think you were quoting me here. What I actually asked Justin was 'So you would argue that if a huge, gigantic, and beautiful sky-god was absolutely visible, audible and communication with people here on earth, that it would in no way cause "psychological pressure" to "do some act against his or her will "[?] which is a textbook definition of the word 'coercion'.

Rather than actually answering this question directly, Justin (I'm sure you were just going to mention MS) simply changed the subject, a point we will examine in our next blog post.

11 comments:

Justin Vacula said...

JD, you simply can't have it both ways here. You mention that both God has revealed himself in nature, believe that there is very good reason to believe, etc, yet you still maintain that you haven't lost free will although you maintain that God doesn't reveal himself because if he did, persons would no longer have free will. Am I missing something?

JD Curtis said...

You mention that both God has revealed himself in nature

More specifically, I stated that some theists make this claim, yes.

believe that there is very good reason to believe

I believe there are reasons and more to the point, evidence to believe, yes.

yet you still maintain that you haven't lost free will although you maintain that God doesn't reveal himself because if he did, persons would no longer have free will. Am I missing something?

I can reject whatever evidence is offered just as quickly as the next guy. So can you. By rejecting various evidences for God's existance, are you not operating within a broad spectrum of possible options available to you that range from outright acceptance to partial acceptance to complete rejection?

GentleSkeptic said...

I have given a great deal of thought to the question of what the evidence tells us about God. My conclusions can be stated in terms of one Undeniable Fact and its Inescapable Consequence, as understood in light of the fundamental principle that truth is consistent with itself.

The Undeniable Fact is that God does not show up in real life. People “find” God in their subjective feelings and imaginations, and they superstitiously give God credit for the surprising happenstances of everyday life, but God Himself does not show up, not for saints nor sinners, not for rich nor poor, nor even for the penitent, the suffering, and the needy. This is undeniably true, in that people can claim that God “shows up” in some sense, but they cannot truthfully and literally claim that God shows up.

The Inescapable Consequence of this Undeniable Fact is that anyone who wishes to talk about God can only speak of the things men say and think and feel and imagine. One cannot have faith in God, because God does not show up to put our faith in; the most anyone can ever do is to put their faith in the things men say and think and feel and imagine about God.

This is important because the main thing Christians say about God is that He loves us and wants to be with us, in a personal, face-to-face, eternal relationship. Not only that, but according to the Gospel, God loves us and wants that relationship so badly that He became human Himself, preached the Word, died on the Cross, and rose again from the dead, just so that it would be possible to be with us forever. The most fundamental and obvious consequence that would result if these things were true is that God would show up to participate in that relationship. He wants it, His power has made it possible, and the Cross has eliminated the last barrier that separated us from Him, therefore He ought to be showing up.

What we have, then, is a God who does not show up in real life, and in His absence, men are putting their faith in the things men say and think and feel and imagine about God, even though those things are not consistent with what we find in real life. To believe someone when they tell you things that are not consistent with reality is not faith, but gullibility.
Deacon Duncan

GentleSkeptic said...

And again with the ad hominem, right there in the headline.

Stay classy, Christian.

Theological Discourse said...

This 'argument' is nothing new. I actually refuted this point a long long time ago.

http://taooftruthinfighting.blogspot.com/2009/06/theres-no-scientific-evidence-for-god.html

I'll probably have to end up clarifying it due to the massive amount of people that will miss the point.

Theological Discourse said...

Oopsie, that was the wrong argument I posted. Basically, the easy refutation to this argument (I haven't posted it yet) would be pointing out the skeptics double standard. When people want to work for walmart, they neither demand nor expect the CEO of walmart to meet with them before they apply. When people enlist in the military, they neither expect nor demand the leaders of the specific branch to personally meet with them before they enlist. If the CEO of walmart or the leader of a military branch doesn't meet with the average joe before they enlist in the military or send in an application for walmart, why would anyone expect God, who is the creator of the universe, expect such a thing?

Rebuttals:

Rebuttal A: "Difference between the CEO, military leaders and God is God loves us!"

This is an emotional argument. Since when does love logically entail person X must personally meet with person Y before person Y joins in a cause. Furthermore, it reveals the ignorance of basic Christian theology. God loves us, and yet God has done some things that would seem very unloving according to the feel good fuzzy warm definition of 'love' that is presented in rebuttal A. Love, especially the feel good fuzzy definition of love that would be used in rebuttal A, does not logically entail God would meet with people personally before they want to become a Christian.

Rebuttal B:
"The CEO and the military leaders can't meet with everyone at once, but God is omnipotent, He can do anything! He has the power to meet with everyone at once."

Just because someone has the power to do X does not mean they are required to do X. I certainly have the power to track down Vacula (with my knowledge of programming and computers) and beat the snot out of him (being trained in fighting) and yet I am not required to do that. Secondly, while the CEOs and military leaders cannot meet with everyone, they can meet with some, and yet they do not.

That's about the gist of it. This 'why doesn't God reveal Himself to me' line of logic is a total failure.
Like most 'arguments' skeptics give, it applies SOLELY to religion. If you apply the same type of logic to anything else, you would rightly be considered an idiot.

Finally I noticed that Vacula is severely lacking in basic Christian theology. Consider his following refutation of defense 3:

"Defense (3) assumes that faith is important and seems to assume that without faith, belief in God is worthless. Why is this the case?"


How he thinks he is qualified to refute a single thing regarding Christianity when he doesn't even know Hebrews 11:6 is beyond me.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God.

Also, he wonders why without faith belief in God is worthless. Again, a very common scripture in James 2:19 answers his question.

James 2:19
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.

As you can see, Vacula is neither competent in logic or Christian theology. Just another lightweight intellectually shallow skeptic that thinks his arguments are something new under the sun. Laughable.

Theological Discourse said...

it was so ridiculous I had to make a post about it in my own blog.

GentleSkeptic said...

When people want to work for Walmart, they neither demand nor expect the CEO of Walmart to meet with them before they apply. When people enlist in the military, they neither expect nor demand the leaders of the specific branch to personally meet with them before they enlist.

Are people who want to work for Walmart under fear of eternal damnation if they decide they no longer want to work for Walmart? Are folks who voluntarily enlist in the military under fear of eternal damnation when they leave the military?

Has anyone suggested to these folks that, if they don't elect to work for Walmart or join the military, they are deluded, sinful, blind, ignorant, Walmart/military-haters who will suffer for eternity? Has the CEO of Walmart declared that he would like the whole world to work for him, and that he's made a great personal sacrifice and conquered death itself so that this is now possible? Have military leaders promised life after death if you join the military and an eternity of torment if you don't?

No?

Then your analogies fail. Miserably. As does your military of strawman "rebuttals".

Like most 'arguments' skeptics give, it applies SOLELY to religion. If you apply the same type of logic to anything else, you would rightly be considered an idiot.

Well, as shown, there's a bit more in play (and at stake) with the unsubstantiated positive claims of religion, now isn't there?

Honestly: you are waaaaay too much. The thinly veiled threats of violence — just a reminder, I'm sure — are a real classy touch, sure to win converts by the bushel.

We all know you're a badass MMA whatever. You're also a bully. Keep shining that light for Jesus, brother.

And go ahead: track me down and beat the shit out of me. Oh, wait: you're not required to do that, so why would you?

JD Curtis said...

Are people who want to work for Walmart under fear of eternal damnation if they decide they no longer want to work for Walmart? Are folks who voluntarily enlist in the military under fear of eternal damnation when they leave the military?

If someone willingly rejects the gospel, is it safe to assume that 'eternal damnation' is not a sufficient enough reason for them not to do so?

GentleSkeptic said...

If someone willingly rejects the gospel, is it safe to assume that 'eternal damnation' is not a sufficient enough reason for them not to do so?

Yes: it's also safe to assume that it's because the threat of eternal damnation is thoroughly unsubstantiated, and not worth taking seriously.

JD Curtis said...

it's also safe to assume that it's because the threat of eternal damnation is thoroughly unsubstantiated, and not worth taking seriously

Can I likewise reject US Armed Forces protocol and think that retribution for doing so would be 'unsubstantiated'? Likewise the policy and procedures of Walmart if I worked for them?

Tell you what GS, please tell me how my question that I put to Mr. Vacula 3X was somehow unfair before commenting on anything else. I know you are much more intelligent than the mindless lemmings that comment over at his place, so just explain it to me in very basic terms.

Otherwise, I couldn't care less if you sit and spin Peter Godwin records all day.