Divine Hiddenness as a Resource for Natural Theology, part 1

Here is a formulation of the argument from divine hiddenness:

1.If there is a perfectly loving God, all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God are in a position to participate in such relationships–i.e., able to do so just by trying to.

2.No one can be in a position to participate in such relationships without believing that God exists.

3.If there is a perfectly loving God, all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God believe that God exists (from 1 and 2).

4.It is not the case that all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God believe that God exists: there is nonresistant nonbelief; God is hidden.

5.It is not the case that there is a perfectly loving God (from 3 and 4).

6.If God exists, God is perfectly loving.

7.It is not the case that God exists (from 5 and 6).

Here’s the frame of mind from which I want to approach the argument. Let’s treat it as a paradox, much like the Sorites – a valid argument with plausible premisses but an implausible conclusion. Suppose you find all the premisses really compelling, but are entirely unprepared to grant the conclusion. I doubt anyone does think this way about the argument, but I think it’s an interesting angle to pursue.

My thought is that the motivations behind premiss 1. can be captured with a somewhat weaker version of the premiss. At a first pass, we have:

1*. If there is a perfectly loving God, God intends that all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God are in a position to participate in such relationships–i.e., able to do so just by trying to.

Apparently, this intention has been thwarted. What could thwart God’s intentions? Or, God being omnipotent, would would God allow to thwart his intentions?

Well, consider now a stronger variant of 1:

1+. If there is a perfectly loving God, all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God participate in such relationships.

Why settle for 1 when you could have 1+? Presumably, because we think that God would be prepared to compromise on the good of personal relationship for the sake of the good of free will.

Perhaps we think that personal relationships freely entered into, rather than personal relationships per se, are the relevant good. But that seems dubious: we do not usually enter freely into personal relationship with our biological parents, but those relationships are good. And, at the very least, we would still be left with the conclusion that God takes creaturely free will into account when assessing goods.

Given that we’ve already preferred 1 over 1+ because God values creaturely free will, it seems appropriate to appeal to free will again to explain why 1* but not 1 is true: ie, it seems plausible that creaturely free will is what God allowed to thwart his intentions.

Return to the point from which we started. We were supposing that we found 1 really compelling: presumably, we believed that no other good could outweigh that of personal relationship. Further reflection showed that that wasn’t quite right, since it’s already built into 1. that the good of free will can potentially outweigh the good of relationship. We’ve come across no reason for thinking that there are goods apart from free will that can do this. So, if we are really conceding as much as possible to the original argument, we must suppose that it’s free will that thwarts God’s intentions.

So we have:

1*: If there is a perfectly loving God, God intends that all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God are in a position to participate in such relationships–i.e., able to do so just by trying to.

and 8. God’s intention (re creaturely participation in relationship) is thwarted because of creaturely free will.

Advertisements

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