Questions of Faith
A common question that often puzzles believers and non-believers alike concerns God’s hiddenness. The question might look something like this: “If God wants us to know and believe in him, why doesn’t he present himself more explicitly, perhaps through a miracle? If God can do anything, surely this is the first thing he’d do to let us know he exists.”
It’s a thought-provoking query and one that has led many people stray from the faith. Why is God so silent and hidden?
There are many ways to approach this problem, all which complement each other, and so make a strong cumulative case to show there are rational answers to this dilemma.
The first way is to point out that God hasn’t and doesn’t remain hidden from the world – Catholics believe that God became incarnate in the person of Jesus who walked among us in the world. He could be seen, touched and heard, people died for his message – and books, which we now refer to as the Gospels, were written about him.
Likewise, the Old Testament records the history of God’s relationship with the Jews, and some of what is written in there can be corroborated with archaeological findings. This line of thinking, which rests upon the point that God physically entered in humanity, dispels the view that he has remained hidden.
This response is usually greeted with a forceful objection that those accounts are too ancient and unreliable to trust – if God gave into the worries of Doubting Thomas who chose not to believe until he touched the holes in the flesh of Jesus, then he should do the same for us!
A rebuttal to this objection, although tenuous, is to point out that, even if we ignore the Bible, God has revealed himself through general revelation. The Church teaches that by natural reason, humans can know God with certainty, on the basis of his works and by looking into our conscience where “the prudent can hear God speaking”.
This response may not cut the mustard with an ardent objector, but there are other ways to deal with this question. One really effective reply is that God doesn’t just want us to know him, but have a relationship with him. It’s not enough to simply be intellectually aware of God’s existence but to pray and worship, and recognise him.
So, while a large-scale miracle, like God structuring the stars for them to read ‘I exist’ might persuade people that a divine creator is real, it would offer little in establishing a true and free relationship between God and creature.
The last response is to recognise that personal miracles happen all the time, by which people describe having a truly transformative experience where they come to believe and love God. While miracles should always be treated with scepticism, it’s important to keep your mind open to such possibilities.
So, when asked why God is hidden, it’s clear that he has remained open to us, striving in rational and sometimes mysterious ways to help us know and have relationship with him.