Benscoter’s account of the argument from divine hiddenness.

Doug Benscoter gives a great account of the atheist argument from divine hiddenness:

1. If God exists, he would want everyone to believe in him. (Premise)

2. If God wants everyone to believe in him, then he will provide compelling evidence of his existence. (Premise)

3. God has not provided compelling evidence of his existence. (Premise)

4. Therefore, God does not exist. (From 1 – 3)

I liked Doug’s refutation of it too, but the argument still kept me up last night. For whatever reason I found it hauntingly persuasive.

Doug claimed that “As a theist, I’m happy to grant premises (1) and (2).” Though I see what he means, we should make a distinction. For example, I’m both a natural theologian and a Catholic. As a natural theologian, I not only don’t agree with (1), I don’t even know what it means.   What sense in there in asking if the Prime Mover or Summum Bonum wants you to “believe in him”?  The usual sense of “believing in someone” is that you trust them to be true to their promises, but no one relates to a Prime Mover as having promised anything. The whole argument thus becomes incoherent and puzzling – as a natural theologian I’m left wondering how anyone would have gotten such an idea into their head as gets raised in (1).

As a Christian, of course, I know exactly what (1) means, but the truth of (1) makes (2) false. For a Christian, the word “belief” in (1) means the theological virtue of faith, but the primary sense in which this is willed to everyone is that the Christian dispensation is open to all nations and is no longer the special possession of the Jews. But God makes the covenant available to everyone through faith, which makes premise (2) is false. The second premise makes no sense except as meaning that God would provide evidence of his existence that makes faith superfluous, but as a Christian I hold that God only wanted everyone to believe in him in a sense that made faith primary.

We’ve run into this sort of problem before with the argument from evil: the basic problem is that Christian ideas are taken in isolation from the Christian contexts that give them intelligibility, support, and meaning; and so the resulting picture of God becomes absurd, insupportable, and meaningless.

3 Comments

  1. awatkins69 said,

    August 8, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Excellent points. The argument rests on assumptions which no Thomist or Catholic Christian for that matter would take for granted.

  2. Doug said,

    August 10, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Thanks for the plug, James! I’m sorry if my post caused you to lose any sleep. We’re on the same team, buddy!

  3. DJ said,

    August 13, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Pascal addressed this question in his Pensees. Don’t recall the precise reference, but the whole book is worth a read anyway.


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