Divine hiddenness

The problem of divine hiddenness is an extremely imposing and very impressive mirage. Seen from some angles, and especially when first seen, it seems like any attempt to respond to it would be hopeless, ad hoc, and textbook case of special pleading. But in walking around the problem you suddenly hit many angles where it vanishes entirely. Here are a few:

1.) God doesn’t live here. The gods dwell in the heavens or on Olympus or in Valhalla or the Underworld or whatever. Wondering where the gods are hidden is like standing in the forest and wondering where all the sharks are hidden.

2.) The holy is always both set apart and hidden. Mystery cults don’t do the Superbowl halftime show, Catholics require catechumens to leave before the sacred mysteries, Masons don’t televise the initiation rite, the Mafia never talks about how a guy gets made, and the Eleusian mysteries were practiced on an entire empire for well over a millenia and we have basically no information about what happened. No one talked. Seen in this way, wondering about “divine hiddenness” is to wonder about why the sacred is not more profane, which is about as interesting as wondering why triangles aren’t rounder.

3.) The hiddenness is either ontological or epistemological, and the problem disappears either way. If ontological, we’re either wondering what part of the universe the divine is living in (contra #1) or where the gods are hidden in daily life (contra #2). If the problem is epistemological, it amounts to claiming that the number of persons who know about God is problematically low. But what equations or p-values give us that conclusion?  How do believers in divine hiddenness refute the claim that far too many know about the divine?

4.) It is a problem for revelation only when that revelation is taken out of context. One can wonder why a loving Christ would not make himself more known to persons* or why a Lordly Allah would not make his authority more known to the nations, but in either case this is to demand something that goes against the very revelation as understood. Christ’s definitive and final revelation is within a Church that he himself insisted is a field of wheat and tares and will always carry some obscurity until the eschaton. Islam has it’s own eschatological story of ultimate manifestation that can only be anticipated by various sorts of struggle – and these struggles all require opposition to pure belief whether in ourselves or from others.


*More known than becoming incarnate and setting up an international institution that constitutes the largest religion of all time, that is.




  1. robalspaugh said,

    February 20, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Your little footnote reminds me of something from a purely Catholic perspective. If God seems hidden to people, it’s because the Church relegates itself to a corner of the marketplace of religions. If we actually embraced the idea of Pillar and Bulwark of the Truth…

    • February 21, 2016 at 9:29 am

      This might be true, but I don’t see all aspects of hiddenness as a problem that need to be overcome by the Church. As much as we want God in the everyday, this has to be an element within the essential division of the sacred from the profane and of creator and creation. Hiddenness in theology is not a bug, etc.

  2. vetdoctor said,

    March 20, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    I’ve always enjoyed this lecture on divine hiddenness by Peter Kreeft http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/16_cslewis-till-we-have-faces.htm

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