Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Free Will, God, Religion

Love and Compulsion

I’m currently reading a book where the author said that God remains hidden from us today so that we may freely choose to love him or not. You can’t generate love through compulsion, he argued. And he’s right about that. As an illustration, he gave Kierkegaard’s story about a king in disguise:

Once upon a time, there was a king who longed to marry. One day, as he was riding through his kingdom, he happened to see a very beautiful young lady in a poorer section of the kingdom. He was struck by her beauty, so he found reasons to travel through there more often, even getting the chance to speak to her on occasion. As time went by, he realized he wanted to pursue a relationship with the woman, but how should he go about it?

As king, he could have her brought to the palace so that he could court her, or even propose marriage immediately. It would be very hard for her to refuse the king, but he wanted to marry for love. So he also considered dressing as a peasant in order to get to know her, and only revealing his true identity if she genuinely fell in love with him. But the dishonesty inherent in that approach was unappealing.

He finally thought of a real solution. He would give up his station as king and move into her neighborhood as a regular citizen, perhaps taking up a profession like carpentry [wink, wink]. Then, if she came to love him, they could marry, and he would know that her love was truly for him and not his position.

It’s a nice story, and its application is clear. God loves us and wants us to love him. Because of his position, he could command our love, but then it would not be genuine. His solution was to come in the flesh as Jesus, giving up his position in Heaven so that we could come to know him and love him legitimately.

But when you think about it, this isn’t an accurate illustration at all. In the story, the young woman only stands to gain. If she never meets the king, or if she never falls in love with him, then her life is no worse than it was before. But this is not what Christianity teaches. It claims that all humans are sinful, and we need saving. A better illustration would be a story where people on a cruise have fallen overboard. Someone still on the ship offers to throw the people a life preserver. Will those people first try to get to know him before they accept his offer? Of course not! They’ll happily take any help they can get. All that they really needed was to understand how serious their situation was.

To show the effectiveness of this, consider so many of the conversion accounts in the Book of Acts, especially chapter 2. Peter preaches to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost, and (supposedly) about 3000 of them were converted to Christ that day because of Peter’s message. Did they really know who Jesus was? Did they really have a deep relationship with him at that point? No. The implication is that they simply became convinced that they needed what only he could offer. They were drowning, and they needed rescue. According to that passage, that’s all that was required.

But since God is so well hidden that we can question his very existence, many of us don’t even know we need saving. Oh sure, there are people from a thousand different faiths telling us we need salvation, but the evidence they give to support this claim is woefully inadequate. Why doesn’t God give us a bigger sign, if we’re really in trouble? Why doesn’t he just tell us directly? Why aren’t all these people who are so ready to believe in God united by a single religion? It’s hard to believe there’s a fire when there’s no trace of smoke.

The most glaring problem with this story is Hell. Not all Christians believe in a literal, torturous Hell, but many do, including the author of this book I’ve been reading. How is Hell not compulsion? To fit it into the illustration, we’d need to change a few details. Instead of the king passively waiting to see if the maiden will accept him, he promises his love, but also promises to roast her alive if she refuses his advances. It’s not quite so nice a story when we add in that detail.

When you get right down to it, Christianity is all about compulsion. God loves you, and he doesn’t want to force you to love him or serve him. Of course if you don’t, you’ll be tortured forever.

This only shows that the problem of God’s hiddenness hasn’t been solved at all. The author of this book, as well as many other Christians, say that God is hidden so we can have the “freedom” to either believe in him or not. But their reasoning is faulty, since Christianity gives us no such freedom. It’s like saying you’re free to commit murder in the US, even though it could earn you the death penalty in most states. The fact that there are laws prohibiting it means you aren’t free to do it. When you consider that the Christian God has every reason to let us all know he exists and that he expects certain things from us, the fact that he doesn’t do this is really all the evidence you need to see that he’s either not real, or he’s not all-loving and all-good.

250 thoughts on “Love and Compulsion”

  1. Christianity is not a reward or punishment system. The universal judge has already found all of us to be guilty. Christianity is an escape from the judgment we all must face. . . whether we like it or not.

    Unfortunately, we don’t make the rules in the universe.

    The truth concerning these things were revealed to us through a supernatural book–the Bible–which is VERY different from all the other religious writings on the planet.

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  2. @Diana – while I doubt that your God exists like I said in my last comment I can agree that all of us do cruel things sometimes. You said in one comment “a lot of people are selfish and cruel. And I believe one day they will be held accountable for their greed and callousness.” What I am wondering about are the people who were incredibly cruel in their lifetimes yet at the end of their life believed that God offered them salvation and also accepted that gift. Do you believe those people are held accountable for their greed and callousness or not?

    Perhaps a good example for this is Martin Luther (founder of Lutheranism) who got so frustrated trying to witness to Jews that he ordered incredibly cruel actions to be taken against them. You can see what he wrote here

    Here’s some snippets from some of the things he wrote:

    First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians….I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed…I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb…I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews…I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping.

    So if we assume as many do that Martin Luther accepted the gift of salvation does he get held accountable for his cruelty or not?

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  3. Arkanaten,

    Hey there!

    You said,

    @Dianne

    Please demonstrate/explain, using your own intellectual ability and without utilizing the bible or theological terms how Jesus
    A) was able to walk on water
    B) rise to heaven
    C) Create the Universe.

    For A and B – Obviously, Jesus isn’t bound by the laws of nature. He has super-natural abilities. He wasn’t bound by gravity.

    For C – I guess that’s above my pay-grade. Isn’t that what the most brilliant minds in the world have been trying to figure out? Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and even Richard Dawkins (although I wouldn’t call him brilliant) have all tried to figure out how the universe came into being.

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  4. Howie,

    Concerning Luther . . .

    I just posted this reply to Argus on John Zande’s blog:

    I believe the plumb line that we measure something against is the Word of God.

    I find it interesting that the way he blessed the world was by trying to understand the mind of God, especially Psalm 19:1-”The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

    As far as Newton’s alchemist pursuit, it produced nothing lasting, brilliant, or good.

    Only those things we do which are standing on God’s Word and for his glory end up leaving behind a beautiful legacy in history.

    I would say the same thing for Luther also. Many people point to Luther’s negative attitude against the Jews as the foundation for Hitler’s genocide. I don’t know how much of a part Luther’s teachings played, but I don’t believe Luther was standing on a strong doctrinal position when he spoke against the Jews. Luther’s lasting and beautiful legacy was the restoration of the doctrine of grace. If he went astray from the scriptures concerning the Jews, he was wrong, but the part that remains faithful to the Word is still a blessing.

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  5. I’m not a big fan of Calvin, but his legacy, the part that remained faithful to the scriptures impacted science in a positive way, practically giving birth to the Scientific Revolution. Even so, I can’t overlook the fact that he burned Servetus at the stake “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” for his anti-trinitarian views.

    Is it found anywhere in the gospels that Christians should burn heretics at the stake? Calvin disobeyed the Word in so many ways. He brought shame to the name of God.

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  6. Diana – Ok, I can only guess at how you are answering the question. I think what you are saying is that when you said “a lot of people are selfish and cruel. And I believe one day they will be held accountable for their greed and callousness.” you actually didn’t quite mean that. Or perhaps you are somehow using the phrase “held accountable” in a way that isn’t really the commonly accepted meaning of that phrase.

    I’m not trying to be mean. It’s just that I hear a lot of Christians (including scholars like Ravi Zacharias and Mike Licona) talk about how there must be a Hell because horrible people like Hitler or Stalin must be judged, but then they flip around and start saying things like “Christianity is not a reward or punishment system.” These things can’t both be true unless it is some kind of mixture of the two. But I don’t believe you or Zacharias or Licona (etc.) consider it a mixture of the two.

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  7. I don’t think God is hidden. We are simply not advanced and intelligent enough to fully comprehend and “find” God. But evidence of his existence is all around us. Nature, mercy, forgiveness, compassion. The Bible is a good inspirational book, but it also has a lot of flaws. We can go on and on debating about our own interpretations of God. We can use any analogy to simply make a point about our views. But we all have different experiences that define our belief .

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  8. Nate,

    Jesus answered your concern about the invisibility of God:

    Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:8-9)

    Philip had the same questions as you. 🙂

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1-2)

    God has revealed himself to us through his Son.

    “For in him dwells all of the fullness of the Godhead, bodily.” (Colossians 2:9)

    I’m sure you remember all of these verses.

    Do you want God to reveal himself in the clouds above, or to come to earth somehow? What kind of physical evidence are you looking for? And even if you saw a physical being (or something), how would you know if he was good or evil? How do you know if he was a source of truth or a source of deception?

    This is why I believe God had a plan. He would reveal himself through the words of his prophets and through the experience of the Jewish people. He would tell us what to expect in the future, and what to look for when his savior came. He would show us how we could trust this person and know he was a place of safety for us.

    The Word gives us this security and safety concerning Jesus. ❤

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  9. There is a system of justice in the universe, that all are accountable to, but Christianity is not a system of merits and punishments in the sense that we can do nothing to earn God’s favor. Grace is unmerited.

    When you come under the grace of God, you no longer have to be concerned about judgment. You no longer have to pay a penalty. It was paid by Jesus.

    But for those who won’t receive the payment Jesus provided, there is no security. Judgment will come.

    For the person who rejects God’s provision it is a place of penalties, but for the one who receives God’s provision it is a system of only rewards. There are no balancing scales.

    Two marvelous things are revealed here:

    1. A way to be with God in his kingdom even though we are fallen and sinful. The blood of Jesus is full of grace!

    2. A way to be safe from those who reject God and his Word. To be safe from those who despise and persecute us . . . which is the record of history for those who believe in the scriptures.

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  10. Diana, I feel like you’re merely blowing past most of our specific questions and only offering platitudes based on a book — a book that most of us in this discussion don’t believe holds any real answers.

    For instance, more than once now you’ve tried to sidestep the particulars of Hell by saying that God has delivered us from all that if we’ll only accept his mercy. So, in effect, why should we worry about it?

    The problem is that many people won’t accept it. So what happens to them then? And most of these people aren’t rejecting it because they’re bad people or because they’re “rebelling” against God — they simply don’t believe the Bible’s claims. God could provide more evidence to convince us — he could even speak to us directly. Supposedly, that was good enough for folks like Moses, Abraham, Noah, etc. Why doesn’t he do it for us?

    Christianity is filled with problems like this, but you’re ignoring them. Please try to actually answer some of the objections that have been brought up so we can have a constructive dialogue. Right now, it feels like we’re merely speaking past one another.

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  11. Here are troubling things which are also in the Bible. How do you explain these ?

    Matthew 10:5-6
    New International Version (NIV)
    5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.

    Matthew 15:22-28
    New International Version (NIV)
    22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

    23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

    24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

    25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

    26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

    27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

    Where is “The Love” in these Jesus statements ???

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  12. Diana,

    All of your notions about God and his plan are from a book written by unknown authors from unknown locations at unknown times. The old testament borrows heavily from Sumerian, Babylonian, Grecian, and Egyptian sources. The ten commandments are all in the older Egyptian book of the dead. Receiving the law on a stone tablet was done earlier by Hammurabi. Moses being set adrift as an infant was a copy of the earlier similar adventures of both Sargon and Krishna. The consensus of modern Jewish archaeologists is that no Exodus from Egypt ever happened. I earnestly recommend ‘The Origins of Christianity and the Bible’ by Andrew Benton should one desire this information more rigorously presented.

    Moving forward, the tales about Jesus are almost all midrash of the the old testament heroes Moses, Jonah, and Elijah and Elisha. See online ‘New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash’ by Robert Price. Relative to all the worshiped figures of all religions is ‘The Hero with 1000 Faces’ by Joseph Campbell, which lists a number of common features, e. g., virgin births, deaths and resurrections shared by Jesus with many other deity figures.

    Now all of this doesn’t prove anything (and this is by no means my entire case – this is a blog comment!), but neither is it inconsequential. But a God that reveals itself to some people and not to others and will condemn to Hell anyone who doesn’t believe the stories of such sketchy provenance and authorship (but all clearly based on earlier stories) – with the catch that all will be revealed after you die, but when all is revealed it is too late to change or be rehabilitated and eternal horror is your lot – and that God expects us to believe not seeing or experiencing any of this directly, I agree with Ingersoll that who needs a devil when you have such a God?

    And I, like Elijah allegedly did with the priests of Baal, scoff at a no show deity (hiddeness – the idea of the OP). I do not accept that your holy book is the revelation of any god, so your continued reliance on what it says does not signify with me.

    Anyway, you can have the last word. These exchanges won’t change your mind or mine. Perhaps someone less entrenched in their views and more seeking can view both of our statements and see if they are helped.

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  13. Now all of this doesn’t prove anything (and this is by no means my entire case – this is a blog comment!), but neither is it inconsequential. But a God that reveals itself to some people and not to others and will condemn to Hell anyone who doesn’t believe the stories of such sketchy provenance and authorship (but all clearly based on earlier stories) – with the catch that all will be revealed after you die, but when all is revealed it is too late to change or be rehabilitated and eternal horror is your lot – and that God expects us to believe not seeing or experiencing any of this directly, I agree with Ingersoll that who needs a devil when you have such a God?

    Yes, this is the key right here. Several people have alluded to this issue, and Howie has asked a couple of clear questions that relate to it as well. Diana, if you choose to comment again, I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts about these specific issues:

    What do you believe happens to people who simply aren’t convinced of Christianity?

    And do you truly believe that people will be held accountable for their actions, or do you really believe that Christians will be saved, regardless of their behavior, and non-Christians will be condemned, regardless of theirs?

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  14. I don’t think God is hidden. We are simply not advanced and intelligent enough to fully comprehend and “find” God. But evidence of his existence is all around us. Nature, mercy, forgiveness, compassion

    Thanks for the comment, Noel. Many times, I find myself agreeing with the gist of your comments, but not with this one. I think nature can be reasonably viewed as possible evidence for a god, but I don’t think mercy, forgiveness, and compassion are. This is something I often see theists claim, though.

    If it were true that all our good qualities came from God, why is it that all people have these qualities, whether they believe in a god or not? If they have nothing to do with the source of those emotions, how are they able to exhibit them?

    This idea sounds way too much like a fable to me. Think about classic fantasy, like Tolkien. What is the motivation of characters like orcs? They’re supposed to be the antithesis of good, so they end up “liking” absurd things, like doing evil simply for the sake of doing evil. But that’s not very realistic when you think about it. Usually, when someone does something evil, it’s because there’s an element of pleasure attached to it. When people are greedy, it’s not for the sake of greed itself, it’s subtler than that. They’re greedy because of what they can do with the money, or because it makes them feel important, etc. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with being important, or with having lots of money, or of enjoying the things that money can buy. But when someone focuses on those things at the expense of others, then it becomes “evil.”

    But characters like orcs aren’t usually given that kind of depth. I mean, how would an orc mother behave? Presumably, she would need to love her child so it could survive and grow. But motherly love is a trait completely at odds with the depiction of orcs. And that’s okay in some ways, because they’re fictional.

    But you’re taking the same idea and trying to apply it to humans. You’re saying that mercy, forgiveness, and compassion are not human traits at all, and that we only have them because of God’s existence. Where’s the evidence for that? If it weren’t for God, your mother wouldn’t have loved you. You’re capable of no good deed or thought on your own. I just simply disagree with that.

    As humans, we have the capacity for both good and evil, and that makes sense to me. We have warring desires — I love my children and want to spend time with them, but I also have a selfish element that just wants to do whatever I want to do. This can sometimes lead to conflict, and can sometimes lead to me being short tempered with the people I love most. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to enjoy myself, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with loving my children. But those two desires, though both good, can lead to bad things when they come into conflict with one another.

    This is also why I don’t find the idea of an “all-good” god very believable either. Intelligent beings are usually too complicated to be that one-dimensional.

    Anyway, I didn’t mean to go off on too much of a tangent there. And like I said, I typically agree with your point of view, so please don’t take this as an attack on you. I’ve seen many theists say something similar, so I was really just using your statement as an opportunity to talk about it. Please let me know if I took your comment the wrong way…

    Thanks!

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  15. ,
    @Dianne

    Please demonstrate/explain, using your own intellectual ability and without utilizing the bible or theological terms how Jesus
    A) was able to walk on water
    B) rise to heaven
    C) Create the Universe.

    For A and B – Obviously, Jesus isn’t bound by the laws of nature. He has super-natural abilities. He wasn’t bound by gravity.

    For C – I guess that’s above my pay-grade. Isn’t that what the most brilliant minds in the world have been trying to figure out? Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and even Richard Dawkins (although I wouldn’t call him brilliant) have all tried to figure out how the universe came into being.

    A & B
    Not bound by the laws of nature? I thought he was considered fully human?
    Nevertheless, your answer is merely an opinion
    I was asking how you know this and why you believe it to be true.
    Please explain…

    C If you cannot answer the question why do you assert he is the creator of the universe and proselytize , especially to children?
    Please explain.

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  16. Nate, I am not offended at all by your response. You are actually one of the most respectful atheists I have shared ideas with. I don’t think that a person would necessarily need to believe in God in order to reflect God’s qualities. At the same time, my view is different than the traditional Christian, in that I believe that God can be lived and manifested by our sincere good deeds, and therefore, we can be “saved” from our selfish nature. God is more profound and inclusive than what most of us think.
    I agree with the statement that Slainvictor made above ” look for God more in the foolish, weak, and obscure rather than in the strong, reasonable, and clearly visible”, because, by definition, God is not human, therefore He does not operate like humans do. That is why I believe that His grace would be greater than we can ever comprehend (i.e. forgiving Hitler).

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  17. Hi Nate, I resisted the impulse to respond on this topic, because while I think there are straightforward answers to the questions you pose, I have said them before and there seems little point in saying the same thing again.

    But I find it interesting that this a topic is obviously important to you. If I can’t provide a satisfactory explanation of God’s actions, then you believe you have good reason to disbelieve. So I wonder what you make of some arguments that go the other way?

    * Science is so far unable to provide an explanation of how the universe came into existence, and many atheists say quite plainly that we should be happy with not knowing.

    * Likewise the only scientific explanation of the incredible design of the universe is to postulate the multiverse, which doesn’t solve the problem, because then we have to explain how the multiverse is so amazingly well designed that it churns out all these billions of individual universes, each with different properties.

    * Science is likewise unable to satisfactorily explain the existence of consciousness.

    * The only real explanation science has for free will and our sense that some things are truly right or wrong (two things we all seem to experience as if they are real) is to deny either objectively exist.

    These are all “big questions” that go to the very core of our understanding of the universe and ourselves, far “bigger” questions, I suggest, than the one you pose about God not being “visible” or apparent to all people. So it seems to me that the challenge for you is not to keep focusing on this question, but to spend time trying to find explanations of the above matters.

    If you are unable to find those explanations, then surely, using the logic you espouse here (that inability to explain is good reason to disbelieve), you would have a strong (4-1) case for seriously reconsidering theism.

    Thanks for the continued opportunity to interact with you.

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  18. @Unklee.

    Here you go. You can have a shot at answering the same questions I posed Dianne.
    Simple, straightforward answers that should completely do away with any need for long drawn out treatise type answers, unklee

    Please demonstrate/explain, using your own intellectual ability and without utilizing the bible or theological terms how Jesus,

    A) was able to walk on water
    B) rise to heaven
    C) Create the Universe.

    Lets see if you are able to ‘man-up’ ?

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  19. Hi UnkleE – There are a few things about your comment that might be problematic. I am sure Nate will reply with a much better response since you did direct your comment toward him.

    First to say the case is 4-1 for Nate is wrong. Maybe it seems like 4-1 to you and that’s fair because you are different than him, but I’ve seen Nate express before that the problem of Evil is another problem for him. He has also expressed a lot of issues he has mainly with the Christian worldview which seems to be more of an issue for him than just plain generic theism (e.g. KCchief is a theist and I don’t ever see Nate and him going at it).

    You seem to be mixing 2 things: (1) the idea that there are things in reality that we don’t have an answer to yet and (2) a presentation of a conundrum that arises with a particular solution (in this case the particular solution is the type of God that Nate described in this post). These are 2 different things. Here are examples of things in the not so distant past that we did not have the answers to:

    1) What causes diseases?
    2) What creates thunder and lightning?
    3) How did our earth simply pop into existence?
    4) How did humans simply pop into existence?

    I am sure there were people hundreds of years ago that suggested exactly what you are suggesting because back then we did not have the answer to those questions. But luckily there were some who continued to search for possible natural answers to these questions and the fact that they were answered has contributed in great ways to our lives. Luckily there are still people who continue to pursue answers to the questions you have listed. Also, with some of these questions I have found several possible explanations posited along with ways in which those explanations can be falsified. Just as an example I’ll take your first question – the cause of our universe has a bunch of different current hypotheses: Lee Smolin has one, Roger Penrose has one, Priyam Singh has one, Neil Turok has one, Michio Kaku has one, and likely others I am not aware of. These are all currently being investigated.

    One of your points suggested that even if we did have answers to all our current questions they would continue to infinitely bring up questions so we must stop somewhere. This is a philosophical debate of which monotheism (and certainly Christianity) is one of many solutions to metaphysical questions that seem unanswerable possibly because they “transcend” our finite human nature. You are suggesting we say: “monotheism (and some version of the Christian message) is the correct answer”. I can only say that for myself this is the response that fits for me: “I don’t know what the answer is, and many of the answers posited by others bring up even more difficult questions for me”. This post seems to me like a description of one of those conundrums created by a particular “answer”.

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  20. Hi UnkleE! Thanks for the comment.

    I know that you don’t believe in a literal Hell, and I would agree that the problem of God’s hiddenness lessens significantly if there’s no Hell. However, there are still a number of Christians who do believe in some sort of Hell, including the guy that wrote the book I referenced, so for people like that, I think the questions I raised are very valid. There are also some scriptures that still give the idea of Hell, so it’s still easy for me to see it as a biblical doctrine.

    But leaving that aside for the moment, let me consider the big questions that you’ve raised about the existence of the universe, consciousness, and free will. They’re all excellent questions, and they’re by no means easy to answer or dismiss. However, I don’t agree with your conclusion. The nature of the question I’ve asked in my post is quite different from the kinds of questions you’re asking.

    I don’t view the existence of God as a starting assumption. It should be a hypothesis to which we compare evidence. But to me, it seems that you’re arguing the opposite — that God’s existence should be assumed unless it can be disproven.

    So the questions you’ve raised are all excellent. But just because we don’t have solid answers for them yet, does that mean God must exist? I don’t think so. Long ago, no one understood lightning, but if they had used the existence of lightning to say that gods must exist, they would have been mistaken. In fact, every scientific discovery we’ve ever made has only reinforced this — our universe operates through natural laws. There doesn’t seem to be a need to rely on the supernatural to hold everything together. So when we examine the current scientific frontiers, I think it makes far more sense to say “I don’t know” to some of these questions, while continuing to look for explanations, than to say “God did it.”

    We already know the universe exists, that consciousness exists, and that free will exists (even those who disagree on this point would at least acknowledge the appearance of free will). We may not know why they exist, or be able to explain them, but that’s okay. It gives us something to think about. When someone offers an explanation, then we have the obligation to test it, just as we would with any hypothesis. But I didn’t offer a hypothesis for those things.

    The question I ask in my post is merely an effort to test the God hypothesis. God has been given as an answer by theists, and not just any god, but a god who loves us all, knows everything, is all-powerful, is wholly good, and is perfectly righteous. Yet this God is entirely hidden. Why is he hidden? Well, some Christians say it’s because he doesn’t want to overwhelm us — he wants us to seek after him and love him without being compelled to do so. At the same time, many of these same religious people believe that he punishes everyone who doesn’t come to him “freely.” I think that’s a contradictory position, and I think that the theist — as being the one who offered God as an explanation — is on the hook to explain how all these contradictory qualities can be true. If they can’t, then their hypothesis (God) is not very good.

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  21. Hi Nate, and William, I think both your comments raise similar issues, and I think illustrate the problem I am raising.

    Nate, I don’t think we should assume God. What I’m saying is if the inability (you think, though I don’t) to find a satisfactory explanation for God’s hiddenness is a reason to disbelieve, why isn’t the inability of naturalism to find an explanation for the phenomena I mentioned a reason to disbelieve in naturalism? Conversely, if your answer “We may not know why they exist, or be able to explain them, but that’s okay. It gives us something to think about.” is an acceptable answer to questions you can’t resolve, why isn’t it an acceptable answer to the question you raised?

    I think you are privileging your own view rather than treating all evidence equally.

    William, I can think of several different types of explanation, for example:

    Logical – what makes sense a priori or by reason.
    Personal – why a person did something.
    Mechanical or scientific – the process by which something happened.

    Sometimes we may think an explanation is logically true even if we don’t yet know the process, or why the person did it. So I don’t think failure to explain a process (say thunder and lightning in your example) or failure to understand why a person did something (God’s hiddenness in Nate’s example) are very strong reasons to believe or disbelieve something, because they are based on ignorance, and ignorance can sometimes be cured. But logical reasons are a much tougher nut to crack.

    Now the phenomena/arguments I mentioned are much closer to logical explanations or the lack of them, and hence more fundamental, more important and more powerful (in my opinion). So it doesn’t really bother me what people thought hundreds of years ago, because they are in a different category of explanation.

    But let’s return to my single point in making my comment. We should be consistent in our use of the criterion of not being able to understand or explain something. What’s sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. I don’t think Nate has followed that principle here (sorry Nate).

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