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Romans 1:18-25 ESV

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Psalm 139:7-10 ESV

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

Paul argues that the universe clearly points to an Almighty Creator, in a way that is clearly perceived by everyone. The psalmist complements this by adding that the presence of God can be perceived anywhere, no matter where one goes. Combining both descriptions, the picture one gets is that the existence and presence of God ought to be undeniably obvious.

However, these conclusions are challenged by an increasingly popular argument known as the Argument from Divine Hiddenness. The following are handy sources to learn about this argument:

The argument in question was in fact brought up in a recent answer to Is Romans 1:19-20 philosophically sound? on Philosophy Stack Exchange:

Aside from a lack of philosophical argument in the verse you posted (which I’m sure someone else will answer), there is actually a philosophical debate about how God is hidden, rather than being “clearly perceived”: if God exists, why is he hidden from us?

Here is a summary from the IEP article for it:

these arguments try to demonstrate that, if God existed, He would (or would likely) make the truth of His existence more obvious to everyone than it is. Since the truth of God’s existence is not as obvious to everyone as it should be if God existed, proponents of arguments from divine hiddenness conclude that God must not (or probably does not) exist.

As the article explains, the problem rests on the assumption that God has hidden his existence from us, or at the very least been reluctant to give evidence that point towards his existence. If there were clear signs towards his existence, nonbelief would be less prevalent than it currently is.

There are some good arguments against the Atheist position (which you can find in the article), but since there is an ongoing debate about the hiddenness of God I would say the argument in the verses you posted doesn’t hold up philosophically.

If the existence and presence of God are unmistakably and undeniably evident, how do we explain the traction and impact that the argument from divine hiddenness seems to be gaining among atheists?

Note: Attempts to trivialize the question by answering "because they are atheists" are out of scope, because such answers would fail to explain why the individuals in question are atheists in the first place (which should be surprising given the fact that, according to Romans 1:19-20 and Psalm 139:7-10 and similar passages, theism should be undeniably evident to everyone).

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    I see. I did not realise that atheists were admitting that the God they cannot see has hidden himself from them. Thank you for explaining that.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 22:31
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    Mark, it looks like the context that triggered your edit has been lost. Hopefully you don't feel my answer trivializes the question? To be fair, that sort-of is the answer, although I've also tried to address why people are atheists and why being atheist makes the "hiddenness" argument plausible. Anyway, "God hides from atheists" is definitely a thing; see 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 among others.
    – Matthew
    Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 22:34
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    @Matthew Yes, indeed. . . . they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 2 Thess 2:10,11.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 22:42
  • @NigelJ: I know many atheists and none of them do that. It is hard to "admit something is hidden" if you believe it does not exist. And atheists who think that there is no proof of the existence of God may accept the concept that if God exists, then he could be hidden, but they would dismiss that claim until proven.
    – Taladris
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 3:15

2 Answers 2

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If the existence and presence of God are unmistakably and undeniably evident, how do we explain the traction and impact that the argument from divine hiddenness seems to be gaining among atheists?

Thank you for asking here! Since this is arguably a more appropriate venue (and a somewhat different question on the same material), I can add some information that wasn't really appropriate to my other answer.

"There are none so blind as those who will not see." In order to understand this problem, it's vital that we understand that it is human nature to desire to hide from God. It is our natural tendency to want to be in charge of ourselves rather than to submit to an authority, and the best way to do that is to deny that the Authority (that is, God) exists. If God is our Creator, He has authority and can hold us accountable. If we are accountable, well, we know (because of our conscience) that we're in trouble. (Thanks be to God that Jesus has paid our debt!)

The ability of humans to do this is well established, both in Scripture and in practice. Scripturally, note Luke 16:31 ("If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead") and 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 ("God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false"). In practice, we need look no further than that humans disagree whether God exists. On the one side, we have people that utterly deny evidence of God, while on the other we have people that believe the evidence is (literally) damning. Even setting aside which group is correct, it's clear that the other group is engaged in some pretty sketchy reasoning. (Or look at people that deny the moon landing, or believe Earth is "flat".) The ability of humans to "stick to" a desired conclusion despite evidence is firmly established.

That gives us motive and means. What of opportunity? It's clear that, if God exists, He elects to not provide such evidence as could not possibly be refuted. Thus we have opportunity. The plausibility of humans to deny God is thus clearly established.

The evidence of God's existence is not "hidden". It is all around us, in the form of a universe that works according to extraordinary fine tuning. (Psalm 19:1, "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.") It is found in the beauty we perceive through nature which speaks to an artist. It is found in the incredible intricacy of life which beggars naturalistic explanation. (Try reading some Intelligent Design material and see if you can still believe in a purely chance explanation of life.) It is found in the many evidences of a global Flood, or many evidences that Earth is ~6ky old.

Just as "flat Earth" believers come up with stories to rationalize their belief despite what most would consider blatant, even incontrovertible evidence, God-deniers come up with stories ("big bang", "abiogenesis", "common descent") to rationalize their disbelief in God despite evidence that many believers (and Paul) consider "unmistakable and undeniable".

Ask yourself; if some people can believe Earth is "flat" despite the immense evidence to the contrary, is it so hard to believe that some people would be able to deny God's existence (when so much more is at stake!) in spite of excellent evidence in favor of God's existence?

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    +1 for nice use of Luke 16:31; this verse is such a true statement about our world. Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 1:06
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    Great answer, but it would be better still if you stopped before mentioning intelligent design and young earth, which are ideas that are certainly not universally accepted by believing Christians. The evidence is incontrovertible, but for me at least, the big bang and evolution are all part of that evidence.
    – Ian Goldby
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 8:18
  • @IanGoldby, but there is substantial evidence a) that "the big bang" and "abiogenesis"/"common descent" are just plain wrong, and that b) life is designed and Noah's Flood is a genuine historical event. All of which is also evidence for God existing. (Just this week I learned that bird tracks, or tracks from something with bird feet, "predate" birds by "60ma". Either these creatures inexplicably left any fossils for tens of millions of years, or the materialist timeline is wrong. This is just one of many, many problems...)
    – Matthew
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 18:53
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    @Matthew but the point is that you don’t have to look through the lens of young earth creationism to see that evidence for a creator is everywhere. (If it were not so then Paul could not have written that men are without excuse.)
    – Ian Goldby
    Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 20:14
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The post you quoted reveals the misunderstanding of the argument of divine hidenness . And the atheists are actually against it, not for it, because it's a atheistic Christian argument. The argument means that God has not revealed his apparent existence to make himself too obvious and intrusive as to be sitting on your nose or a dictatorial Marxist government without freedom. He is apparently hidden to allow us free will, implying a genuine test of man.

The Psalm is spiritual, and Paul's argument is about the self evident truth of God to all nations which is revealed in their worship of God in some form. Even the modern naturalists require denial of all common sense, basic truths of conscience and reason which are counterintuitive, counter-reason. This means atheism requires a greater leap of faith than theism.

Few atheists like Alex Rosenberg admits that atheism is desperately irrational. See this article:

Atheism Implies that Life is Meaningless A brief look at the writings of unbelievers reveals that meaninglessness naturally follows from the concept of atheism. Atheistic philosopher Alex Rosenberg penned a book titled The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions. Harper’s magazine reviewed the book, saying: “Rosenberg is admirably frank about the implications of scientism [atheism—KB].” The back cover of the book quotes from the New York Times Book Review: “The work of a well-informed and imaginative philosopher.” At the beginning of the book, Rosenberg declared: “This book aims to provide the correct answers to most of the persistent questions…. Given what we know from the sciences, the answers are all pretty obvious….” He then provided a list of questions with his concise “pretty obvious” answers following each question:

Is there a God? No. What is the nature of reality? What physics says it is. What is the purpose of the Universe? There is none. What is the meaning of life? Ditto. Why am I here? Just dumb luck. Does prayer work? Of course not. Is there a soul? Are you kidding? Is there free will? Not a chance! What happens when we die? Everything pretty much goes on as before, except us. What is the difference between right and wrong, good and bad? There is no moral difference between them. Why should I be moral? Because it makes you feel better than being immoral. Is abortion, euthanasia, suicide, paying taxes, foreign aid, or anything else you don’t like forbidden, permissible, or sometimes obligatory? Anything goes. What is love, and how can I find it? Love is the solution to a strategic interaction problem. Don’t look for it; it will find you when you need it. Does history have any meaning or purpose? It’s full of sound and fury, but signifies nothing. Does the human past have any lessons for our future? Fewer and fewer, if it ever had any to begin with.2

Graham Lawton, Executive Editor of New Scientist magazine, penned a brief article titled, “What is the Meaning of Life?” He began with his blunt, one line answer: “The harsh answer is ‘it has none.’” He went on to say: “Your life may feel like a big deal to you, but it’s actually a random blip of matter and energy in an uncaring and impersonal universe.”3 Stephen J. Gould, one of the most recognized evolutionary paleontologists of the 20th century, wrote about atheism’s meaninglessness with his customary flair: “We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a ‘higher answer’—but none exists.”4

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