In this episode, Kurt is joined by philosopher Michael Rea to learn about a new objection to theism: If God exists, why doesn’t he make himself more known?
Kurt: Well, a good day to you. And thanks for joining us here on another episode of veracity hill, where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. Hope you all had a very fine Easter holiday celebration, the greatest, I think, the greatest of all Christian holidays. And for that view, I kind of learned that from empty right when people often emphasize Christmas and the power of the incarnation and what a majestic, wonderful or inspiring holiday that is, but all the more so it matters only because of the resurrection of Jesus. And so I hope you’ve had a wonderful Easter celebration with family, perhaps friends, and even NT Wright says, hey, if we’re going to share gifts, we should be sharing gifts at Easter. That’s, that’s really what the good news is all about. And so. So to move that over to today’s discussion, we’re going to be talking about the problem of divine hiddenness. So if God exists, you know, why doesn’t he provide more evidence of his existence? So it’s sort of going from one end of the spectrum, the majesty and power of the resurrection to where is God. But before we get into that discussion today, I do want to quickly promote our very now upcoming conference in dire Indiana may three and four discovering truth in an age of opinions, and we are going to be having a wonderful time at the village church dire. We’ve got some great keynote speakers, Dr. Mike Licona, Cisco Cotto and Ted Wright will be joining us for that event. We’d love it if you could make it there. And Dyer, Indiana, if you want to learn more, you can go to our website, the defenders conference.com/dyer de yer it’s going to be just really a great opportunity for Christians to become equipped and to learn more about their faith, what they believe why they should believe it, and how to share that with their neighbors with their friends and their families, their loved ones. Now on today’s program, we’re talking about the problem of divine hiddenness. And joining me in studio is Ted right, Ted, good to see you again. And our guest through video this week is Dr. Michael Rea, he is a John A O’Brien, professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Rea, thank you so much for joining us on our program today.
Dr. Rea: Thanks for having me.
Kurt: Now, towards the autumn season of 2018. Oxford University Press published your most recent work, the hiddenness of God. And this is becoming a popular issue for folks that have objections against theism, either sort of vehement objections, or a sincere concerns. And so I’m hoping in our conversation today, as you can enlighten us and help us understand what this problem is, we can talk even about those differences, because there are different approaches. As you right. As I was just searching through here, I found a great quote where you talked about the importance that this issue plays in systematic theology. I hear you right? You say that the hiddenness problem is significant, primarily as an invitation to and challenge for systematic theological reasoning about the nature of God, and the proper understanding both of the both of central divine attributes like love and goodness, and also of what it might mean for human beings to enter into relationship with God. So many people might be wondering, what is the problem of divine hiddenness? And why does it matter?
Dr. Rea: Yeah. And one way is super easy to explain. I probably every Christian has, at some point had the thought, actually, I take that back, not literally every Christian but a whole lot of us have at some point had the thought. You know, if God’s my perfect heavenly parent, why don’t I? Why don’t I hear from God more? Why doesn’t God you know, this, this problem came home to me most vividly. I think for the first time when I was in college, I had gone to church with a friend of mine. And, you know, we came we were driving back to my parents house and had been talking about the service and I forget how we got onto this, but at a certain point, she she just started crying and she said, You know, I’ve loved God. I’ve served God my whole life. And God’s supposed to be my heavenly Father, why can’t he just whisper I love you. Right. So that’s, I would say, that’s one version of the problem of divine hiddenness, a very experiential version, one that believers struggle with one that pushes unbelievers into non faith. Somewhat related to it is the philosophical problem of divine hiddenness. That has kind of dominated the literature over the last 25 or 30 years or so. That’s a problem that you might call it John Schellenberg is the guy who’s done the most to sort of formulate this problem and defend it, it’s a, you might call it a problem about evidence for God’s existence, or something like that. Shalem Briggs idea is like if there’s, if there’s a perfectly loving God, who’s, you know, also omnipotent and omniscient and all that there should be no non resistant non belief in the world. The basic idea is something like this look, if you’re, if you love somebody, minimally, you’re going to do whatever you can, on your side of the relationship to remove obstacles to relationship, right? So, you know, when I was in junior high, the strategy for dating was sort of like this. I like that girl. I am not going to do anything that would make that known. And in fact, I’m right. And like we can all see that’s just completely irrational. If you’re like, if you really want a relationship with someone, minimally, what you do is, you know, sort of what you can on your side of things to remove obstacles. And Schellenberg thinks, you know, a pretty clear obstacle to relationship with anybody is not having enough evidence to believe that they exist. Right? So if God, if God loves you, minimally, God’s going to remove that obstacle. You’ll have enough evidence to believe that God exists. But he says, there’s all kinds of people in the world who are, as he puts it non resistant, really not believing in God. And hear you might think, most especially of people who, yeah, the I just the very idea of the God of Christianity, or Judaism has not even occurred to them. You know, maybe think of people who lived in, you know, 5000 8000 BC and parts of the world that, you know, are you think, like, whoever was around then who was acquainted with the Jewish God, they wouldn’t have been in contact with those people, right. And celebree thinks like, you know, folks like that I didn’t even have the concept of God. So they can’t possibly be resisting belief in God. And so if God loves them minimally, they’d get just some evidence. All right.
Kurt: Yeah, I was actually speaking with someone probably a few weeks ago, and he had asked me about Abraham. And, you know, Abraham had his God and other people had other gods. How would Abraham’s God hold people accountable for not even knowing him? You know, and so this is kind of related to this concern of the hiddenness of God that, that Yahweh doesn’t make himself known in that time period to everyone that maybe we are you it takes time for Yahweh, to make himself known. And I was just reading ax 17. And this didn’t strike me when I was conversing with this person a couple weeks ago, but Paul talks about how God had overlooked the ignorance of men, until now, when he now requires all men to repent. So that’s maybe an interesting play into this issue is the ignorance of some, and maybe God values these things differently or relatively based upon the knowledge people have, right. But I want to go over you talked about sort of this, a technical term non resistant belief. And in your second chapter, you sort of have these three thesises, which I think can nicely summarized sort of what, what the issue is. Maybe you can guide us through those three theses include inconclusive evidence, reasonable non belief and non resistant non belief.
Dr. Rea: Yeah, good. I don’t, I can’t tell you off top my head exactly how I formulated those.
Kurt: Yeah, your words are your memories? I understand.
Dr. Rea: Yeah, I mean, the basic idea is, these are these thesises are meant to capture what I called the Doxastic aspect of divine hiddenness. Doxastic is a philosophical term that means roughly pertaining to belief, right? So the Doxastic aspect contrasts with the experiential aspect, right. But anyways, so So the idea here is inconclusive evidence, that’s roughly the idea that the evidence for belief in God is such that at least some people can be in the evidence that they possess, for belief in God is not sufficient to push them to believe in God. Right. It’s not decisive. So, you know, your evidence for my existence, I would say is pretty conclusive. Here, you are talking to me. Your evidence for the existence of life on other planets is I would say inconclusive. Yeah, you know, plenty of perfectly respectable scientists think that there probably is life on other planets. You haven’t encountered any such individuals,…
Kurt: Some people claim they have!
Dr. Rea: Yeah, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s not enough evidence to make it sort of crazy for you to doubt that there’s life on other planets. So it’s inconclusive, in that sense.
Kurt: there’s maybe an important distinction here to make that the inconclusive evidence, it’s not saying there’s no evidence, right. One might be of the position that there’s some evidence for the existence of God, but that it’s just not enough. They think,
Dr. Rea: Yeah, but what you find some philosophers working on divine hiddenness, saying, what you what you find some of them saying is that our, the world is religiously ambiguous, right? There’s, there’s evidence that, you know, pushes us toward belief in God, there’s evidence that, you know, like the existence of horrendous evil in large amounts, there’s evidence that sort of pushes us away. There’s lots of philosophical dispute over whether God exists, which suggests that the evidence just isn’t such that any rational person has to conclude, you know, one way or the other. Right? Reasonable nonbelief. That thesis is basically the idea that there there are plenty of people in the world who, first of all, don’t believe in God, and second of all, are reasonable and not believing God. By reasonable I mean, they’re something like they are reasoning fairly well, with the evidence that they have, right, they’re not. They’re not falling into, you know, just major lapses in their reasoning. They’re not studiously just ignoring some glaring evidence in favor of the existence of God, things like that. It’s there. They don’t believe in God, and they’re not being unreasonable. Non resistant non belief that thesis is it’s similar to the reasonable nonbelief thesis. But the idea there is there are people who don’t believe in God who are not resisting, believing in God. So you know, you might say, so I won’t say you write
Kurt: one generally, yeah,
Dr. Rea: consider someone who has a serious alcohol problem, right? And they are. They’re in denial about it. And there’s a K and yeah, their friends are trying to confront them. They’re saying, Look, you know, you’ve got a problem. Do you know how much you drank last night and things like that? No, no, no, I don’t have a problem. Like that’s the sort of person who we say they’re kind of they’re, they’re in a kind of self deception. They are resistant to the truth that they really ought to see. The non resistant non belief thesis says that there are at least some people for who you know who don’t believe in God and that sort of thing isn’t true of them. Right. I should say I all of these claims are controversial. You know, Romans one seems to a lot of people to speak directly against all of them. Right? Yeah. It is. I think that’s not just a screamingly obvious interpretation of Romans one, I think you can affirm these species and still think Romans one teaches the truth about things. For my purposes, I’m inclined to just grant the theses and respond to the hiddenness problem in a different way. If it turns out that not actually Romans one does teach everybody who fails to believe in God is self deceptive or otherwise resistant. Yeah, okay. So there’s another response to the hiddenness problem. That’s not one that I wanted to sort of bank everything on. Sure. Sure. So.
Ted: So Mike, also, you mentioned Romans one. What about Romans two as well, we talked about the moral law is that you sort of group that in together with Romans one. No, it’s really more of a you know, because Paul says that the Romans who don’t have the law, they don’t have the 10 commandments, they show that, you know, that they’d but they know right from wrong. They had this inherent understanding of objective morality. So which, yeah, which points to God?
Dr. Rea: Paul, points to maybe given certain philosophical assumptions. Right. But I think, I think the idea that the moral law is written on our hearts, that is, that’s actually I think that’s consistent with the claim that even so some people don’t have enough evidence to believe in God. Right. What you would say in that case, is they do have enough evidence to, you know, they’re being unreasonable if they think that like, it’s okay to kill innocent people or something like that. But, but they don’t, they don’t know where the moral law written on their hearts came from, or, or some sets, right, right. The reason Romans one seems to speak against these theses, it says, something like, you know, the things of God have been made known, you know, from the beginning,
Ted: are really that clearly manifest and the things that have been created so that all men are that excuse is what it says,
Dr. Rea: Yeah. And it’s, it’s a little ambiguous as to what the things of God are. And well,
Ted: how do you mean and big? Like, what’s ambiguous about it? I don’t, I’m trying to follow what your thinking is how Romans one can be ambiguous, because it seems to be pretty clear that since the creation of the world the things that God has made, that his existence can be known from those things. So you’re saying that’s ambiguous?
Dr. Rea: Let me let me pull up my Bibles. I’m not just going strictly from memory here.
Kurt: And it seems like Ted, I mean, you might even think that, you know, some of this deals with what planning refers to as proper functionality. Right? Yeah. And that
Ted: Well, yeah, I guess what I’m, and this is, obviously, you know, you’re dealing with philosophy, course, philosophers won’t grant certain certain philosophical presuppositions that Paul maybe takes for granted or whatever. But it seems to be that it sort of comes down to, you know, Immanuel Kant says, We can’t reason from this world of the next, you know, this gulf, this Kantian Gulf, whereas Paul says, No, that we actually can reason we can infer theism from this world to the next world. In fact, we do in fact, that’s why people that excuse so, either Kant is right, or Paul is right. And I think in the history of Christian thought, you look at Aquinas, you look at Lewis, CS Lewis, all of them seem to fall on the side of, of Paul,
Dr. Rea: the apostle Paul, I’m not gonna put any bets on conch. But so here’s here’s. So here’s what I’ve got in Romans one, I’m reading out of the NRSV. For the wrath of God as revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth, for what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world has eternal power and divine nature and visible though they are have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse, blah, blah, blah. So here’s so looking at verse 19. What can be known about God is plain to them. Well, what exactly can be known about God? That has been made plain? So here’s something that can be known about God. Jesus is the incarnate second person of the Trinity. That’s, that’s not what’s in view here. Right? That’s, I mean, that wasn’t even playing really to the church. You might think
Kurt: that’s why Paul, the author of Romans had to go and debate about it in the synagogues.
Dr. Rea: Right? Eight well, so So what what is being referred to here by what can be known about God, God’s existence? Maybe. Then again, verse 20 says, you might think verse 20, is clarifying ever since the creation of the world, His eternal power and divine nature invisible, that they are have been understood, etcetera. But now, what exactly is that? So suppose I’m a prehistoric person, I look around, I think, Wow. This was made by something powerful, and probably invisible. That sounds like something about God that you might think is kind of plain. Is that all that has been made plain? And is all that’s being said here, really, that you’re without excuse? If you don’t look around and have something like that thought? It’s, I just think it’s not totally clear.
Ted: But yeah, and I totally, I see what you’re saying. But but in the same sense, let me just play the advocate the the opposite view here. And that is almost a devil’s advocate. But, you know, here’s the thing, I understand that as philosophers, we have to answer people, according to, you know, the objections of the day. But, you know, I guess I’m thinking, because I’m a former pastor, so I’m thinking of everyday people, everyday people can’t, they don’t read analytical philosophy, you know, what do they have? What, how does God communicate, he communicates through the things that have been made very clear, you know, creation. And so people don’t have access to, you know, to go to Notre Dame or to study philosophy, what they have, what they do have access to, is they can look up at night, look at the stars. And it’s not just Paul saying it, it’s also David in Psalm 19, that heavens declare the glory of God. So, so I think the witness of Scripture is that, that we can absolutely know something about God, is it enough to save No, but there is something that can be known about God, and primarily, as Paul says, that he that he exists. And so I make a distinction between a belief that God exists versus belief in God. So more of a, you know, sort of a very existential placing your trust in God. But, but so belief that and belief in is a very important distinction to make?
Dr. Rea: Well, so to two things here, first, I’m not seeing that he exists in the passage that I read here. So that would be that would be a kind of inference. But the other thing I said, think about it passed orally, right? You’re sitting down with someone, and they’re like, you know, look, I grew up in the church. And, and I was told a bunch of things, and I sort of believed, and I got into high school in college, I started studying a lot. And I also started just encountering lots and lots of bad things, right. You know, stuff happened at my church with my, you know, my pastor, that I can’t even get into, yeah, it was really horrible stuff. And, you know, and then like, my, my, my best friend died and stuff. And I’m thinking like, they’re, you know, a God wouldn’t let this sort of thing happen. And, and I’m just, it’s, it’s, I find, like, I want there to be a god, I want to believe, but I can’t like the, you know, my brain just, I can’t get there. And that’s very common evidence is overwhelming.
Kurt: It’s a very common story that people have. Yeah, that yeah, you know, but
Dr. Rea: Let’s say you sit down past early with someone like this. And are you gonna say to them? Well, you know, I mean, the things of God have been made plain from the beginning, you’re without excuse. I, I so my read of that passage is not it is not so transparently affirming of the claim that everybody has conclusive evidence for God’s existence, that I’d be willing to say that to someone passed orally,
Ted: right. And there’s a difference between there’s a difference between someone going through some emotional stress, obviously, you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t give them a philosophical argument. You would as a pastor or as a counselor, love them and care for them. But you know, so So, yeah, I totally agree with you. There’s definitely a difference between, you know, counseling, someone who’s going through some hardship, but the problem of pain and suffering is a different issue than God’s existence. I think maybe, I don’t know. Maybe that’s what your book is about.
Kurt: That’s actually one of my Yeah, next question. See Your mic is what is that relationship, it seems like to be to be a close relationship between the problem of divine hiddenness and the problem of evil and suffering.
Dr. Rea: Yeah. So the way I characterize it in the book, I think both of them are problems, fundamentally about violated expectations, right? You hear that God’s perfectly good, perfectly loving, etcetera, you naturally expect? Well, then God’s not going to let me go through horrendous suffering, God’s not going to let other people do that. And you look around and you find things like the Holocaust, you know, and more recent, you know, pick up any newspaper, right? You find God has gods, if if there’s a God, God’s letting that stuff happen. So you’ve got to violate it expectation. Likewise, you’re told, you know, God’s my heavenly parent. And then you think about what minimally decent parents do for their kids, right? I, you know, I tell my kids, I love them. If one of my kids is crying and saying, I think Daddy doesn’t love me, fortunately, that hasn’t happened. But you know, if it did, I would, I’d be sure to get like write down in their face and say, I love you so much, you know, when they fall and hurt themselves, I don’t stand off in the other room. just shrug my shoulders, you know, like comfort them. And so there’s all these kinds of expectations that we get just from the claim that God’s our heavenly parents that that get violated. And you know, and again, the Schellenberg problem, too, you might think, look, people who say they love you usually at least let you know they exist. Right? And in clear terms, you know, they don’t they don’t leave you to make inferences from, you know, the arrangement of things in the house or something like that, right? And say, hey, look, this was made clear from the beginning or without excuse, you know, they if if you’re not making the inference in the right way, they come and show you a bit more vividly. Right, so So, again, violated expectations. I don’t say that the hiddenness problem is the same. It’s just a version of the problems that you’ve all because it it’s not crystal clear to me that divine hiddenness is kind of essentially a bad thing.
Kurt: Yeah, yeah. And you talk more about that as your two part solution. But I want to I want to tease people here now because we’ve got to take our break. Okay. But when we come back, we’ll get more we spent half the program just talking about what the problem is, which is good, we’ve got to clear that ground and, and have these discussions. And even though it’s only, I think up through chapter two of your book, and then they spend the rest of your book, talking about some of these things that we’ll we’ll try to get through as we’re able to. We’ve got to take our break here. Stick with us through the short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break for our sponsors. If you’d like to learn how you can become a sponsor, you can go to our website, grassy hill.com and click on that patron tab, you can check out the different sponsorship levels. Or if you want to be someone that is our patron, just someone that chips in a few bucks a month, we would love to get your financial support to help us to continue to go and grow here at veracity Hill. On today’s program, I’m joined by Dr. Michael Ray, who is a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. And he is a well, in layman’s terms. He’s one of those guys, that’s a brainiac. Okay, he’s deeply studied, and very thoughtful individual, and tries to be very careful in how he nuances subject matter. And on today’s program, we’re talking about his recent publication, the hiddenness of God, which is a growing concern, or objection against Christian belief or theism in general, perhaps even in deism maybe, I guess. But chiefly it’s a, it’s a conversation, Mike, that happens between non believers and believers. And so in the first half of the program, we talked about the sort of what the problem was. And I said, I want to be careful about how I speak to you know, our tagline is striving for truth. Before we went to the break, I said you had a two part solution, you sort of addressed the two different issues of divine hiddenness. Here, which we were we were talking about, that that first step the violated expectations. And then there’s another aspect. So tell us here, chapters three and four are about sort of the divine attributes and transcendence. So So tell us how is that a solution of sorts to the problem of divine hiddenness?
Dr. Rea: Yeah. Pretty simply, the idea in those chapters is God is way beyond us. Way beyond us, and all manner of ways. But I mean, if you find people in the Christian tradition, saying that God, yeah, the divine, the divine, anatra, Divine Love, divine wisdom and things like that they are, they’re so different from human love, human wisdom, human power, human knowledge, that the relationship between God’s love and human love is at best analogical. Right. It’s so it’s.
Kurt: So would you say here then that when people talk about this parent child relationship, if God loves us, for God’s children, you know, you mentioned if you’re, if your child gets injured in the next room, you don’t stay in the other room? And let them suffer alone, wondering where’s daddy? So what you’re saying here is because God is so different, that this parent child analogy, may not actually be a strong one. Because God is so other than what we think would be a fair assessment.
Dr. Rea: Yeah. Or maybe the way I’d prefer to put it is it? It’s just very limited? Because it’s only an analogy, right? You can’t just you can’t automatically make inferences. You can’t automatically move from the analogy to conclusions about God. You can’t automatically move from expect expectations that arise out of the analogy being violated to conclusions about God, right. So you can’t say look, you know, the Bible says, God’s my heavenly Father, but fathers are biologically male, God’s not biologically male. So I guess God’s not my heavenly Father. Like that’s a bad argument. The analogy whatever it meant, didn’t mean to say that God is biologically male. And what what, you know, people who have a sort of robust understanding of divine transcendence, people who take deeply seriously the idea that God’s ways are not our ways God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and things like that and other there’s context to that sort of illusions but never mind that People sort of take that deeply seriously, they’ll say you can’t just move from God is loving, loving people do x, therefore, God ought to do X, you can’t make that inference reliably, you can’t reliably say, you know, God’s God’s loving, loving people don’t do such and so God is doing such and so therefore, contradiction, you know, things like that. You can’t reliably make those inferences, because again, the relationship between divine love and human love is ultimately just analogical.
Kurt: So would this be similar? So in the problem of evil and suffering, you have a response to the evidential problem, which is called skeptical theism. Yeah, and it’s that we really just don’t know, we can’t really know because of who God is and what his purposes might be for allowing, either in any instance of evil. Would that sort of be the rough equivalent over here for the problem of divine hiddenness? Because God is so other, that the way we can speak about him is limited? We don’t know. Are you proposing that? We don’t know why God seems far off or doesn’t provide enough evidence?
Dr. Rea: Yeah, I so I think it’s sort of evident that we don’t know why. And so I would say that the extra part to that is, not only do we not know why we shouldn’t expect to know why. And we ought to be okay with the fact that we don’t know why. And…
Kurt: maybe that’s, that’s where the rub is, for some people they don’t know that they should, can’t know or shouldn’t know why.
Dr. Rea: Yeah, yeah. I, you know, I think I usually say this about the problem of evil. And I didn’t say this in the book, but I think it applies to the hiddenness issue, too. If you think about how you’d likely respond, if you didn’t know why. I think what you’ll learn is knowing why isn’t really what we want. So take the worst thing you’ve gone through, or the worst thing like a good friend of yours has gone through. And that’s going to be it’ll be different for each one of us. And suppose you get to ask God face to face? Why do you let that happen? I mean, if you if you’re a Christian, you already know the answer is going to look something like this. I let that happen for the following very good, and probably extremely complicated reason involving other goods of the following sort. And then maybe you’ll understand what those are, and maybe a don’t. And I think, for those of us who, you know, we’ve been through things that are really hurtful, and we may have felt angry, but gotta let that happen. Hearing. Yeah, look, this happened for some really complicated, good, we’re not just gonna say, Oh, well, that’s totally cool. It’s still gonna hurt. What you want is not really the reason why what you want is for God to say, I know that hurt you. And I am not happy you had to go through that. And I love you so much. And you know, and that sort of thing. Maybe there are more particular things we want from God, but knowing why I think it’s sort of overrated. And when you’re dealing with an omniscient being, you shouldn’t expect to know why anyways, and so you should be okay with not knowing why. I mean, that’s sort of the basic idea.
Kurt: That’s, it’s interesting, you say that, it provides a nice connection, I think between the the first answer to the answer to the first problem, and sort of an answer to the second problem, doesn’t it sort of that, that what we want is, you know, we want to see God’s love in our relationships. And you talk about his his personality, right, that that’s, yeah, we want that relationship. That’s really what people are seeking after it seems? Well, at least for many, the vast majority of cases. That that’s what they want. They don’t necessarily want the answer, but they want a hug.
Dr. Rea: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that chapter on divine personality. That’s, that’s sort of a chapter for people who are going to respond to the Divine transcendent stuff, saying, Don’t give me any of this divine transcendent stuff. God’s love is just like, God’s love is basically just like human love. We can reason about it in the same way we reason like human love, God’s love is pretty much just idealized human love. And in that chapter, I say no, it’s not let’s pretend There’s no such thing as divine transcendence as pretend we’ve got a pretty good grip on love and that divine of is fairly similar quality. Still, it’s not. It’s not what, like a lot of people think that divine love would be just sort of maximal devotion to us and to our good. And I say no wouldn’t that’s, that’s basically worship, right, maximal devotion to somebody’s good to somebody’s well being. That’s basically worship and the Christian tradition is never said that God worships us. God has maximal love for the persons of the Trinity. God does love us wonderfully. Right? But but we’re not God doesn’t worship us. And God has other goods that God’s promoting besides ours. And sometimes those things will come into conflict and are good, short term good, anyways loses out. And then I say, but you know, not to worry. I mean, we are told in Scripture, but the amazing thing, I think that God is still God loves us enough to cause all things to work together for our good. And that God loves us deeply and tremendously enough to go to the cross. So there’s a lot of divine love. And anything that we suffer will get defeated. At the end, I think that’s the upshot of Romans eight, you know, sort of our life will be to us a great good on the whole. But that doesn’t mean that, you know, our short term good won’t be sacrificed to some of God’s other projects. And I think that’s ultimately what’s going on with divine hiddenness.
Kurt: And even with that, Romans, eight passages, God works all things for the good, that doesn’t necessarily that wouldn’t entail necessarily entail a sort of God meticulously working for every, you know, good in our life. But even just a general good, that, you know, God has this master plan that he’s working out, inviting people into the kingdom, kingdom life. So we might not, we might not come to the conclusion that God had a reason for allowing, you know, your friend to be raped, but rather that there’s this general plan, and God is working through all things, generally. And there’s a healing process in that for those that have been through evil and suffering as a result of that.
Dr. Rea: Right. And I think part of what that means is, people, everybody will look back on their life, with all the sufferings that it includes. And think, yeah, that was good. Yeah. So the particular things I suffered were bad, very bad. But still, that whole thing is deeply mysteriously Good.
Ted: Very, very good point, Michael. And also just reminds me that Romans eight passage reminds me it seems to be sort of a theme, you know, at least in Scripture, when you look at the old New Testament that God can take bad and make it good. And as Joseph said to his brothers, you know, years later, after his brothers had sold him into slavery, you meant it for evil, selling me to slavery, but God meant it for good for the saving of many lives. So God can take the worst things. And the ultimate example of that, of course, is the cross, you know, Jesus going the cross where it was meant for evil, conducted by evil men, a horrible, horrendous evil done on the most holy person in the whole universe. And yet, God turned it around and made it good. So yeah, if he can do that with those people who can surely do with things that we suffer,
Dr. Rea: yeah, or the way I’d want to put it, as God makes good out of it, right, or God, God takes the whole life that it’s woven into, and makes that thing good.
Kurt: Yeah, I want to shift the discussion over to your chapter on visions and voices. Because I have given some reflection to this issue of sort of religious experience and how we communicate this so so what are the sorts of questions that you’re asking about? Religious Experience, you know, perception, the objectivity, you know, did Moses hear the voice of God actually, what does it mean to hear you know, God is not a Biola biological being and doesn’t have vocal cords. So how does God speak? You know, those sorts of questions. So what sort of questions are you dealing with here and vision As invoices, and how does that relate then to divine? hiddenness?
Dr. Rea: Yeah, so I’m, I’m trying to look at what’s involved. What’s involved? Exactly and experiencing God. Alright. And, you know, part of the motivation is just having read a whole lot of kind of medieval mysticism and some contemporary stuff on how to experience guy, there’s all kinds of stuff in the Christian tradition. How to experience God. And, you know, I think like, that’s kind of weird, right? I mean, like, is if there’s, you know, just a little set of instructions to follow, like, how could
Kurt: I do X, Y, and Z, or I’m gonna have, you know, some, you know, synapses be triggered by some mystical experience.
Dr. Rea: Yeah, and I guess, I think, like part of what I’ve found irritating about, there’s a whole lot that I found really irritating about, like some of that literature and also about just conversations with friends about some of their own experiences, basically, you know, there’s all this the advice in the Christian tradition about how to experience God is like, it’s somewhat uniform. And there are all kinds of people who report you know, I go to any Evangelical Church, and you’ll surely after a while, hear people talking about like, how the Lord told me this, or whatever, yes. And I, you know, for my part, I don’t, I haven’t heard God speak with an audible voice, although people do. I’ve had inner promptings or whatever, that I’ve sometimes thought like that God, I don’t know, you know, I wonder what these people mean. I wonder, you know, is it really true that, like, I could sit down and follow these instructions and, and, like, sort of conjure experiences of God, that seems weird. So there’s all kinds of stuff that’s kind of confusing about this. And then it’s frustrating Tuesday that God was apparently perfectly willing to just have an open chat with Moses. You know, why not? Me, right? I’m not as cool as Moses, maybe, but still, you know, God loves us. All right. So I’ve had all these thoughts. The view that comes out in those chapters is one according to which all experiences of God are pretty much of the same sort, it’s looking at perfectly natural phenomena through a kind of theistic lens. Right? And just to give you an idea what I mean by the relevant lens, you know, I give examples in the chapter of like an ultrasound, you know, if you’re, you know, if you’ve ever seen an ultrasound monitor, you know, it’s you can google ultrasound pictures of babies
Kurt: and I’ve seen three I’ve got three daughters and
Dr. Rea: you know an ultrasound tech a look at that and be like Oh yeah, look the lens are all looking healthy and oh look at the girl and stuff like that when I’ve looked I’ve got five kids I’ve seen these plenty of times when I look at these I think I can barely see a head and then another blob that looks like I guess a body but all that other stuff I can’t see as because I don’t have the training the background cognition isn’t influencing the experience in the same way
Kurt: having more of a Rorschach experience looking at
Dr. Rea: Yeah, yeah but so and what people who work on perception know is cognition does impact experience right you take another example I given the book I went you know, when I was a little kid I’ve the house I grew up in was built on a swamp and it was cracking all the time. I thought the all the sounds I’d hear when I’m going to bed at night or intruders obviously coming to get me. Maybe space aliens. My dad said it was the house cracking heard through the lens of my fears and anxieties. Obviously it’s intruders heard through the lens of background knowledge of like the house is built on a swamp and this is what they say my dad here’s the house cracking. If there were actually intruders, we would say I heard the intruders My dad didn’t even though we got the same stimuli That’s
Kurt: like the cat. Right? So let me ask you, I’ll play a little, little, little of devil’s advocate here. So yeah, so it’s the important of the background evidence and informing having right beliefs. But couldn’t the person who, who is a skeptic, say we Yeah, you’re just sort of assuming that God exists. And so now you’re looking for those stimuli to as a sort of confirmation bias on those events. So yeah, it’s because you’re, you’re looking for the intruder. You’re, you’re listening for those those creeks in the floor?
Dr. Rea: Yeah. So my thought is, so just just to complete the idea, and then I’ll address Yes. My thought is a lot of, well, generally, experiences of God are. What’s going on as you are experiencing natural stimulus through a theistic lens, right? So when when the Lord speaks to you, right, what’s going on and and other people will give citations in the book to other people I’ve used like this. What’s going on when the Lord speaks to you is there’s there’s something natural going on in your head, you know, a thought or something like that, that maybe someone else who’s not a theist, or just interpret as a hunter, a guess or something like that, that you look at it as that’s, that’s the voice of God. And you might think, Well, that just implies that like, this is all just made up, or it’s like, there’s no, you know, I mean, I think if God exists, and God intended for you to experience it that way, it is the voice of God. And if you hear there’s a bit in the Gospel of John, where Jesus says something like, you know, Father, glorify yourself, and God replies, you know, I’m doing that. And it says, the other people around just heard thunder. And I think that’s exactly right. There was something that not heard through the theistic lens sounded just like thunder. But Jesus heard the voice of God. And it was Jesus was not hallucinating. Jesus was not making things up the others who heard the voice of God, we’re not hallucinating or making things up. They were hearing it the way God intended. The other people who didn’t have the right cognitive framework couldn’t pick that up. I think that’s generally how these things go. Now, is it confirmation bias, or something like that? I would say might be if you’re trying to use these things to prove that God exists, or something like that, but that’s not what’s going on. What all my story is giving you is a theory about what’s happening in these sorts of experiences. Right. And I’m not saying that the experiences are themselves proof that God exists, or anything like that. I mean, I think they, I think they do kind of factor into a large body of evidence for God’s existence. Like they can play, they can play a role and a large body of evidence like that. But it’s not. It’s not a theory according to which like, you can be like, Alright, I want to show that God exists. I’m gonna go out and give myself these kinds of experiences. And now guess what, I’ve got proof that God exists or
Kurt: Yeah, sure. Right. Right, those anecdotes. And so we’ve only got a few minutes here. And I do have one question from one of our listeners who submitted ahead of time here. Maybe Maybe we’ll try to tackle this one first. So this this listener writes in. There’s a question about the ascension of Jesus. Yeah. And I guess it relates to divine hiddenness. Because you, Jesus leaves, right, he goes away. So his question, Where did Jesus go after the sky? The Ascension studies, he goes up to the clouds? Did Jesus fly through space? is heaven at the end of the universe? I guess maybe, whatever that might mean. And did this event literally occur?
Dr. Rea: Good. I’ll go backwards. Did the event literally occur? I think yes. I mean, I think Jesus literally ascended into heaven. Now, where that where the boundary point was between ascension you know, what the Apostle saw with Jesus going upward, you know, or whatever and then entering heaven? I don’t know about that is heaven at the end of the universe? Almost certainly not. I mean, I don’t think you can get to heaven in a spaceship. Did Jesus after going up into the sky then go out into outer space? You know, things like that? I guess I’d want to say possible but unlikely. I
Kurt: won’t, you know, would be an explanation here that Jesus being a physical be being in physical form. I gotta be careful not to go unorthodox and say creature. Yeah, with regard to the human nature has has physicality goes up and then is there just a disintegrate disintegration of the molecules into the immaterial? How does something like that work?
Dr. Rea: Well, so I don’t know how it does work. But here’s, here’s the story about how it could work. Sure. Good. hyperspace, right. Just a completely other dimension. And at a certain point, Jesus stops going up and moves. In some directions. Yeah. accessible to us. Yeah. Hudson has a pair of books. HUD is a terrific Christian philosopher. He has a book called the metaphysics of hyperspace. One chapter of which is devoted to theological issues. He’s got another book called The fall in hyper time. That’s also devoted to he basically, he thinks other dimensions can solve lots of little problems like this. Sure, sure. And I, you know, I don’t think my wife’s a biblical scholar, I tell her about, you know, the hyperspace hypothesis. Oh, whatever. So I don’t think it’s like, yeah, we gotta go to the map for the claim that this is the solution to that issue. But it gives possibilities that make it Yeah, that wasn’t really
Kurt: a plausible solution. That for some people, sometimes these questions or concerns, they can be legit, legitimate concerns that go into, you know, the reasons why or they become a concern go goes from a concern to an argument against. So now, last question, before we close out our program today. So we’ve got all these issues in the hiddenness of God. And what’s one thing though, that people need to keep in mind when they might be asking the question, what does it mean, to have a personal relationship with God, for those that maybe are struggling? With the hiddenness of God, you know, how can they move forward in relating to this totally transcendent being?
Dr. Rea: Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, this also touches on some things that I do in the book, but I guess I think, fundamentally. Always seeking God and always doing one’s best to be sort of open and honest with God, whatever that might mean. Right. So So I have a chapter on lament and protest. I think God welcomes even our protest against God, even in pious protests first, you’re just like, I, I hate what you’re doing. You know. That’s obviously not an ideal relationship with God. But you know, think about what you want from their from your kids, right? Or something like that. Yeah. Or from your spouse or your best friend, if they hate what you’re doing. In the end, you’d rather have them protest to your face, then just leave
Kurt: you to use the parent child analogy. And again, well, it might it’s an imperfect analogy, you would rather have your child talk to you and relate to you say, Hey, you should do this better, or even just for their own sake, if you’re not going to change your mind, for their own sake, that they should feel comfortable enough sharing how they’re feeling, as opposed to rebelling and leaving leaving the home.
Dr. Rea: Yeah, and I don’t I also don’t think that God always looks at that and thinks it’s unreasonable either. Like a friend of mine. Another philosopher Mark Murphy tells a story about his kids. Where I guess he was playing some kind of tackle game or something like that with one of the kids and the littlest one who was like three or something, saw what Mark was doing. Thought Mark was attacking his brother and goes nod my brother, and just goes after me. Right. You know, you look at that, I think marks response to this was flipped my would have been I was like, that’s beautiful. Right? Yeah, it is a, it’s a completely wrongheaded protest. But it’s beautiful, and do it and what that kid knows. And given that kids love for his brother, exactly what he ought to be doing. And, you know, and Mark can, in his own way, help him to greater understanding, you know, and I think that’s a that’s what God will do with us over time as we even protest. But yeah, so always keep seeking God always be honest with God about where you are. And I think, you know, Jesus tells us seek and you’ll find, as you know, knock and the door will be opened. Right. And I totally believe that.
Kurt: Great. Well, that’s, that’s good advice. And certainly in the Psalms, we see David, being angry with Yahweh, and sort of raising these objections. And so for folks that might be struggling with this, don’t don’t be scared to do that, you know, don’t be scared to get angry, and to converse with the Creator of the universe. So yeah, great. Dr. Ray, thank you so much for joining us on our program today. Again, he is the author of The hiddenness of God put up by none other than the Oxford University Press, we’ll be sure to put a link in the description of today’s episode and on our website, for those that want to read more about the thoughtful, careful reflection here on this very important subject, and one that’s gaining popularity amongst atheists and skeptics in how to respond to, you know, and how we should respond to those concerns and arguments even so, thank you so much.
Dr. Rea: Thanks. Thanks for having me here.
Kurt: All right. Well, that does it for our show. Today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors. They are defenders media, consult Kevin, the sky floor, rethinking Hill, the Illinois Family Institute and Fox restoration. I want to thank our technical producer Chris, and my friend Ted for joining us in studio today and to our guest, Dr. Michael Ray, thank you so much. But Last and certainly not least, I want to thank you for listening in in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.