Divine hiddenness and the last man

This coincidence interests me:

Divine hiddenness in one form or another looms large in these theologies, but God’s love and existence remain unchallenged. The idea that divine hiddenness counts against the existence of God is largely a twentieth-century phenomenon.11

In the late nineteenth century, Friedrich Nietzsche remarked that it would be quite cruel of God, if God existed, to leave human beings wondering and debating about how to secure salvation, thus tacitly suggesting a connection between a certain kind of divine hiddenness and disbelief in the God of traditional Christianity.12 At the very end of the nineteenth century, Robert Anderson, reflecting on the persistent silence of God, drew an explicit connection between divine silence and difficulty maintaining faith in God:

“It is no novel experience with men that Heaven should be silent. But what is new and strange and startling is that the silence should be so absolute and prolonged; that through all the changing vicissitudes of the Church’s history for nearly two thousand years that silence should have remained unbroken. This it is which tries faith, and hardens unfaith into open infidelity.” infidelity. (Anderson 1897: 62–3)

Nevertheless, clear and explicit challenges to God’s existence on the basis of divine hiddenness are, at best, few and far between until the twentieth century.13

What shift in theological understanding entered the collective unconscious such that, beforehand, the popular mind was unconcerned with this question? Is this a causal factor in the pervasive fatalistic uselessness we can observe manifesting in young men across the political and cultural spectrum? I’m approaching this from the Arminian assumption that beliefs have real effects and are not merely predetermined ephemera, so the debate between pro-civilizationists’ effortful control vs. anti-civilizationists’ bronze age gorilla mindset will be held irrelevant for the time being.

The twentieth century witnessed an explosion of interest in the arts and across a variety of academic disciplines in the theme of divine hiddenness.14 The final three decades in particular saw a tremendous increase in scholarly attention devoted to the topic. Among the more important books and articles discussing the theological significance of divine hiddenness (under some construal or other), often with attention to the challenge posed thereby to religious faith, we might list Samuel Terrien’s The Elusive Presence (1978), Samuel Balentine’s The Hidden God (1983), Thomas V. Morris’s “The Hidden God” (1988), G. Tom Milazzo’s The Protest and the Silence (1991), and J. L. Schellenberg’s agenda-setting Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason (1993).15 By the century’s close divine hiddenness had become the foundation of a powerful family of arguments for the conclusion that God does not exist, and a variety of now standard responses were beginning to emerge.

The problem of divine hiddenness, which I will present in detail in Chapter 2, ranks alongside the problem of evil as one of the two most important and widely discussed reasons on offer for disbelieving in God. As we will see, however, the problem depends for its traction on contestable theological assumptions. Accordingly, one might just as easily take the problem not as a referendum on the existence of God, but rather on the viability of certain ways of understanding the nature of God and God’s attributes.

After noting the centrality of divine hiddenness to Israelite faith, Samuel Balentine comments that “[b]oth experiences [i.e., the experience of divine presence and the experience of divine hiddenness] derive from the nature of God himself.”16 If true, this suggests that the key to addressing philosophical problems about divine hiddenness is not to treat the phenomenon as an anomaly, but rather to treat it as a natural result of God living out the divine life in relation to us and the rest of creation. Treating it this way will steer us away from the usual quest for potential benefits that human beings might derive from divine hiddenness and toward a theory about the attributes of God, and particularly about the love of God and the way in which it is manifested to humans, that makes room for divine hiddenness in its various forms as a natural outgrowth of who and what God is rather than of what God is doing to serve human needs and desires.

-Michael Rea
The Hiddenness of God

I have a strong suspicion that God was secularized in a way similar to how Heaviside describes Q-anon as secularizing Satan:

Trying to keep this as short as possible, there are two points I would make about the Q phenomenon.

1) Military intelligence has had sexual blackmail on top politicians for decades and decades. Why would they have a sudden change of heart when Congress keeps forking over trillions of dollars? The military is “the deep state”. It’s comical when the deep state comes right out in the open and tells people that they’re the real good guys, yet here we are. Imagine if the GRU and the KGB had told the Soviet public that they were here to save them from their own “deep state,” and that’s basically what Q (and Pieczenik and Alex Jones and C2CAM etc.) is.

2) Conspiracy theories should be subject to serious intellectual criticism. Mainstream critics of conspiracy theories seem to universally fail to do this, because they fall back on vapid appeals to “cognitive biases.” I can’t even begin to list all of the problems with that approach.

I think what’s really wrong with so much of the conspiracy theorizing that takes place is that it is a secularization of the belief in Satan. It is an attempt to view all of the evil in the world as having its origin in one earthly group. Even though many conspiracy theorists will explicitly mention Satan, the way they think about him is still extremely secular because they believe that he can only act through a single unified hierarchy on earth. You almost never hear anyone claim that there are multiple Satanic groups in mutual opposition to each other, which ought to make you stop and think for a moment. I watched a very popular Q movement video which heavily implied that if only they could get rid of this one cabal, all crime, poverty, and war would be a thing of the past, as if all the bad things each and every one of us does every day does not make us all part of that cabal in some small way.

Another way that modern conspiracy theories can be seen as a secularization and distortion of religious beliefs is in the attitude to history. The central conceit is that history has a plan, and because the thinking has been secularized the only kind of plan which is conceivable in the mind of the theorist is a plan which is understood and carried out by human beings with the full knowledge of what they are doing. (Think about how this relates to dispensationalism.) Nothing in this world ever goes according to plan if that plan was conceived of by human beings, and I believe you’ll know when God has arranged a conspiracy of his own if none of the participants realize that they were on the same side until all has been said and done.

Branko Malic has done a good job of criticizing conspiracy culture:

Conspiracy of the Enlightenment: Augustin Barruel and his “Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism” (pt. 1)

Death of a Conspiracy Theorist

Cult of Enlightenment and the Conspiracy Culture


Insofar as God can be panentheized into an emergent societal consciousness, the state, the Noble Lie, Marx’s scientific forces of history, etc., it becomes sensible to talk like Nietzsche about having killed him and becoming autotheistic (i.e. worshiping your own butthole), which you’ll find is the underlying de facto philosophy of all toxic people.

Speculating even further, I suspect that this attitude is caused by an increasing temperamental discomfort with uncertainty, which is predicted by both hundreds of years of k-selection and 150 years of dysgenic selection for lower intelligence.

In contrast to the usual theological understanding of divine hiddenness, the characterizations that contemporary philosophers (and some biblical scholars) tend to work with primarily concern this-worldly facts about the occurrence of certain kinds of nonbelief in God, the apparently limited strength and distribution of evidence for God’s existence, the limited availability of certain kinds of experiences of God (e.g., experiences of God’s love or presence), and the like. These are the kinds of facts that tend to figure centrally in different versions of the problem of divine hiddenness, initial contemporary formulations of which are to be found in the works cited earlier by Milazzo (1991), Morris (1988), and Schellenberg (1993).

The characterizations offered by Morris and Schellenberg focus on what I will call the doxastic (belief-oriented) aspect of God’s hiddenness. Morris’s characterization is primarily concerned with our general evidential circumstances. For him, divine hiddenness consists in the fact that we live in a “religiously ambiguous environment,” a world in which God’s existence and concern for humanity are left unclear, God’s presence is not readily accessible, and many people remain (at least) in doubt about God’s existence.2 Schellenberg’s earliest characterization of divine hiddenness is similar. In Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason, he notes that the term is ambiguous and says that the sense most pertinent to the problem he wants to discuss is one having to do with the “obscurity of God’s existence.”3

-Michael Rea
The Hiddenness of God

So it could be that since Cartesian scientific rationalism now takes up so much real estate in our mental categories, at the same time as our mental real estate is shrinking and our tolerance for cognitive dissonance is shrinking, that the idea of doxastic inconceivability is itself becoming inconceivable. Fundamentalists hold that the nature of God is so obvious that disagreement indicates disingenuousness (i.e. evil), and both theists and atheists have been genetically bred for fundamentalism for perhaps 400 years. This means that any obvious evidence unfit for existing mental categories would be catastrophically subversive, so that fundamentalist Christians often remain purposefully ignorant of biology to avoid losing their faith, and likewise atheists remain purposefully ignorant of philosophy and theology. Speculating yet further, this could explain what I’ve called “libido decoupling” and the increasing polarization around tastes in the various flavors of autoanalingus.

All this academic talk serves to form the plainstyle question: What did pre-Enlightenment Christians believe about the nature of God’s revelation that made them okay with never hearing word one from him directly?

About Aeoli Pera

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26 Responses to Divine hiddenness and the last man

  1. Dumbo says:

    The “hiddenness” or silence of God is a recent and modern idea, before that people were sure that God was in constant communication, either through natural events, miracles, visions, dreams, etc. Of course also demons too. That God or Angels or Devils would appear and talk to people was assumed — and so they did. All those things were part of medieval’s people mental universe and daily life. The “hiddenness” or silence of God is just that since the late 19th Century a large part of the more educated people don’t believe in God anymore and attribute all phenomenons to “science”, the universe is materialistic, etc. (Not that we moderns don’t believe in a lot of dumb things, of course; perhaps we are in some ways dumber than the medieval peasants)

  2. Mycroft Jones says:

    To answer the question at the end of your blog post, why were people ok with not hearing from God directly:

    Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly
    seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and
    Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

    Which in turn is a paraphrase of David’s Psalms:

    Psalms 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

    Psalms 50:6 And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself.

    Psalms 97:6 The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.

  3. Obadiah says:

    Great posts by Heaviside.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      That’s impossible, I’ve been told by someone who was very confident that having a sky-high IQ like Heaviside’s is incompatible with real wisdom.

      • fgth says:

        >Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,but those who keep the law resist them.

        >A discerning son keeps the law, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.

        >Whoever turns his ear away from hearing the law, even his prayer is detestable.

        >He who trusts in himself is a fool,but one who walks in wisdom will be safe.

        >A man who remains stiff-necked after much reproof will suddenly be shattered beyond recovery.

        >Mocker is the name of the proud and arrogant man—of him who acts with excessive pride.

        >There is NO wisdom, NO understanding, NO counsel

        that can prevail against THE LORD.

        No more will I cast the Lord’s pearls before the swine here.

    • Heaviside says:

      Thank you.

  4. Obadiah says:

    “Insofar as God can be panentheized into an emergent societal consciousness, the state, the Noble Lie, Marx’s scientific forces of history, etc., it becomes sensible to talk like Nietzsche about having killed him and becoming autotheistic (i.e. worshiping your own butthole), which you’ll find is the underlying de facto philosophy of all toxic people.”

    Foolish heretic, you have invoked the wrath of the great and almighty GNON. Your blasphemy will render you absent on that great and glorious and terrible Day of Final Absolution where all of GNON’s children are sucked into our own buttholes.

  5. Man of Men says:

    >Treating it this way will steer us away from the usual quest for potential benefits that human beings might derive for divine hidenness and towards a theory about the LOVE of God and the way it is manifested to humans, that makes room for divine hiddeness in its various forms as a natural outgrowth of *who and what God is* rather than of *what God is doing to serve human needs and desires*.

    Let us not speak of human needs and desires, let us speak of LOVE!

    In any case. I agree with the premise: let’s leave out all the emotions, and myriad of needs that are being met by the existence of a God, and work with the info we have: which is…
    Actually, alot. We have thousands upon thousands of years of God talking to humans, right? Oh, those were different Gods. False Gods. Maybe demons. All those prophets were wrong, but these few ones are right. Why? Damn, sure wish I could ask God. Too bad his love is conveniantly beyond my understanding and he doesnt say shit in the present day. Guess Im damned for eternity now.

    I cant say God does not exist, and I cant say that he does. I can say its pretty funny to see how little (if any) associative horizon is being used here. Its the ol 1 2 rationalization. Set your conclusion and work backwords.

    Ignorance of human wants and deires in relation to the creator of the universe. Laughable. Not possible.

    To the Christian, the glorification of God is glorification of self by proxy.
    Go Team!
    Trust the plan.

    Tale as old as time.

    Nothing inherently wrong with this (especially if there is a God to back it up…) but let us not pretend it is not a present motivation.

    • Man of Men says:

      >talk like Nietzsche about having killed him and becoming autothiestic (IE worshipping your own butthole)
      1. Not personally killed, for what it matters
      2. There certianly are passages of Nietzsche that support the autothiestic ideal:
      “Shall we not ourselves have to become Gods, merely to seem worthy of it?”
      3. That being said, the ultimate realization is of a sacrifice; Man as God is a project to Nietzsche:
      “You are only bridges, may higher men than you step across upon you!” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra)

      All this in detail and fictional examples with the upcoming never ending poasty.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      >To the Christian, the glorification of God is glorification of self by proxy.

      Often true. Discerning the motive is most easily accomplished by looking for an attitude of humility while the person is focusing on the idea of a perfect being. If they don’t become circumspect it means they aren’t bothered by the gap between their conception of perfection and their own behavior, and the most likely cause is that they aren’t perceiving much of one. The other possibility is genuine psychopathy.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      Still, we might well wonder how God’s relationship with individual human beings—particularly those who suffer and those who experience God’s hiddenness—is aptly described as loving. We might wonder what signs of divine love there are in the relationship. These are the “lingering questions” that I mentioned at the outset of this chapter—the questions that must be answered in order to make my solution to the hiddenness problem satisfying. The reason these questions linger is that there is distance between divine love and even the best human love, such that (as we have seen) it is not given a priori that a perfectly loving being will love all human beings equally or even at all. That God loves us is an article of faith, not philosophy; a dogma of revealed theology rather than natural theology. And so we must ask what it is about God’s relationship to such human beings that lets us hang on to the positive analogies traditionally used to characterize divine love and to resist more negative ones.

      As I explained at the end of Chapter 1, my goal will be to address what I take to be the three main sources of negatively valenced analogical characterizations of divine love: the apparent fact that experiential access to God’s love and presence is restricted only to a favored few (people we might describe as “mystics”); the fact that many people have severely conflicted relationships with God, where for one reason or another God’s love, concern, or very existence have been severely cast into doubt; and the fact that many people seem unable to seek or even think about God, either because they lack the concept of God or because they have undergone religious trauma that prevents them from entertaining the idea of God without suffering serious physical or psychological consequences….

      …I argue that the divine authorization of lament and protest, together with the remarkable pattern of divine submission to human beings with whom God is in conflicted relationship, helps to facilitate narratives about God’s behavior toward such people that will allow us to hang on to positively valenced characterizations of divine love.

      Rea, Michael C.. The Hiddenness of God (pp. 88-89). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

  6. Man of Men says:

    > our tolerance for cognitive dissonance is shrinking.

    I see no reason to think this. Cognitive dissonance because of alienation/isolation, politics, the general state of the Self (including the need to soothe and escape the realities of a failed Self) has created a populace in such a state of dissonance that they cling as tightly as possible to affirming delusion, even of the most nonsensical, dissonance inducing, sort. Q, guns, and K selection on the right, and… all of the beliefs of the left.
    Perhaps we are getting even better at rationalization, but this is one of the most steadfast areas of human nature. Fools to geniuses alike. Human, all too human! (Gotta nietszche theme going here)
    Speaking of that I read that last man bit again. “No shepherd and one herd”. If God doesnt exist that would make this post pretty funny.

    • MM says:

      Also, humans living in more and more novel environments, more and more against their natures… that sounds like something that produces a tolerance for MORE cognitive dissonance.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      >I see no reason to think this.

      Cognitive dissonance is defined as holding contradictory beliefs in tension. Though I happen to disagree with the following sentiment, it’s often said that “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Tolerance for cognitive dissonance is also the root of support for free speech, which is currently out of favor: https://www.takimag.com/article/science-says/

      We are probably also getting better at rationalization, as you mentioned, because the demand to fit complex problems into simplified solutions is increasing. It’s best to think of rationalization as a powerful form of counterfactual reasoning, where the System 2 rider is tasked with backfilling the counterfactual presented by the System 1 elephant. If the counterfactual is correct, as is often true with, say, negative stereotypes, then this is often the most efficient and powerful form of thinking. If the counterfactual is incorrect, as is often the case with counterfactuals preached to create a subversive hyper-reality, then it is efficiently and powerfully wrong. Since accommodation is more energy-intensive, slower, and less efficient than assimilation, this particular type of assimilation performs most of the heavy lifting in our day-to-day interactions with the world.

  7. fgth says:

    It’s certainly a fact that at certain times God does not speak directly to humans, even to His chosen people (formerly Israel, now the church).

    Aeoli mentioned in his earlier post his argument against those who claim God does speak to them, as follows:

    >’Whenever you bring this up, there’s always a contingent from the more animistic flavors of Christianity who will jump in and exclaim “Aha, but he isn’t REALLY hidden, you just aren’t a member of the One True Sect like I am, where God speaks to us directly and true prophets are found! Repent, and join!”

    Then he quoted 1 Samuel 3: 1-10, supposedly as proof of his point, as verse 1 mentions that ‘In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions’. Not none at all, just rare.

    Aeoli, in a mocking tone, speaks against those who do hear from God, and are prophets, in much the same way I imagine that certain segments of Israel would have reacted to actual prophets back in the day.

    Of much interest to believers should be the question of WHY God hides Himself, and from whom, and to whom does He make Himself intimately known in scripture? The answers are at hand in 1 Samuel for a start.

    We learn that Hannah, Samuel’s wife is a woman of great faith, so she prays for a son AND promises that this son will then be wholly dedicated to serve the Lord. Hannah was a great woman of faith here, she poured out her soul to God.

    Lo and behold, the Lord hears her prayer and Samuel is born.(Samu-el, look it up).

    ‘“Please, my lord,” said Hannah, “as surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. 27I prayed for this boy, and since the LORD has granted me what I asked of Him, 28I now dedicate the boy to the LORD. For as long as he lives, he is dedicated to the LORD.”

    So they worshiped the LORD there.’

    If that doesn’t bring a tear to your eyes, you have a cold heart indeed.

    What do we learn in chapter 2 of 1 Samuel? First we read Hannah’s beautiful prayer to the Lord, and I would like you to go and compare that to David’s prayer in 2 Samuel 22, read it all, but focus of verse 22 onward..which starts with ‘FOR I have kept the ways of the Lord’. Meaning, verses 1-21 have happened BECAUSE of David’s behavior as described from verse 22 onward.

    Hannah’s prayer is along similar lines, and the themes are ALWAYS the same…..

    > My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,
    for I rejoice in Your salvation.
    2There is no one holy like the LORD.
    Indeed, there is no one besides You!

    >Do not boast so proudly, or let arrogance come from your mouth

    >He guards the steps of His faithful ones, but the wicked perish in darkness;for by his own strength shall no man prevail.

    You get that boys? You can do NOTHING by your own efforts, no man shall prevail on his own efforts, only with total faith in the Lord can you prevail in ANYTHING on the planet. FAITH, and what is faith? Trust and obedience, read David’s prayer again. Samuel immediately began ministering to the Lord then, still a boy, a very lucky boy though, serving His God.

    What comes next in 1 Samuel? The story of how totally corrupted the sons of Eli have become, and these are the priests, the Levites, God’s chosen tribe. Terrible things they are doing, could hardly be worse. Any wonder God hides Himself? He isn’t interested in talking with such evil unrighteous sinners, those who knew Him, but didn’t give a fuck, and followed their hearts into sin. Not a chance He speaks to them.

    So, is it clear to you now, why God was hidden from Israel at this time? Why He quickly spoke to His boy Samuel and used Him mightily, why God spoke continually with David and Solomon, and Elijah and Moses?

    Because they had faith and were righteous.

    Not because they were ‘Member of the one true sect’, although in some respects they were, insiders, with God, obedient, full of faith (Moses had to learn a few lessons, they all did, we ALL do). But some of you are not learning any lessons, at all.

    Fumbling around trying to work life out yourself, saving yourself with self-help books and podcasts from Jordan Peterson and books by Krapman, and cyborgicide, you’re literally lost sheep, as you don’t turn to our Father and trust Him and Him alone, preferring to trust yourselves.

    Until you do trust Him, your very salvation is at risk, He will spew out you who are lukewarm. Hey, here’s a closing piece of scripture from that chapter of Revelation…..

    >You say, ‘I am rich; I have grown wealthy and need nothing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. 18I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, white garments so that you may be clothed and your shameful nakedness not exposed, and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19Those I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore be earnest and repent.

    Laodicea is America, the land of the complacently lukewarm, those are the prophetic words of Jesus himself, as given to John via an angel. Does being counseled to literally buy fine gold in recent years ring any bells?

    Any of you want to buy some figurative fine gold now from a man refined by fire? I do fucking hope so.

    Repent, be earnest, stop pissing your little remaining faith away, today.

    I pray to God, our Almighty Father in heaven that everyone reading this has the scales removed from his eyes and sees your truth, your righteousness, your requirements, your ways, and receives your strength and wisdom and a guaranteed victory over sin and deception. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      I’m not mocking true prophets like Samuel, I’m mocking people like you who cheapen the term to include the experience of God’s presence during their morning prayers. Prophecy is clearly a distinct and extremely rare phenomenon, but you’d rather signal your holiness by associating yourself with any loser who calls himself a prophet than do the right thing and stone them to death.

      • fgth says:

        >I’m mocking people like you who cheapen the term to include the experience of God’s presence during their morning prayers.

        Is a straw-man false accusation really the best you can do? Sad excuse for a man you are. Address the scripture.

        >Prophecy is clearly a distinct and extremely rare phenomenon


        >but you’d rather signal your holiness by associating yourself with any loser who calls himself a prophet than do the right thing and stone them to death.

        And you finish with a second straw-man, congratulations, I bet it felt good in your head, the hatred is strong with you young Skywalker.

        But, no surprise, you totally ignore what scripture shows you, show all believers, about who God listens to and speaks with, people like Hannah, Samuel and David, righteous and faithful servants.

        Cognitive dissonance in all its glory, Aeoli-style, cursed with a 2Th2 delusion by God Himself, can’t see the wood for the trees. I have prayed for you, and all like you, that God removes the delusion for long enough to allow you to find your way back to the very narrow path, before it’s too late. I do have a great track record with prayers.

  8. Heaviside says:

    Most fish probably aren’t very aware of water.

  9. Heaviside says:

    I think people should strongly consider the possibility that God did talk to them when they were children and they just don’t remember.

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