Applying the free will defense to the problem of divine hiddenness

It is generally agreed upon by Philosophers that the logical problem of evil isn’t a sound argument. One of the reasons is because of what has been called, “The free will defense”. That is, it’s possible that the reason God allows evil is for His creatures to have freedom. Possible, creatures will choose to do bad things as a result, and God can’t intervene to make the creatures choose to do good; otherwise, it wouldn’t be free. Another way of putting it, God can’t guarantee that creatures will always do good. It’s no more possible for God to guarantee this than it’s possible that God can square a circle or create a rock so heavy He can’t life.

Now in relation to the problem of divine hiddenness, the free will defense (I propose) will look a little different. I don’t suppose that we can somehow choose what propositions we believe. I don’t think we choose what we believe, far from it. So relative to the problem of divine hiddenness, I don’t think we can just choose to believe that God exists if by “believe” we are speaking in epistemic terms. However, I do think that we can choose to believe in God and that’s where my defense is going to rest. What’s the difference? Well I think believing “in” has to do with entering into a relationship with. That is, we can choose to enter into a relationship with God, which I think is not too controversial. Now certainly, we can’t just choose to believe that God exists (epistemically) because maybe the person needs evidence or needs a revelation from God to know God exists. But, we can choose to enter into a relationship just like I can choose to enter into a personal relationship with my mom, dad, sister, brother, Jones, etc. In fact, it would seem rather bizarre if we didn’t have a choice to enter into a relationship with people.

In terms of the problem of divine hiddenness, freedom can come up in a number of ways. An atheist can present the argument from divine hiddenness and the theist can respond by saying, “Ah you say that some people don’t believe in God because God is hidden. Well, it’s possible that God has a morally sufficient reason for hiding. Therefore, it’s not necessary that God has to reveal Himself.” The atheist can counter by saying there is no good reason or further good that God has in mind because the greatest good for humans is to be in a personal relationship with God. Now, it’s certainly possible that the greatest good for humans is a personal relationship with God. However, it’s also possible that the greatest good for human beings is to enter freely into a relationship with God. 

God can’t guarantee the humans will enter freely into a relationship with Him because if He did guarantee it, then their decision wouldn’t be free. A relationship is good but a relationship in conjunction with the free decision of the creature seems better. It’s at least possibly better and if it’s possibly better then it doesn’t follow necessarily that God is culpable for non believers in the world.

Now the immediate objection is that believing that God exists is necessary to enter into a relationship with God.

However, I contend that if God knows in His omniscience who will reject Him and who won’t, no matter what propositional knowledge He gives to them about Himself (including that He exists), then I don’t see why it would matter for God to give knowledge of Himself to people He knows will reject Him no matter what He does. If God gives His knowledge, they reject Him. If He doesn’t, they still reject Him. Same result! Therefore, it seems that God is not obligated to reveal Himself to persons knowing full well that nothing will change the person’s heart.

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