Paul Draper and the argument from divine hiddenness

Atheist Philosopher Paul Draper seems to not have bought into J.L. Schellenberg’s hiddenness argument. Schellenberg’s argument is that if God exists, then nonresistant nonbelief will not exist. Why? Because if God exists, God would always be open to a relationship with God’s creatures, and the belief that “God exists” is necessary in order to have such a relationship with God. Draper has expressed skepticism about this argument for a number of reasons.

For one, Draper is skeptical about this argument because it assumes that humans are even able to have a meaningful relationship with God. Draper wonders whether humans can have a relationship with God because of the vast difference between the mind of God and humans. He wonders whether the relationship between humans and God is like the relationship between a worm and humans. Worms can’t have a meaningful relationship with humans. Likewise, can humans have a meaningful relationship with God?

But, I think such a criticism of Schellenberg’s argument is off the mark. Why? Because Schellenberg doesn’t say that God would even create human beings. In fact, his argument doesn’t even say that God would create anything at all.  So, it’s simply not the case that Schellenberg’s argument is concerned with humans specifically. In fact, if the only beings God could have a relationship are beings that are almost exactly like God, then if God were to create any personal beings, we would expect God to create these divine beings because of God’s bias for a personal relationship.

Even if Draper doesn’t think humans can have a personal relationship with God, that kind of misses the point of Schellenberg’s argument. Schellenberg’s argument, like the argument from evil, is aimed at the theist. The argument is trying to lead the theist to the conclusion that God doesn’t exist, based off of assumptions that the theist already commits himself to. Thus, the person running the argument doesn’t even have to buy the assumptions that the theist holds to. The point is that if the theist is consistent, according to Schellenberg’s argument, they should conclude that God doesn’t exist. This is a reductio ad absurdum of the theist’s worldview, kind of like the argument from evil (as I mentioned).

Draper has also critiqued the hiddenness argument because of its role as an explanation. Draper wonders how hiddenness can serve as a role in terms of an explanation. And how, according to Draper, can the existence of nonresistance nonbelief count as an independent datum of experience above and beyond looking at all the other datum? In other words, we can’t appeal to the ambiguity of God’s existence as evidence against God’s existence until we have looked at all the evidence for and against God’s existence.

First off, Schellenberg’s argument is a deductive argument, so Draper’s critique, if sound, would only apply to abductive arguments. Not to mention there have been abductive arguments made against the existence of God based off the existence of nonresistant nonbelief (e.g. there is an abductive argument based on the existence of natural nonbelief in early humans). Is Draper going to say that, conceptually, these arguments are missing the mark? It seems that if Draper is going to say that these abductive arguments are unsound, he is going to have to first deal with these arguments. Secondly, Draper is confusing objective ambiguity with subjective ambiguity. Schellenberg is concerned with subjective ambiguity. Schellenberg could grant that there is tons of evidence for God’s existence. But Schellenberg’s point is that there are some people who don’t find the evidence compelling. And, some people don’t have access to the various arguments for God’s existence.


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