Modal Hiddenness Argument

The modal ontological argument is a popular argument for the existence of God. The key premise in that argument is the claim that it is possible that God exists.

Modal arguments start with a possibility claim and end with a conclusion that is necessarily true.

When thinking about modal arguments, the options are not just limited to ontological arguments. In fact, one can formulate, a modal argument for God’s non-existence based on, for example, the hiddenness of God. In other words, the possibility of the existence of nonresistant nonbelief renders God’s non-existence necessarily true.

So, is it possible that nonresistant nonbelief obtains? Well, it seems perfectly coherent that in some possible world there exists nonresistant nonbelief. We would, of course, says that it was possible that God could have created some creatures that not only don’t believe that God exists, but they also are nonresistant in their nonbelief. Or, there simply just is a possible world where there exists at least one finite creature who nonresistantly does not believe that God exists.

It’s important to notice that, in its strongest form, the hiddenness argument is not only stating there just needs to be one finite creature who is a nonresistant nonbeliever, but the argument is also claiming that there won’t be a single instance of nonresistant nonbelief. In other words, there won’t even be one second or one minute where there exists a nonresistant nonbeliever. I’m aware that this can come across as a bold claim, which is why the main premise of the hiddenness argument is not whether nonresistant nonbelief exists, but whether God would allow such nonbelief. More specifically, the question is whether God would always be open to a conscious, reciprocal, and meaningful relationship with every finite creature.

You might then wonder why I have then framed an argument that centers around an evidential premise (i.e. the existence of nonresistant nonbelief). Well, I think the possibility claim, with regards to the existence of nonresistant nonbelief, further highlights the absurdity of rejecting the claim that nonresistant nonbelief exists. To be sure, most of the people who reject the evidential premise of the hiddenness argument aren’t quite aware of how modest the premise is. Not to mention, the people who do object to the evidential premise are a very small minority.

In a more formal way, the modal hiddenness argument runs as follows:

1. It is possible that nonresistant nonbelief exists

2. Necessarily, if it is possible that God exists, then it is necessary that God exists

3. Necessarily, if God exists, then it is not the case that nonresistant nonbelief exists

4. Therefore, it is not possible that God exists

Premise 2 is a re-stating of the basic idea underlying the modal ontological argument for God’s existence.

Premise 3 is the main premise in the hiddenness argument in its simple two premise formulation.

The obvious lesson is the following: If a theist wants to object to the hiddenness argument, it won’t suffice to just dig one’s heels in and deny that nonresistant nonbelief exists. (1)


(1) Not to mention, some of the theists that do deny nonresistant nonbelief, like Michael Rea, argue that one can not escape the entire problem of divine hiddenness even if there isn’t any nonresistant nonbelief.


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