This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 44, number 4 (2021). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal please click here.
For us to have a robust free will, there must be an amount of divine hiddenness, or what John Hick called “epistemic distance.”1 Divine hiddenness is the teaching that for humans to act out of free will, God’s existence (or presence) can’t be too obvious. Not surprisingly, this is a doctrine that many Christians misunderstand and over which skeptics howl. Many Christians ask, and even sometimes complain, that God should make His presence more apparent. Skeptics complain that if God really loved us (in other words, if God were really a good God), He would make His existence unmistakable.
But the Lord absolutely doesn’t want to do that. Why? Because the Lord doesn’t want us to feign loyalty. As I wrote in my book, Why Does God Allow Evil?, God could have designed the universe so that when we looked up, even if we were indoors, we would always see a Giant Flaming Sword, and if anyone rebelled against God, that Giant Flaming Sword would immediately cut him in half!2 Omnipotence could easily do such a thing. But how many people would be Christian in such a world? All of them! Everyone would, at the very least, feign loyalty. But how many true worshippers would you get in such a world? You don’t get true worshippers in that world. Worship, like love, must be uncoerced.
As C. S. Lewis put it, “there must perhaps always be just enough lack of demonstrative certainty to make free choice possible: for what could we do but accept if the faith were like the multiplication table?”3 In other words, if Christianity were unmistakably true, then people would lack the free will to rebel against it and they would instead feign loyalty. Thus, God gives us enough evidence of His existence that those who want to worship Him will have their beliefs justified, but not so much evidence that those who don’t want to worship Him will be compelled to feign loyalty.
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