Why Is God So Hidden?

As a young atheist, I denied the existence of God for practical, experiential reasons. During my elementary school years, I found it difficult to understand why anyone would believe in God without visible evidence. I knew my parents, teachers and friends were real, because I could see them and I could see their impact on the world around me. God, however, seemed completely hidden. I often thought, “If God exists, why would He hide in this way? Why wouldn’t God just come right out and make it obvious to everyone He exists?” As I examined these questions many years later, I began to consider other factors and considerations, particularly related to the nature of “love”.

I held love and compassion in high regard, even as an unbeliever. These were values I embraced as essential to our survival as a species, and values I considered to be foundational to human “flourishing” (as many atheists commonly describe it). But love requires a certain kind of world, and if loving God does exist, it is reasonable that He would create a universe in which love is possible; a universe capable of supporting humans with the ability to love God and love one another. This kind of universe requires a number of pre-requisites, however, and these pre-requisites are best achieved when God is “hidden” in the way He often seems to be:

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Golden Anniversaries, Tarnished Divorces, and the Stuff In Between: Is God in All of It?

Some families function like a slick ad campaign for successful Christian marriages: their histories boast the blessings of longevity and faithfulness. Other families are so speckled with dirt and dysfunction that God is nowhere to be found. But if you’re like me, you might find yourself surrounded by both.

I wish my family could have stuck with one story; it would make my theology so much simpler. If my Christian ancestors were twenty couples deep in 50+ years of happiness, then I could claim God’s promises to be true: that godly people are always blessed with strong, impenetrable marriages. Likewise, if my family boasted nothing but broken, banged-up fairytales, then I could claim without much opposition that the Bible’s mandates were nothing but an idealistic dream. 

But here I am this summer with multiple narratives in my head, none of them showing the kind of cause-and-effect I had expected as a child. 

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One Door Opens & Another One Closes – Maybe

One Door Opens & Another One Closes – Maybe

 

I have often heard that God directs our paths by opening and closing doors.  I am not so sure.

 

Late last night I was at the post office with my little man Brendan and this photo happened before my eyes.  There was nobody else there and I was rummaging through my mail.  When I turned to look at him he was standing in front of the large wall of box doors – opening and closing them just to see what was inside.  He liked the bigger ones the best, but the problem was that he couldn’t remember which he had opened and closed – so he just kept running around in madness and glee.

 

After a few minutes he turned, looked at me, and said, “Look at all these doors!  Why are there so many doors?  What do you think is inside?  Woo – this is a lot of work.”  He then returned to his “work” of exploration.

 
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The Adjustment Bureau

In “The Adjustment Bureau,” Matt Damon and Emily Blunt star in a romantic metaphysical thriller that aims to provoke thought about free will. Damon stars as Senator David Norris, whose up and coming political career continues to be at the mercy of his bad habits.  Along the way, he meets Elise, a free spirit of a woman whom he has an instant attraction with.  However, due to a fluke, Norris stumbles upon a group of men who appear to be in the habit of mind control.

The film is based off of a story by Philip K. Dick and it sets up some great questions with obvious metaphor for free will. That is the strength of this otherwise mediocre affair.  It’s not that “The Adjustment Bureau” is a bad movie so much as it feels mundane.  With the topic, actors involved, and set piece of New York City, it feels like we have a movie that could do so much more. Thrilling chases end up feeling pedestrian, revelations come quick and fast, and tension rarely exists.

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Good Free Will Hunting

Talk to anyone who is well-read on the concept of “free will” and you may find yourself discussing any number of heady things, from the five points of Calvinism to the four Spiritual Laws.  In Christian thought, free will is typically associated with our ability to choose to follow or reject God and His grace.  In this sense, it is associated with sin or where you go when you die.  It is a heaven or hell thing. 

But I think that one of the more under-explored aspects of free will is something that defines us as artists: Creativity.

What is creativity anyway?  The word is synonymous with imagination, innovation, originality, individuality, artistry, inspiration. Creativity is a new way to tell a story, a different way to catch a mouse, the silhouette of a new car.  Creativity is a song that makes you tap your foot, or a joke that makes you laugh, or a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat.  Creativity is the photography of Ansel Adams, or the Wright brothers’ first powered airplane, or a new flavor of ice cream.  Creativity is all of these things.

Human creativity is one aspect of what theologians call “the cultural mandate,” which is essentially our job description here on earth: "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it."  This cultural mandate includes the blessing to prosper and procreate, to be responsible for the care and stewarding of the earth, to develop societies and invent and explore, and also to create and express ourselves in the created universe.  In this sense, creativity is a vibrant and essential part of our free will.

Creativity happens, in part, because all of us were created to be unique beings.  We all see the world in our own special and distinct ways, and are able to express this view uniquely.  Each of us sees the sunset differently.  Each of us feels sadness differently.  The smell of bacon and eggs in the morning is a distinctly different experience for each of us, because we each bring our senses, preferences, physicalities, and memories to the breakfast table.  

Theologian Jeremy Begbie says in his book, Voicing Creations Praise, “I have argued that the Christian faith presents us with a vision of created existence possessing its own latent orderliness and meaning, and that a crucial part of human creativity is to be attentive to that inherent order, to discover it and bring it to light.”  What I think he is implying is that the act of human creativity is in part the act of revelation, a revelation of God’s creation interpreted through humanity.  

And this is my point: Creativity is one inherent aspect of being made in the image of God.  Creativity is an act of the human soul, where our free will and our personality and our intellect converge. It is a gift from God, imbedded into all of humanity.  And more than that, it is mandated as a part of our purpose here on earth.

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