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Is God hidden?
To hear skeptics speak, you would think so. One of the most famous nonbelievers of the twentieth century was the British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell. Well known for his skeptical stance, he even wrote a book titled Why I Am Not a Christian. Reportedly, when he was at death’s door, he was asked about his readiness to die; what if it turned out there was a God after all?
In that case, Russell replied, he would ask the Almighty this question: “Why didn’t You give us more evidence?”
His reaction prompted this comment from author and science teacher Ken Poppe: [Russell] seems to be positioning himself in case he needs to shift the blame of his disbelief to God for not being more convincing. (Hmmm. Did he never see a bright full moon setting in the cool, blue western sky, while the sun rose circular and red through the eastern clouds? Did he never hold a newborn baby?)1
Who’s correct: Russell or Poppe?
Indeed, is God hidden? Some people think so, but the problem lies with them, not with Him. “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled” (Titus 1:15).
To the righteous, God is clearly there. To the unrighteous, God is absent—or worse, if He’s there at all, He is cruel. God is not really hidden; He just appears so to those who don’t know Him. Yet even believers sometimes feel that He hides His face and seems absent when we need Him most.
Blaise Pascal put it this way: “What can be seen on earth indicates neither the total absence of God nor his manifest presence, but rather the presence of a hidden God.”2
Likewise the classic hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” reminds us that the darkness may seem to hide God: Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee, Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see; Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee; Perfect in power, in love, and purity.3
The “eye of sinful man” is unable to perceive the Lord or His glory. In other words, to a blind man God may seem hidden, but to those whose eyes He has opened, He isn’t hidden at all. He has clearly revealed Himself in Jesus Christ.
In every language, every tribe, and every culture, we find a word for God. He has not left Himself without a witness, nor is there anywhere on earth where His fingerprints are absent.
Pascal reflected on God’s manner of revealing Himself to us through Christ: Since so many have become unworthy of his mercy, he wished to deprive them of the good that they did not desire. It was therefore not right that [Christ] should appear before them in a manner that was obviously divine and absolutely bound to convince all mankind. Neither was it right that his coming should be in such hiddenness that he could not be recognized even by those who sincerely looked for him. But he wished to make himself perfectly recognizable to such.4
This is reminiscent of a promise from Jesus: “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God” ( John 7:17, NIV).
God has more than His share of critics. If He could be sued, there are plenty of people who would bring Him before the bar.
Today there has arisen a virulent form of atheism. Militant atheists are on the march. One of them, Sam Harris, wrote a book entitled Letter to a Christian Nation, essentially appealing to us to become like the failed Soviet Union. (He doesn’t actually word it that way, but that’s the effect of his message.) His book and a handful of other virulent anti- Christian creeds have made it onto the New York Times bestseller list.
One of the great ironies of militant atheists is how their whole lives seem to be consumed in fighting what they claim doesn’t exist. I think if they truly did not believe God existed, they wouldn’t really care about the topic and would simply look down their noses at us poor slobs who do believe in Him.
However, these militant atheists are consumed with a passion to erase all traces of God. A lot of these atheist books blur the distinction between Christianity and Islam. They cite the horrible atrocities done in the name of religion (mostly by Islamic extremists) and argue that the problem is with religion in general.
Meanwhile, they ignore the horrible atrocities committed by atheists, who have the bloodiest track record in history, bar none. Some of these modern atheists are so emotionally charged on the issue that it makes me suspect they indeed do know, deep down, there’s a God.
Again, if they really didn’t believe in Him, they wouldn’t care so much. We can see the animus against God in lawsuit after lawsuit contesting any public acknowledgment of God (such as the Ten Commandments on a courtroom wall).
There is a God. He made us. He has certain standards of right and wrong that He has revealed. We are accountable to Him. If a blind man denies reality just because he can’t see it, does that mean it isn’t there?
Meanwhile, where is God? Even believers sometimes wonder that during times of pain.
The Hiddenness of God in the Life of the Believer
C. S. Lewis, the greatest Christian writer of the twentieth century, once made this observation: “The ‘hiddenness’ of God perhaps presses most painfully on those who are in another way nearest to Him, and therefore God Himself, made man, will of all men be by God most forsaken?”5
So it was that Jesus Himself, on the cross, cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34). If God’s Son made David’s words His own and cried out to His Father in the anguish and
loneliness of His soul, how much more should we do so in our times of anguish? It’s not wrong to feel forsaken. Throughout the Scriptures we see God’s saints crying out to Him when He seems totally absent.
Consider God’s children in Egypt and in the wilderness, or Hannah when she couldn’t conceive a child, or David when he hid from Saul in a cave, or Jonah in the belly of the fish. All cried out to God. When we come to God in our joy, praising and thanking Him, we find open arms. But in our times of greatest need, sometimes heaven seems shut tight.
We plead and cry, and even if God did answer, we probably couldn’t hear it. When all earthly help is gone and we knock on God’s door, there seems to be only silence. The God of love, who had been so real to us during times of plenty, seems out of reach now. So we hammer on His door.We kick and yell, until we eventually give up.
Then, when we’re finally quiet, we see dawn coming. God has put the answer into nature itself. Morning always follows night. Spring always comes, no matter how dark and cold and long the winter seems. There are such seasons in the spiritual lives of believers too.
Sometimes we’re used by God and the fruit is plentiful. Other times our tree is bare and seems dead. There are times of growth and times of flowering. If we let the Master Gardener dig around and fertilize, our tree will bear fruit again. So often God is behind the scenes, working out His good purpose for us.
God Revealed in Christ
First and foremost, God is found in Jesus Christ, as the Savior Himself proclaimed: “No one knows…the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27). The goal of this book is to expound on that truth and others related to it.
As British author George MacDonald once put it, “God hides nothing. His very work from the beginning is revelation—a casting aside of veil after veil, a showing unto men of truth after truth. On and on from fact divine he advances, until at length in his son Jesus he unveils his very face.”6
If with all our hearts we seek the Lord, we will find Him. Join me on a journey of discovery, wherein we’ll see that the so-called hidden God is not hidden after all.
In the first part of this book, we’ll take a look at how God has revealed Himself in His creation. Next, in part 2, we’ll look at how He has revealed Himself through His Son. Part 3 will explore ways we can experience the God who isn’t hidden after all. Finally, in part 4, we’ll look at shadows that obscure God and may seem to hide His face from us.
Let the journey begin.
From the Hardcover edition.