In my last two posts we have been looking at the so-called Problem of Silence. In the first post, I suggested that this Problem presented a genuine “problem” for Christians — not necessarily a reason to reject their faith, but at least something that should reasonably cause doubt, trouble, and struggle. In the second post, I attempted to motivate, in turn, the premises of a formalized version of the argument:
If there exists a loving, fatherly God, then he would pursue communion with his human creatures.
If a loving, fatherly God were to pursue communion with his human creatures, then he would make himself present or at least available to his human creatures (or at least those who do not oppose finding him and/or who earnestly seek him).
But God is not thus present or available to (all or most of) his human creatures; plenty of us who don’t oppose finding God and/or who earnestly seek him do not, in fact, find him.
Thus, there does not exist a loving, fatherly God.
In this third post I want to consider some of the most common objections to this argument. First, an objection which goes after premise (3). Often drawing inspiration from (a particular interpretation of) the apostle Paul in the first chapter of Romans, there are some who claim, contra premise (3), that God really is present or available to all or most of his human creatures:
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
On a common interpretation of this passage, it is said that God is clearly visible in at least a derivative sort of way: we can see the artwork of the artist when we look at certain aspects of his creation. These brushstrokes are breadcrumbs, carrying all of us – if only we will not refrain from following – to an awareness that God is indeed there. Other objections to premise (3) have pointed to other mediums of the presence/availability of God. By way of example, two commonly touted mediums: (a) God can be clearly seen to those who enter into, in an honest, humble, and prayerful way, the Biblical text; (b) God can be clearly seen to those who enter into, in an honest, humble, and prayerful way, a participation in the Sacraments. Whatever the medium, the objection to premise (3) runs much the same way: God really is available to all or most of us; what keeps some from finding or experiencing him, then, can only be some sort of resistance or abnormality.
This objection will not set at ease (on its own) the reflective Christian (or Jew or Muslim). For the Christian will notice that the experience of the silence or hiddenness or inaccessibility of God is not unique to the resistant or abnormal. Many of those who profess to not being able to find God are the faithful and devout themselves — those whose eyes are always open to the breadcrumbs of creation, and who regularly dive into the Bible and the Sacraments with an honest, humble, and prayerful heart. By way of a concrete example, consider these heart-wrenching words of Mother Teresa (one who was faithful and devoted if anyone was):
“Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The child of your love—and now become as the most hated one—the one You have thrown away as unwanted, unloved. I call, I cling, I want—and there is no One to answer—no One on Whom I can cling—no, No One.—Alone. The darkness is so dark…The loneliness of the heart that wants love is unbearable.—Where is my faith?—even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness & darkness.—My God—how painful is this unknown pain. It pains without ceasing… I am told God loves me—and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. … The whole time smiling—Sisters & people pass such remarks.—They think my faith, trust & love are filling my very being & that the intimacy with God and union to His will must be absorbing my heart.—Could they but know—and how my cheerfulness is the cloak by which I cover the emptiness & misery.—What are You doing My God to one so small?”
Many Christians can attest to this sort of divine silence. And I do not mean to suggest at all that this silence offers us a reason to reject or doubt the existence of God in itself: all – ALL – I am saying is that one cannot be so quick as to dismiss premise (3) of the above argument on the basis that God is present and available if only we will not resist him. There are plenty who do not resist who do not find.
I’ll mention and discuss a few other prominent objections later tonight or tomorrow; gotta run for now.