Hiddeness of God, Universalism, and Hell

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Homer
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Hiddeness of God, Universalism, and Hell

Post by Homer » Thu Mar 09, 2017 12:50 am

I was recently reading the complaint of a former evangelical who had become an atheist. He was a scientist and complained that there is no proof of God, no where near enough evidence. In fact, if there is a God he has deliberately hidden Himself. He quoted the saying "the invisible and non-existent look very much alike". He went on to charge the Christian God with being not just unfair but immoral. How could a good God punish people for not believing in Him when He could easily show Himself and remove all doubt? We have no proof of the existence of God.

It seems to me there is ample evidence, as Paul wrote in Romans, of a creator. It is all around us and to me it is implausible to believe life, in all its complexity, is just some happy accident, and the lives of all men are purposeless. Recently I was watching Peter Hitchens, Christopher's brother, a Christian and author of "The Rage Against God", who was being interviewed on "Socrates in the City". When asked why he was a Christian he replied that he chose to be and questioned why anyone would want to choose unbelief. His answer resonated with me as I have long believed people generally believe what the want to believe. They are not overwhelmed by facts.

About this time I was watching the Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace present his view regarding the hiddenness of God. Wallace made four main arguments; I will provide a brief summary of each. First, God wants our love of Him to be genuine, and he maintains that love requires a certain amount of freedom to be genuine. Real love is not forced. A genuine expression of our love for God is to do what is right when God is not obvious.

Wallace used an illustration of the beautiful young woman who marries a wealthy and powerful elderly man. If she did not know of his wealth and power would she even have given him a second glance? But she does know and he can never know if she truly loves him. But she is overwhelmed by what he is.

Wallace's second point was that if God was not hidden our freedom to have faith in Him would be destroyed. Faith trusts in the object of faith even when the one believed in is absent. Hiddenness requires trust, just as we trust our spouse even though we are not with them.

His third point is that there must be a certain amount of evidence, enough to have faith if you want to believe but not so much that a person is overwhelmed resulting in forced love/faith.

And his forth point was that we have the freedom to love genuinely, to love in trust and faith and to believe without overwhelming proof. We can choose to believe God responds to our prayers for healing, for example, even though we can not be certain the healing was not due to modern medicine. And we can refuse to believe God healed us. But we have enough evidence to believe God and His promises if we choose to do so.

While listening to Wallace I noticed that his arguments were all falsified by Evangelical Universalism as I understand it. At Judgement the Lord will be revealed in all His Glory. There will be no room for doubt, all will be overwhelmed. All will be confess Jesus as Lord, though for many the confession will be forced. How can there be a real love and faith? And the time spent in Hell does not answer the complaint of unfairness, just removes some of the force of the argument.

The argument of Wallace is not falsified for the various views of hell espoused by evangelicals such as eternal punishment, whether in hell or outer darkness, or the annihilationist. As Paul wrote we are without excuse for unbelief. Among all views of the fate of the lost only the view of the "no hellers" would seem to require no response to the charge of unfairness.
Last edited by Homer on Sun Mar 12, 2017 4:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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steve
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Re: Hiddeness of God, Universaism, and Hell

Post by steve » Thu Mar 09, 2017 1:02 pm

Wallace's points are not canonical, nor self-evidently true. A young woman may be overwhelmed by the wealth of a great man, but she cannot love him at all if she has no knowledge of him at all. She may marry a man whom she does not yet love, sight-unseen (as many mail-order brides have done), but this would hardly be an instance of loving someone because of intimate knowledge or personal appreciation of him.

I felt that Wallace's arguments were largely one argument, which could have been stated, "If God would overwhelm us with His presence, we could neither love nor trust Him genuinely." However, Christ certainly overwhelmed Saul on the road to Damascus—but it would be hard to identify a man who loved and trusted Christ more than Paul did.

You argue that universalism stumbles on the same point, and that, after God has been seen in all His glory, none could, like us, "having not seen, yet believe" (John 20:29), or "having not seen...love" (1 Pet.1:8). Yet, apparently, with the exception of John (John 20:8), none of the apostles believed without seeing the resurrected Christ. Paul spoke of his having "seen [the resurrected] Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor.9:1) as one of his apostolic qualifications, not as something that disqualified him for proper faith.

steve7150
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Re: Hiddeness of God, Universaism, and Hell

Post by steve7150 » Thu Mar 09, 2017 10:00 pm

While listening to Wallace I noticed that his arguments were all falsified by Evangelical Universalism as I understand it. At Judgement the Lord will be revealed in all His Glory. There will be no room for doubt, all will be overwhelmed. All will be confess Jesus as Lord, though for many the confession will be forced. How can there be a real love and faith? And the time spent in Hell does not answer the complaint of unfairness, just removes some of the force of the argument.






I think Wallace's arguments are plausible but IMHO the main reason God stays hidden is so we can learn good and evil through experience and if God were to reveal himself on a grand scale then evil would dissipate. As you know in Genesis it explicitly says "the man has become like one of us knowing good and evil" Gen 3.22
So if this is the main reason God stays hidden then for the sake of justice it would seem to me that the evaluation for salvation would make more sense postmortem. IMO the bible does not preclude this possibility nor does it explicitly endorse it and i think with good reason.

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Re: Hiddeness of God, Universaism, and Hell

Post by Singalphile » Sat Mar 11, 2017 1:02 am

I would argue that universalism is unlikely to be the correct opinion. However, I'm not following the line of thinking.

1) As far as the Bible indicates (repeatedly, I think), people will be judged according to their deeds, not their opinions. And to opine that there is a creator does not by itself merit anyone anything.

2) Regarding the summation of J. Warner Wallace's arguments, I have two problems with them.
A) The implicit argument is that God wouldn't be able to know if a person's humility, love, trust, and obedience is genuine or not.
B) It treats faith and belief as matters of intellectual aptitude, as if God is especially interested in people who can analyze physical evidence and logical arguments well.

I couldn't say why God doesn't write His name in the sky or whatever. He once did, and He has done so occasionally throughout history for some people. (It didn't ever seem to stop anyone from disobeying Him, though.) If God remains "hidden" for a short time (the length of a lifetime for each of us), perhaps it further indicates that He's not actually that interested in our opinions. I think the Bible is clear about what God is interested in and desires.

I wonder if people think there will be something like a theology exam at the judgment.
... that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. John 5:23

steve7150
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Re: Hiddeness of God, Universaism, and Hell

Post by steve7150 » Sat Mar 11, 2017 7:50 am

If God remains "hidden" for a short time (the length of a lifetime for each of us), perhaps it further indicates that He's not actually that interested in our opinions. I think the Bible is clear about what God is interested in and desires.









But the bible says he wants us to believe certain things especially about Jesus and that we believe by faith, but faith is an opinion. We do get judged by our works but faith is an opinion about what God has revealed to us. Even love can emanate from an opinion which drives us to believe what God has done and may lead to gratitude and thankfulness and then love.

Singalphile
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Re: Hiddeness of God, Universaism, and Hell

Post by Singalphile » Sat Mar 11, 2017 10:51 am

steve7150 wrote: If God remains "hidden" for a short time (the length of a lifetime for each of us), perhaps it further indicates that He's not actually that interested in our opinions. I think the Bible is clear about what God is interested in and desires.

But the bible says he wants us to believe certain things especially about Jesus and that we believe by faith, but faith is an opinion. We do get judged by our works but faith is an opinion about what God has revealed to us. Even love can emanate from an opinion which drives us to believe what God has done and may lead to gratitude and thankfulness and then love.
I think the NT uses of the word show that it is more like "confidence or trust in a person or thing", as dictionary.com puts it, rather than simply "an opinion".

Yes, perhaps love can emanate from an opinion. I have never said or thought that God cares nothing about any of our opinions. It's just that I think that biblical history and teaching indicates that our intellectual/theological opinions are of relatively little importance to God, which would make sense since some humans have no opinions, and some had and have wrong opinions because of ignorance or lack of intelligence.

My point is that even if God physically appeared and spoke to all the atheists - like Homer's former evangelical - I do not think it would necessarily make it more likely that any of them would put their faith in Him and do His will. God knows our hearts and minds (Jer 17:10). That man's statements (and perhaps brother J. Warner Wallace's as well) seem to me to be based on a non-biblical emphasis on our theological opinions, which was extended to an argument against universalism.

Thank you!
... that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. John 5:23

steve7150
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Re: Hiddeness of God, Universaism, and Hell

Post by steve7150 » Sat Mar 11, 2017 1:40 pm

My point is that even if God physically appeared and spoke to all the atheists - like Homer's former evangelical - I do not think it would necessarily make it more likely that any of them would put their faith in Him and do His will.









Any of them? Some don't believe because they don't want to but some don't believe because of a lack of evidence in their opinion. I don't know how many would change but changing from atheism to believing is a Paradigm shift. Paul although not an atheist did have a paradigm change in 30 seconds when he saw Christ & so did Thomas!

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Homer
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Re: Hiddeness of God, Universaism, and Hell

Post by Homer » Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:32 pm

Back to my OP, the second paragraph would be my response to the charge of unfairness or immorality against God remaining hidden:
It seems to me there is ample evidence, as Paul wrote in Romans, of a creator. It is all around us and to me it is implausible to believe life, in all its complexity, is just some happy accident, and the lives of all men are purposeless. Recently I was watching Peter Hitchens, Christopher's brother, a Christian and author of "The Rage Against God", who was being interviewed on "Socrates in the City". When asked why he was a Christian he replied that he chose to be and questioned why anyone would want to choose unbelief. His answer resonated with me as I have long believed people generally believe what the want to believe. They are not overwhelmed by facts.
And I agree that Wallace's illustration regarding the young woman and rich old man misses the mark because God knows the heart:
Wallace used an illustration of the beautiful young woman who marries a wealthy and powerful elderly man. If she did not know of his wealth and power would she even have given him a second glance? But she does know and he can never know if she truly loves him. But she is overwhelmed by what he is.
Regarding Wallace's second point he does have one (a point). And that is where he links trust to faith:
...... if God was not hidden our freedom to have faith in Him would be destroyed. Faith trusts in the object of faith even when the one believed in is absent. Hiddenness requires trust, just as we trust our spouse even though we are not with them.
Steve wrote:
"If God would overwhelm us with His presence, we could neither love nor trust Him genuinely." However, Christ certainly overwhelmed Saul on the road to Damascus—but it would be hard to identify a man who loved and trusted Christ more than Paul did.
And all the other Apostles saw the risen Christ after the resurrection and saw His ascension. But here I think we must consider what saving faith is, after all, even demons believe correctly about who Jesus is. And Paul was certainly not an atheist prior to His Damascus road experience.

The Greeks say our modern English translations, and the idea we commonly have of the meaning of the Greek pistis fall far short of the full meaning. They, and other experts, inform us that there is no single word that can fully capture the meaning of pistis or the verb form pisteuo. The word and its verbal form are said to include variously the meaning of trust, reliance, fidelity, loyalty, faithfulness, bind to, be attached to, and of course that which is believed. So Steve is correct in saying that trust is an important aspect of faith although I am not sure love (agape) fits within the meaning.

This faith that saves begins, of course, with belief. For us this means faith in testimony about God and His son. For us we "walk by faith, not by sight". And it should give us pause considering who wrote that:

2 Corinthians 5:7 (NASB)

7. for we walk by faith, not by sight—

So why would Paul say this after having seen the risen Lord? Paul still had to overcome various trials and temptations throughout his life. He had to finish the race, as he said, and not be disqualified from the prize. He had to trust, rely on the Lord, be loyal to Him, remain attached to Him. In short, to remain faithful. As must we.

How will the condemned in hell have this kind of faith? How would trust work while in hell? It does not seem that God has promised those in that state anything.

And I would be curious to hear how universalists respond to the challenge concerning the hiddenness of God.

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steve
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Re: Hiddeness of God, Universalism, and Hell

Post by steve » Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:46 am

I would be curious to hear how universalists respond to the challenge concerning the hiddenness of God.
I am not sure how the universalist response to the hiddenness of God would differ from that of any other Christian's response to it. Is there something about the hiddenness of God that poses a different kind or degree of challenge to universalists than it poses to the rest of us?

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Homer
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Re: Hiddeness of God, Universalism, and Hell

Post by Homer » Tue Mar 14, 2017 10:08 am

Hi Steve,

It would appear that the universalist could not use Wallace's argument or one similar to it. You have apparently read widely in their literature, do you know of any response they have made to the atheist/sceptic challenge? It would be interesting.

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