God in Hiding

Supreme Creepiness

A tribal Near Eastern deity meticulously observes our every thought, word, and deed, or so the biblical texts teach their impressionable reader. The New Testament introduces this deity to converts as an all-loving parent-figure, yet—how weird and creepy can this get—an inaccessible parent who watches his “children” as if through well-stationed peepholes and hidden surveillance cams, never approaching them, speaking to them audibly, hugging them, cooking them a meal, or providing for them in any palpable, direct (read “evident”) way. According to Christian theology, the deity is “present” actively “loving” his creation; yet the cosmos machinates on in cold silence, not admitting the slightest evidence of this alleged fatherly care. Biblical religion instead requires of converts a sheer fideism, a make-believe mental assertion of divine presence and supreme love in the face of the contrary, what Luther called the deus absconditus, the god who hides.

Farcical Rationalizations

Theologians, such as Notre Dame’s Catholic apologist-philosopher Michael Rae in his The Hiddenness of God (Oxford University Press, 2018), have spent extraordinary effort rationalizing such obscene parental dereliction, answering the charge with but another unverifiable claim, namely, that the deity is non-evident due to his “transcendence” …whatever that is supposed to mean. Nevermind that biblical texts depict the Christian deity as capable of overcoming said transcendence—He (yes, gender-masculine) walks around in Eden (Gen 3), talks audibly to people (many places), and fully manifests to humankind (Rev 21). Such fallacious argumentation (petitio principii), however, suffers from prior faith commitments, begging the question by way of rationalization. 

Myth as Recontextualization

In truth, such mental contortionism witnessed in Christian arguments for theodicy and divine transcendent “love,” the more extensive and forceful in sophistry, steadily marshals disproof against the Christian worldview. A study of religious mythology reveals a primary function: religious myth acts as a framework for the present, recontextualizing the believer and thus redirecting their judgment and behavior. The inaccessibility of supporting evidence for the frame becomes vital to the efficacy of this delusive strategy. The Christian lives within a box, an ever-tuned set of contextual claims. Humankind was created in the inaccessible past, by an inaccessible deity who went into long hiding shortly thereafter, lives now between an inaccessible heaven above and Hades below, living on earth, a place haunted with unseen demons and incognito angelic visitations, awaiting an inaccessible day of judgment, an apocalypse wherein all will be revealed. The deity speaks to the Christian acolyte, but only by a “still small” (figmentary) voice conjured in their minds or through hyper-subjective (bibliomantic) readings of cryptic, incoherent ancient religious texts in awkward translation.

An Eye toward Civilization

From a humanistic (and scientific) standpoint, we do well to replace the myth of the hidden ever-watchful deity with the possible likelihood that one or more highly advanced intelligent extra-terrestrial lifeforms may be all-too-aware of our inhabitation of the “pale blue dot” we call home in the cosmos. As Sagan articulated, we may safely suppose that such beings would be far more advanced in civility than are we. While I personally surmise such a possibility with cautious optimism, I nevertheless find the lens to be instructive concerning our need further to advance in civilization as a species. From where I sit, as a student of natural history and human civilization, Enrico Fermi’s famous paradox (Where are all of the aliens?!?) may likely boil down to the obvious: They are not landing and shaking our hand as yet because they do not deem us sufficiently civilized. Between our irrational grip on primitive totems, obelisks, texts, relics, and folk beliefs, our valorization of war-practice, even producing highly popular films that fantasize about taking such practices into interstellar space, etc etc, we remain de facto disqualified from such a mature relationship. Such hypothesization, I submit, provides a much preferable heuristic in perspective, one better capable of instructing our vision and pro-social evolution as a species.

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Dr. Miller, author of Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity (Routledge, 2015), is a humanistic critic of contemporary religion and a trans-disciplinary research scholar exploring the cultural and literary nexus between classical antiquity and the social origins of earliest Christianity. His published work focuses on the mythological roots of the New Testament Gospel portraitures of Jesus, the sacralized founding emblem of the Christian religion.