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The hiddenness of God


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#1 Monk Herman

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 12:03 AM

+ Glory to Jesus Christ.

An objection to the reality (or existence) of God is sometimes based on the hiddenness of God. This is an objection that might never have occurred to me; it was brought to my attention by an Orthodox woman whose husband, formerly Orthodox, now claims to be atheist.

Obviously, we regard the life and person of Christ as a revelation of God; but, just as obviously, this will not be simply accepted by a non-Christian.

Has anyone had an opportunity to reflect on this point? What issues are involved, and what responses are available?

I'm thinking of writing a leaflet perhaps entitled Hidden in Plain Sight. I thought it might begin with a verse such as The heavens declare the glory of God.

Comments?

Herman monk
Germanos monakhos




#2 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 01:01 AM

I don't know if this addresses the point but if there are people who can't or won't believe in God because He is not 'obvious', one answer is, as I was taught, that God does not force people to accept Him by making Himself obvious. God is love, and love is not love if it is forced. If a person had a personal revelation from God of His existence, that person would either believe he had gone mad or would be compelled to know that God exists. God wants us to find Him in faith and love.

#3 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 01:31 AM

For a blind person, the color red is "hidden". That does not mean it does not exist. a C major chord is "hidden" from a deaf person, but that does not mean it does not exist. If I close my eyes, does what I was looking at no longer exist? No, it merely means I don't see it any more.

The Church is trying to explain God to the spiritually blind. It can be challenging.

#4 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 09:30 PM

+ Glory to Jesus Christ.

An objection to the reality (or existence) of God is sometimes based on the hiddenness of God. This is an objection that might never have occurred to me; it was brought to my attention by an Orthodox woman whose husband, formerly Orthodox, now claims to be atheist.

Obviously, we regard the life and person of Christ as a revelation of God; but, just as obviously, this will not be simply accepted by a non-Christian.

Has anyone had an opportunity to reflect on this point? What issues are involved, and what responses are available?

I'm thinking of writing a leaflet perhaps entitled Hidden in Plain Sight. I thought it might begin with a verse such as The heavens declare the glory of God.[/I]


This is a wonderful and rich topic and one that needs to be addressed by Orthodox theologians. Where is God? How is it possible for us to believe in the God of the gospel after all the horrors humanity has witnessed and endured over the past century? Why does God hide himself? How can we believe when the absence of God is so overwhelming? These are the kinds of existential questions that must be addressed by anyone wishing to explore the hiddenness of God and modern atheism. In an earlier age the existence of God may have been obvious and unquestioned; but this is no longer the case. All of us who live in the modern West are now shaped and formed by the existential presumption of God's non-existence.

If I were going to attempt to write something on this topic (but the topic is beyond me), I would begin with the Holocaust and the writings of Elie Weisel. How does this Jewish response to the Nazi genocide differ from the Russian Orthodox response to the communist persecution of the 20th century? Have any Orthodox written on this? Did Fr Arseny speak on this?

I would also immerse myself in the writings of Fyodor Dostoevsky, particularly The Brothers Karamazov.

Finally, I would take a look at Martin Luther's theology of the cross and the hiddenness of God. "The man who looks upon the invisible things of God as they are perceived in created things does not deserve to be called a theologian," writes Luther. "The man who perceives the visible rearward parts of God as seen in suffering and the cross does, however, deserve to be called a theologian." Note how Luther brings together Moses' vision of the backside of God and God's suffering on the cross. Even in God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ, especially in God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ, God is hidden.

How does the crucifixion of Christ interpret this story from Elie Weisel's Night?

One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly place, three black crows. Roll call. SS all around us, machine guns trained: the traditional ceremony. Three victims in chains— and one of them, the little servant, the sad-eyed angel.
The SS seemed more preoccupied, more disturbed than usual. To hang a young boy in front of thousands of spectators was no light matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his lips. The gallows threw its shadow over him.
This time the Lagerkapo refused to act as executioner. Three SS replaced him.
The three victims mounted together onto the chairs.
The three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses.
“Long live liberty!” cried the two adults.
But the child was silent.
“Where is God? Where is He?” someone behind me asked.
At a sign from the head of the camp, the three chairs tipped over.
Total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon, the sun was setting.
“Bare your heads!” yelled the head of the camp. His voice was raucous. We were weeping.
“Cover your heads!”
Then the march past began. The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue-tinged. But the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive…
For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was red, his eyes were not yet glazed.
Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
“Where is God now?”
And I heard a voice within me answer him:
“Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows…”


But one does not have to have endured the horrors of Auschwitz to know the painful, heart-breaking reality of the hiddenness of God.

#5 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 11:22 PM

Fr Aidan Kimel wrote:

This is a wonderful and rich topic and one that needs to be addressed by Orthodox theologians. Where is God? How is it possible for us to believe in the God of the gospel after all the horrors humanity has witnessed and endured over the past century? Why does God hide himself? How can we believe when the absence of God is so overwhelming? These are the kinds of existential questions that must be addressed by anyone wishing to explore the hiddenness of God and modern atheism. In an earlier age the existence of God may have been obvious and unquestioned; but this is no longer the case. All of us who live in the modern West are now shaped and formed by the existential presumption of God's non-existence.



I would say Father that what is lost (or being lost) is the manner in which man must approach God. No one in Orthodoxy, among the Fathers at least, ever claimed that the experience of God is immediate. On the most elementary level this is obvious for God IS unknowable as our deepest theologians explain. But this is not an unknowability due to an aloofness from us. Rather it is an unknowablitiy that can only be approached- or God be known as the Fathers put it- through the degree to which we die to ourselves.

This ascetic measure then is so built into Orthdoxy that no pastoral guidance is genuine without it. If someone, as Scripture says, points to a specific place or method and says "God is here" as if he is something to be grasped, then it is false. For as we see in the saints, only to the degree that one struggles with oneself in the guided way of the Church, is God known of, or known. I think that we see this same reality everyday in ourselves also- so that God apears to fade and approach in accordance with our own inner disposition.

If I were going to attempt to write something on this topic (but the topic is beyond me), I would begin with the Holocaust and the writings of Elie Weisel. How does this Jewish response to the Nazi genocide differ from the Russian Orthodox response to the communist persecution of the 20th century? Have any Orthodox written on this? Did Fr Arseny speak on this?


And yet there is an extra element to this hiddeness which is more the sense that God has abandoned us, or is absent, which is part of our times and which must be genuinely faced. First because it partly stems from the above crying need to rediscover the genuine spiritual life. But also because the sense that God has abandoned us is also referred to in modern Orthodox writers. In Fr Dumitru Staniloae this sense of abandonement implies a need for man to deeply engage himself with that created order found within and around himself. This sense of spiritual moral respsonsibility is continually repeated in his writings. However someone like Fr George Calciu gets to the heart of the modern condition in an immediate manner by confessing that the horific tortures he endured in the Romanian prisons, led him to what he believed was a deep betrayal of humanity and renunciation of God. Whether it was so, God knows. But that he sensed a complete loss of God while amidst horrific conditions is undoubted. It was if he scraped the absolute depths of the human condition and found nothing- at least at first.

This then in whatever version it may come to us is also perhaps part of God's contemporary purpose. We not only feel abandoned due to our sinful distance from God. We also will feel abandoned or lost at times, because this is part and parcel of our modern state, of that world which we have created. To experience the reality of this poverty then is to experience in its depths the reality of our world and of the reality of our own inner contemporary world. It isn't a 'just deserts' from God but rather God's manner of allowing us to share more deeply in the human condition without the veneer we usually use to cover such things up with. It is reality shorn of every human device and help.

Only then, Fr George explains, having scraped the utmost bottom of the poverty of the human barrel of human resources, was it possible to reach out to God. Here God's presence & help was evident- and in some whom Fr George witnessed, who had been scraped down to literal skin and bone (some of these unknown confessors suffered for years in dark cells, with untreated terminal illnesses, in continual physical and psychological torment, living far beyond any hope of human consolation)- the uncreated light of Christ shone, and they became by their very presence the strongest teachers of the Faith.

An important lesson for us then I believe is that the suffering of inhuman torment does not always point out the path for us. The tendency to rely on our own resources is very deep within us and even becomes a cultural marker. It doesn't abandon us just because we are faced with horrific events- maybe it even increases, or at least modern heroes are portrayed in that way. But when man is faced with inevitable dissolution, the prospect of having no positive exit that inspiring documentaries are made of, he seems to face only the abyss. Society itself also consigns him to this abyss for it is evident that society deals only with the resourceful person who manages a way out of his/her predicament. The rest are just mute victims-and do not to our consciousness exist- for we do not want to face the central issue of our nothingness; that whether a person faces the horror of the conscious destruction of human beings or whether he faces the end of his life after having accumulated gifts & honours- he still faces the same stark reality of the nothingness of our present condition. It's only that the first to our limited eyes is a complete curse while the latter is a blessed end.

To see the reality of this, I think that the truth is that God leads all of us along a similar path of from time to time being allowed to scrape the bottom of the barrel of our nothingness before Him. In small versions of this we might seem to come off well and to be spiritually baalnced. But the truth is that we haven't very far to go along this path before we sense our own littleness in such situations. Then the truth stands out, although we still counter balance this by clinging for all we are worth to the protection of our own self. Isn't this also just as accurate a description of our modern condition as the absence of God? If so then we can see God's over riding wisdom in brigning us from time to time to that place where even that last refuge of oneself seems lost.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#6 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 02:24 AM

God is not hidden

We cannot avoid suffering. Marriage should be happy and fulfilling but the crowns placed on the heads of the couple are martyrs’ crowns. Why should we expect a trouble-free life? The way to the Resurrection passes by the Cross. It is through suffering that we become close to Christ. God is hidden when we have no problems – he is with us when we suffer for then we are in the way of Christ. My wife has in the past read books of accounts of the Soviet gulags which are only available in Russian. Invariably, the writers of these accounts tell how close Christ was to them in the midst of suffering and horror, not hidden at all. Starets Ioann Krestiankin said his period in the camps (in the 1950s) was the happiest time of his life since never at any other time did he feel God so close to him. St Afanasii (Sakharov) writes in much the same way. It would be good if some of these books in Russian could be translated. One book my wife has now in her hands is ‘Repentance is what is left for us’ by Hegumen Nikon Vorobyov, published in Moscow in 1997. He wrote, ‘ we are in very poor times, spiritual poverty, and everywhere there is a lack of teachers which is why the only thing left for us, to our generation, is repentance and bearing sorrows. God gave one way, prophesied a long time ago: faith with no doubts and arguments. By any other way, we’ll get into pride and die in prelest.’ There is a list of such books in a work called ‘In the name of the truth and dignity of the Church’ by A. V. Zhuravskii which includes the teachings of Metropolitan Kyrill of Kazan (Smirnov) whom St Tikhon had designated as one of his successors. I get only tantalising snippets from what my wife mentions but there is a rich mine of spiritual wisdom in Russia about these things. If we have only faith and repentance, God is with us.

#7 Alice

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 02:55 AM

God is not hidden

We cannot avoid suffering. Marriage should be happy and fulfilling but the crowns placed on the heads of the couple are martyrs’ crowns. Why should we expect a trouble-free life? The way to the Resurrection passes by the Cross. It is through suffering that we become close to Christ. God is hidden when we have no problems – he is with us when we suffer for then we are in the way of Christ. My wife has in the past read books of accounts of the Soviet gulags which are only available in Russian. Invariably, the writers of these accounts tell how close Christ was to them in the midst of suffering and horror, not hidden at all. Starets Ioann Krestiankin said his period in the camps (in the 1950s) was the happiest time of his life since never at any other time did he feel God so close to him. St Afanasii (Sakharov) writes in much the same way. It would be good if some of these books in Russian could be translated. One book my wife has now in her hands is ‘Repentance is what is left for us’ by Hegumen Nikon Vorobyov, published in Moscow in 1997. He wrote, ‘ we are in very poor times, spiritual poverty, and everywhere there is a lack of teachers which is why the only thing left for us, to our generation, is repentance and bearing sorrows. God gave one way, prophesied a long time ago: faith with no doubts and arguments. By any other way, we’ll get into pride and die in prelest.’ There is a list of such books in a work called ‘In the name of the truth and dignity of the Church’ by A. V. Zhuravskii which includes the teachings of Metropolitan Kyrill of Kazan (Smirnov) whom St Tikhon had designated as one of his successors. I get only tantalising snippets from what my wife mentions but there is a rich mine of spiritual wisdom in Russia about these things. If we have only faith and repentance, God is with us.


Absolutely beautiful!

#8 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 04:00 PM

I would say Father that what is lost (or being lost) is the manner in which man must approach God. No one in Orthodoxy, among the Fathers at least, ever claimed that the experience of God is immediate. On the most elementary level this is obvious for God IS unknowable as our deepest theologians explain. But this is not an unknowability due to an aloofness from us. Rather it is an unknowablitiy that can only be approached- or God be known as the Fathers put it- through the degree to which we die to ourselves.


This reminded me of something I intended to include in my posting but forgot--there is a popular "Enlightenment" atheism today (Hitchens, Dawkins) that rejects God because of lack of evidence. God is thought of as a being within the wider cosmos. "Where is the empirical evidence for such a being?" these atheists ask. "Show me the data." For these atheists there is no more reason to believe in the existence of the Christian God than there is to believe in Zeus or leprechauns.

In response to this kind of atheism, I think it is appropriate to remind everyone that according to classical Christian teaching God is not a being within the cosmos. He is the transcendent creator and source of all being whose existence cannot be verified by scientific and empirical means. I very much appreciate the tack taken by Dr Denys Turner in his debate with Jonathan Miller.

http://video.google....574614978358368

The questions raised by Enlightenment atheism are not trivial, but the patristic understanding of the transcendent Creator provides, I think, a satisfactory response. Far more challenging is the existential atheism rooted in the experience of God's "absence" in the depths of horrific suffering, particularly the suffering inflicted by our fellow human beings. The free will argument only takes us so far.

#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 08:15 PM

Far more challenging is the existential atheism rooted in the experience of God's "absence" in the depths of horrific suffering, particularly the suffering inflicted by our fellow human beings.


I would want to know from an atheist what they know of God's alleged absence in these circumstances. The challenge has already been met in the testimonies of those who experienced God in the Nazi camps and the Soviet gulags. A man who chooses to reject God cannot experience Him. The Christian knows that Christ suffered all that it is possible to suffer in this world. Christ suffered ingratitude, rejection, scorn, insult, threats, a show trial, scourging, humiliation, betrayal, abandonment, and a ghastly death. How could the Orthodox Christians in Russia suffer what they did in places such as Solovki and Butovo if they did not experience God in those places? The key is acceptance because to accept suffering is to transfigure it into the way of Christ. Consider the two thieves crucified with Christ; the one, though in extreme suffering, accepted and confessed Christ - he was in Paradise that very day. The other rejected Christ and added suffering to suffering. I thought of this when my late first wife was in the cancer hospital in Sheffield not long before she died. Opposite her were two women. The one was calm, even serene; what was in her mind and heart was probably known only to God. Her visitors were likewise calm. The other woman was in a state of anger and resentment; she refused to accept what was happening, and this had its effect on her visitors who did not know how to react to her, could not comfort her and so themselves felt her refusal to accept what was happening.

Edited by Andreas Moran, 17 January 2012 - 08:39 PM.


#10 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 02:10 PM

Fr Aidan wrote:

The questions raised by Enlightenment atheism are not trivial, but the patristic understanding of the transcendent Creator provides, I think, a satisfactory response. Far more challenging is the existential atheism rooted in the experience of God's "absence" in the depths of horrific suffering, particularly the suffering inflicted by our fellow human beings. The free will argument only takes us so far.


This is a direct question for most all of us since faith is something one always is called to grow in. But just when one thinks one has arrived somewhere, in terms of faith and assurance, it turns out that one has almost arrived at no point at all. For again I think that this really is a question of faith in the Orthodox sense- of an inner sense of things hoped for, a kind of inner assurance of meaning from what we do and also support in terms of being loved.

Our problem though is that due to the Fall we refer everything to ourselves, and even the love of others. And this warped misunderstanding of reality has been increased in modern times as a prime marker of our present society. So that now we are each as if we were God Himself but in our lowest image, as if life was a dramatic stage with its sole purpose being that the audience continually be applauding our every move & thought (thus the modern craving for approval).

Now, if unravelling the effects of the Fall is something beyond any human conception or ability- something that literally only God can achieve; then what of our present modern 'dramatic personality'? How is this to be achieved when everything gets referred back to ourselves like heroes in a play?

It's likely very dangerous to counter God's method of achieving this to our method of trying to maintain ourselves, as if there is some logical and humanly grasped road map that God follows when He rescues us from ourselves (ie brings us to salvation). But surely we can understand that what God will do almost certainly at some point, if we really are actively loved by Him, and engaged to some degree in the life of the Church- is to unravel us- to unpack us like we take apart those Matroshka dolls one after the other. For we have that extraordinarily deep tendency of self protection to arrive back at ourselves, every time we find God's space wherein we live by faith. And so another layer of the onion skin has to be unpeeled.

This I think takes us to that suffering that you refer to. It doesn't explain it in terms easy to grasp, for what is endured in that horrific suffering is often the end product of extreme irrationality (one of the famous Russian historians, referring to Stalin says that at the end of the day there's no use trying ot find a rational explanation for what is irrational). God however allows us to be touched by this irrational disregard for humanity to a greater or lesser degree since we are called to share in the human condition; and this condition after all is also in us and therefore caused by us. The endurance of horrific suffering though as redeemable through Christ can only be approached as a further peeling back of what is small in us, of a pulling away from all that we rely on and feel assured of as necessary for sustaining our lives. For faith is a very mysterious thing moving far beyond our human sense of what we need and of what is important- and instead brings us to that ground where God instead is found- but never without a struggle to deny ourselves.

As to which Fathers to refer to- I remember that recently accounts have come to light of holy ones who endured execution (usually mass executions by Bolsheviks) were left for dead, but didn't actually die. If we could find these accounts perhaps they would indicate for us the road to faith amidst the most horrific modern conditions. Of course there's also Fr Arseny.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#11 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 05:31 PM

If we speak of how God is visible and manifest, ought we not also speak of and understand how God is not visible and not manifest? Why exclude apophatic approaches from this matter?

#12 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 05:50 PM

If we speak of how God is visible and manifest, ought we not also speak of and understand how God is not visible and not manifest? Why exclude apophatic approaches from this matter?


Well, the apophatic is usually treated as if it is just an intellectual matter, whereas it also often directly affects us and causes us pain & anxiety.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#13 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 05:55 PM

I think we need to keep in mind that the entire history of Christians is delineated by suffering. The accounts we have of martyrs from all times, from the very beginning (St Stephen) to modern Russia, all attest the same thing: the nearer a person is to the abyss, the nearer God is to him. Centering ourselves on God instead of ourselves (which I think is the essence of what Fr Raphael is saying) is achieved by acceptance which itself involves faith and repentance. There are, says my wife, any number of books in Russia about what those who suffered experienced but, she says, they are essentially the same as the lives of the early martyrs.

#14 Moses Anthony

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 11:25 PM

Many years ago while a member of the military, in a training video a character said, "My mind is made up,don't confuse me with the facts." However; a real person did say "There is none so blind, as those who will not see."

At some point presenting facts, either tangible or philosophical, is a waste of time and effort. The point at which to stop is a matter of the Spirits guidance. For it is God who gives increase, and not necessarily to our multiplied efforts.

#15 Julianna D.

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 06:32 AM

I'm the woman Fr. Herman mentioned in his post. I only got to speak to him briefly in person, so I'm glad of the opportunity to explore this issue further. Sorry I'm somewhat late coming to the thread. Anyway.


While the question of where is God in the midst of suffering is certainly a worthy question, I think that what Fr. Aidan says here may come closest to what my husband was talking about.

This reminded me of something I intended to include in my posting but forgot--there is a popular "Enlightenment" atheism today (Hitchens, Dawkins) that rejects God because of lack of evidence. God is thought of as a being within the wider cosmos. "Where is the empirical evidence for such a being?" these atheists ask. "Show me the data." For these atheists there is no more reason to believe in the existence of the Christian God than there is to believe in Zeus or leprechauns.

And while it is helpful to remember that classically God is not just another being in the cosmos, I do not see how that fully answers the difficultly.

A presentation of the problem of divine hiddeness from an atheist perspective might help. This one seems decent to me http://www.ebonmusin...urningbush.html
Here's an excerpt:

The majority of atheists, if asked why they did not believe in God, would probably respond that it is because they see no credible evidence for the existence of such a being. The argument from divine hiddenness is merely a formalized version of that stance. In brief, it states that the lack of obvious manifestations of God is better explained by assuming that God does not exist than by assuming that God does exist but chooses to remain hidden. Below is a more formal version of the same argument, stated as a disproof by contradiction:

Assumption (1): God exists.
Assumption (1a): God desires that people be aware of his existence.
Assumption (1b): God desires that people worship him in specific ways.
Assumption (1c): God has the ability to make his presence obvious and explain clearly what he desires.
Premise (2): God's presence is not obvious in the world.
Premise (3): Many people do not believe in God because of a lack of evidence.
Premise (4): Many people who do believe in God do not agree on what he desires, because of a lack of evidence.
Premise (5): For God to make his presence obvious and explain his desires would remedy both (3) and (4), without having any significant negative side effects.
Conclusion (6): If God exists, he would make his presence obvious in the world and explain what he desires. (from (1),(5))
Contradiction: But no such thing has happened. (from (2))
Conclusion (7): God does not exist. (from (6),(2))


Herman Blaydoe mentioned "trying to explain God to the spiritually blind" like colors to a physically blind person. I think there's much to this analogy, but I imagine it being even worse. When my husband asks me about my faith, well, I tell him what I can, but when I'm so spiritually blind myself it's hard to explain that there's even such a thing as spiritual sight. I need to clear my own vision. But I also would like some reassurance that there is something to be seen. The blind leading the blind can get rather nutty.

So, what positive evidence or reasons do we have to believe that God exists? In what ways is He not hidden? "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." What about those of us not so pure in heart, if we do not see how can we be given hope that there is something to be seen?

#16 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 12:47 PM

I'm sure that the better analogy is always relational, like the relationship between a husband & wife.

Here there's no question about existence as usually asked in modern times. A question like that doesn't even come into play. Rather the question is about whether you will commit to what can seem so tenuous at times, and risky. Which turns the whole question of existence around, as it should be, to- will you commit to make this relatonship exist?

I know that this way of looking at it can seem to make no sense, since if you're not even aware of God, then how can you commit? But I would say, as everyone else here has also, that God is never to be grasped. God is not just a greater being amidst the rest of the cosmos. He is absolutely unknowable except for prior commitment and effort. If you want to look at it like that- this is even one of the definitions of Who He Is.

Again- people then respond that this is somehow unjust of God. How to commit to what I have no experience of yet? But this is not accurate- people do already know this central fact of human life- that without previous commitment there is no knowing of anyone or anything for that matter.

Which just keeps bringing us back over & over from various vantage points to the fact, that if we avoid commitment and previous effort, we will never know God and there is literally nothing you can say to someone that will alter that fact. In this though there's also some fundamental need that the person die to themselves first, to their own demands and whatever. This too was always there from the first moment in those who responded to Christ in the Gospels. A thousand people surrounded Him and heard His words and parables and teachings- only a few would respond to follow Him. But which was always proceeded by an inner movement of the heart to commit to Him as Master and Lord. Note that they didn't yet know Him when they did this. But yet they still followed Him. What the Gospel portrays is the exact story of our own inner conflict and drama, and way of resolution also.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#17 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 04:42 PM

Fr. Raphael, I refer to those attitudes you cite among people as part of "autolatry". I. e., "God must be limited by my reasoning and logical capacity or He can't exist or He is evil." would be an autolatrous belief. Your answer to this is, of course, apophatic. "God can never be grasped... He is absolutely unknowable..."

#18 Monk Herman

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 11:18 PM

+ I easily agree with Fr Raphael, who says (in post #16) “that the better analogy is always relational, like the relationship between a husband & wife.” To know God requires the forging of a relationship with God—a relationship fraught with a degree of risk.

The importance of Fr Raphael’s point goes immediately to the heart. We turn to God simply out of a love for—not a need for—being and goodness: precisely the state of union. And Fr Rapael puts it beautifully: “will you commit to make this relationship exist?”

But the atheist needn’t make such a leap of sheer loving faith, since reason comes to our aid in the form of arguments based on contemporary science and explored and elaborated by contemporary philosophy. The atheist does indeed have a purely intellectual bootstrap capable of bridging the gap between the secular and the religious.

This bootstrap consists of not just one argument, but of several mutually evocative arguments, some of which are based on the most recent science, some of which represent new thinking on ancient insights.

To give just one example, many have been deeply impressed by the fine-tuning required for the existence of a universe capable of harboring life. The likelihood that this existing universe could come into being by chance is

.000 … 001.

This number is so small that the paper needed to print out the missing zeros in ten-point type would fill a large portion of the universe (Spitzer). It's a number so small as to be, in effect, zero.

It takes no leap of faith to back the underdog here since we know that the underdog exists.

The implication that has rocked the world is that of a “super-calculating intellect” (Hoyle) that has selected precisely this the existing set of life-giving possibilities out of an unimaginably vast number of sterile alternatives; an implication that has shaken the faith of several important atheists so far (Hoyle, Flew).

H

#19 Monk Herman

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 06:45 AM

+ But if we want a purely intellectual entry into the Divine Intellect, we might want to look at the mind of man.

If the human mind is made in the image of God without being identical to God, then we should be able to find principles that apply to man, but that don’t apply to God; and vice-versa we should find principles that apply to God, but not to man. We should discover ways to place the finite into relation to something that is beyond both finitude and infinity; or else something accessible to both.



The human mind is accessible to both. But if the human mind is made in the image of God, it's because there are aspects of the human soul that share in that image of God.

Then the question is : which aspects?

We can leave aside any broader question of the soul since we already have something to work with: the human mind is familiar to us. We all have one. And we have an inner sense of how it works. We also have a sense of how it interacts with matter—especially with its own body.

By recognizing and isolating those specific mental functions that seem least dependant on physical laws, we can begin to get a glimpse of the primal mind (divine services) that is God.



But this must be done, as the holy fathers teach, “in a manner befitting God.” It is here that commitment must be made. If the above can be trusted, it provides a gateway toward the knowledge of God.

But at some point, this point of trust must be elicited. No relationship exists without this crucial element: a non-physical element certainly, but nonetheless a constituent element of mental—of spiritual—life. Without it no relationship Is possible with either creatures or with God:

The commitment to the unforeseen is an inescapable part of life in time and space.

But this commitment need carry no sense of fear with it. That’s because the unknown, being unknown, forms no part of our experience; consequently, no hypothesized fear of the unknown can be part of our experience. Since it can't be part of our experience, it can't be part of our experience of God. Nor can it form part of any interpersonal relationship. This arises from the fact that the unknown, being completely unfamiliar, can elicit no feelings of fear.

H

#20 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 04:02 PM

To give just one example, many have been deeply impressed by the fine-tuning required for the existence of a universe capable of harboring life. The likelihood that this existing universe could come into being by chance is

.000 … 001.


Unfortunately, this is fallacious. Indeed, several modern atheists have addressed this and shown it to be a non-issue from their point of view. The prior unlikelihood of an event is irrelevant if that event has already occurred, except to make the statement that this event would have been unlikely, given limits of knowledge, had it not already occurred. The occurrence of an unlikely event is no evidence that any intent or mind was behind that event. While it is a beautiful sentiment--that any one of us is so unlikely that each living person is "proof of God", from a statistical and probability math standpoint, it is actually proof of nothing. Hoyle might have been impressed, but that was a long time ago. Unfortunately, since we have no way of knowing how many other sets of conditions randomly and spontaneously "appeared" in whatever proto- or pre- universe might have existed, we cannot say that an insufficient number of them did not occur for the current set of conditions to have arisen by random chance.




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