Why Does God Hide Himself?
by Kenneth T. Magnuson
The question “Why does God hide Himself?” is asked at times, not only by the atheist or agnostic seeking to cast doubt on God’s existence, but also by believers seeking a personal experience of God. It is therefore related to further questions. The doubter or skeptic may ask, “Is there a God?” or “If God exists, how can we know that He exists, and why doesn’t He reveal Himself more clearly?” The anxious seeker may ask, “Is God in control of the universe?” and “Is God concerned about my life and problems?” In times of trouble many wonder if God is there and if He cares. And finally the doubter, seeker, and follower alike may ask, “How can I know God?”
A biblical perspective on God’s hiddenness encourages us not to become overly anxious. God does, in fact, reveal Himself but perhaps not in the way some demand. In one sense God is indeed hidden because He is Spirit and cannot be seen physically (Jn 4:24). The demand for certain types of physical evidence of God will leave us wanting, and may be misplaced, as it diminishes the need for faith. Further, God may deliberately hide Himself in order to expose people’s hearts, drawing closer those who believe, while turning away from those who turn from Him (Dt 31:17; Is 59:2).
Yet the Bible encourages us with the promise that if we seek God faithfully, we will find Him (Jr 29:13). While God is hidden in some sense, yet He is knowable, so we may ask God to show Himself to us (Pr 8:17; Jr 29:13; Mt 7:7–8). We may also look for and acknowledge the ways that God has already chosen to reveal Himself. First, God has revealed Himself to us in His Word (Ex 3:14; Heb 1:1; cp. Lk 24:27). Second, God has revealed Himself decisively in His Son, Jesus Christ (Jn 1:1, 14; 14:8–9; Col 2:9; Heb 1:1–3). Third, God has revealed Himself and His power through creation (Ps 19:1–2; Rm 1:20). Fourth, God reveals Himself through the power and the indwelling of His Spirit (Jn 14:16–17; 1 Jn 5:6–12). Finally, God reveals Himself through the witness of believers (Ac 1:8; 2:1–4; 1 Jn 1:1–4).
Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (386). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.