DIVINE HIDDENNESS AND HUMAN FINITUDE

Alyssa is like any other ordinary teenager except that she has been especially keen on living the way she thinks fitted for a good Catholic. She's only fifteen years old and is in her 8 th grade in school, but she already knows how to set her priorities and do her responsibilities. In school, Alyssa is known to her teachers and peers as a good student, a good friend, and a helpful person. er teachers and friends could always count on her in ti!es when her assistance !atters. At ho!e, she also works without co!plaints. She has been trained to do si!ple household chores, and her parents could not wish for anything !ore about the character of their child. "oreoever, Alyssa is an active choir !e!ber in their barrio chapel. She serves during Sundays and i!portant feasts, and she even assists in the training of younger children. In her age, Alyssa is already a trusted catechist. All these involve!ents Alyssa does without co!plaints and without even any expectation for return. She has been taught by her parents that her service to others and to #od is the best way to !ake use of her #od$given talents and gifts. %o serve others, she thinks, is the best for! of gratitude that she could offer back to #od who is the source of all that she has. er life has however been changed by one sudden event. &ne early !orning, at around '())a.!., her entire fa!ily was awakened by a sudden rush of water. %hey heard fro! the news that a typhoon is co!ing but they had not expected it to hit their town, and their town has never been flooded before. %his flood was totally unexpected, and they are less prepared for it than they should have been. %hey tried as !uch as they could to at least save the!selves but the water rose so fast that soon they were taken by the flood. %he last thing she heard was the voice of her !other calling her *and her siblings+, na!e, and then everything goes dark. Alyssa woke up on a hospital bed about three days after the incident. She was told that she was lucky enough that she was found by her rescuers. She was unconscious when found, and was bathing with !ud, but was at least alive. -nfortunately, she had no news about the other !e!bers of her fa!ily. She is alive and yet she feels robbed of life. .hy has she lost her lovedones that fast/ .hat had she done to !erit this !isfortune/ as #od not been on her side/ .here is #od in those !o!ents when she and her fa!ily needed i! !ost/ .hy has #od allowed this to happen/ Alyssa could not find answers to her own 0uestions. Suddenly, the #od that she has adored and served throughout her young life see!s distant, hidden and even absent fro! her life. She asks( where now is #od/ %he topic on whether #od exists or not is a perennial 0uestion that re!ains unsettled between those who believe that #od exists and those who deny #od+s existence. %his is one of the reasons why the issue on 1divine absence+ or 1divine hiddenness+ continues to for! part of the i!portant literature in theodicy and philosophy of religion. Critics of religion say, 2if #od really exists, and e wishes that people will believe in i!, why does #od see! to be absent in the life of so!e people, where such absence beco!es the reason why these sa!e people doubt is existence/34 If #od wants Alyssa to keep her faith in i!, why did #od allow such !isfortune to happen to her, where the !isfortune beco!es the reason for Alyssa to 0uestion #od's very existence/ I have recently read one author, %ravis 5u!sday 6, who atte!pted to reply to the 0uestion on divine hiddenness through the concept of 1creaturely resent!ent,+ which !ay refer to the 1envy+ that develops after one+s exposure to #od+s greatness in revelation. 5u!sday clai!s that #od refrains fro! e!ploying early revelation to !ost people 2due to the risks inherent in a too$early exposure of a finite intellect to the 5ivine "a7esty. Instead, #od lets us re!ain unaware of i! for a ti!e. In addition to this state of *partial or total, ignorance, e also allows us to experience pain and loss, perhaps even allowing us to get to the point where our expectations are lowered3 *%ravis, p. 8',. %hen he added, 2And so #od allows us to re!ain for a ti!e in a state of affairs in which is existence is sub7ect to rational doubt, in

order to !itigate the risk of unfortunate reaction to a too$early awareness of i!3 *%ravis, p. 8',. If 5u!sday is to provide answers to Alyssa+s 0uestions, it would see! that these events happen with the purpose of lowering Alyssa+s expectations about who #od is and what can e do. In lowering Alyssa+s expectations on #od, #od is preparing Alyssa to beco!e !ore open to #od+s future revelations. 5u!sday also clai!ed that divine hiddenness does not have to !ean that #od is really absent, or that there is no #od. 9or 5u!sday, it see!s that during these instances, #od has withdrawn i!self fro! !an in order to !ake !an expects less fro! i!. owever, I believe that 5u!sday+s clai! about #od+s withdrawal *as #od+s own doing, also needs !ore explanation than what has already been provided in his article, where he has this to say( It is not entirely clear what the reaction of a finite creature is liable to be when first beco!ing explicitly aware of the presence of the 5ivine !a7esty... Specifically, one possible reaction is overwhel!ing 7ealousy and resent!ent $ 7ealousy of #od and resent!ent at not being !ore godlike. %he tradition suggests that there is a danger in an i!!ediate awareness of the divine, and that the danger !ight be !itigated by certain for!s of preparation that can only occur in the absence of an explicit experiential awareness of #od. %his risk and the !eans of its !itigation provide so!e reason for #od to not grant us such an awareness of i!self fro! the start of our rational lives3 *%ravis, p. 8:,. Cogni;ant of the risks, 5u!sday so argues, #od then te!porarily refrains fro! revealing i!self. It is in doing so that our expectations of i! are lowered, thereby preventing the possible setback of resent!ent *7ealousy,. 5u!sday then added that #od 2puts us through a set of trials, such that the 5ivine "a7esty will be welco!ed as salvation rather than resented or hated3 *%ravis, p. 8',. The significant issue here however is whether we could prudently claim that God’s doing is responsible for the loss of Alyssa’s family, and it happened because God was preparing Alyssa for a timely closer union with God. 9urther!ore, 5u!sday clai!s that his 1creaturely resent!ent+ reply to the 0uestion on divine hiddenness has theological ties with the Christian teaching on 1fallen angels+ and the sin of our first parents. e recalls that <ucifer+s decision to rebel against #od, or the desire to beco!e an e0ual to #od, is caused pri!arily by his envy. "oreover, Ada! and =ve+s first sin was ocassioned by the serpent+s te!ptation that is pre!ised by the possibility of beco!ing like #od. 5u!sday takes these positions to be theological grounds for the argu!ent that 1to avoid !an+s resent!ent, #od opted to refrain fro! revealing i!self.+ >ut we ask the following 0uestions( May God really purposely withdraw his presence from the people in order to avoid their resentment? Moreover, do we really have a better theological argument when we say that God has changed His mind thus, withdraws Himself from us and ma!es Himself hidden" because His initial revelations to the angels #ucifer included" and to our first parents failed? %heis!, in agree!ent with 5u!sday, clai!s that hiddenness does not prove the non$ existence of #od. In fact, it see!s that divine hiddenness is better appreciated as a theological 0uestion. 5u!sday opines, correctly in !y view, that the 0uestion on divine hiddenness could even occasion a 1positive relationship with #od.+ : owever, I believe that this apophatic character of revelation need not be seen as #od+s strategic withholding of his revelation in order to prevent the believer+s resent!ent. Instead, so!e Christian literatures, contrary to what 5u!sday has pointed out, argue that #od reveals i!self to us. .e however oftenti!es fail to see #od not because e withdraws i!self fro! us but because of our hu!an condition( our finitude. %ho!as A0uinas for exa!ple clai!s that even if #od

reveals hi!self in this world, such revelation could not be co!plete, not because #od intended to withhold part of i!self fro! us but because of the creaturely *finite, nature of our faculties.8 ?evelation can only be co!pleted in the >eatific @ision when the li!itations of hu!an cognition are overco!e.' ence, in the 0uestion on divine hiddenness, the answer lies in the character of the hu!an person, the finite character of our nature including our cognitive faculties. So, why does #od see! to be absent in the lives of so!e people/ .hy can Alyssa *or we, hardly find #od in what had happened to her fa!ily/ %he answer lies in our hu!an condition. .e do not fully co!prehend the reason why those things have to happen. .hat is easier to see and feel is the pain that acco!panies the tragedy, and that pain blurs our vision to find #od a!idst what happenedA In discerning #od in the ordinary things of our life, !uch !ore in the painful events like that of Alyssa, our finite intelligence needs to be aided, either through the infused virtues fro! #od or through training in natural theology and spirituality. ence, to discern 1religious experiences+ Bthe presence of #od in the events of our lifeC fro! a!ong our varied experiences, we will need certain for!s of discipline. It also needs proper training and instruction fro! the elders in our tradition. Inas!uch as we would have to be trained for !usic or for other crafts, we would have to be trained in our spirituality. Inas!uch as it re0uires discipline and training to discern aesthetics and beauty in the world around us, we too would have to be initiated into the discipline of discern!ent, especially if we are to discover the presence and actions of #od even in the everyday things that we are doing. D %his is the reason why the help of spiritual counselors and !asters are i!portant. %hey could point to us the proper direction for the discern!ent of the will of #od. #od is o!nipresent, and we need the proper disposition to find i! in the world. %he case of Alyssa !akes it !ore difficult for her and for us to see the 1good+ that could co!e out of what had happened, and it s even !ore difficult to understand why #od would have to allow this to happen. >ut, in ti!e and with the help of #od, if she perseveres in her faith, Alyssa will co!e to understand the 1sense+ of what had happened, and that would !ake her faith even !ore !ature. %his is the reason why I argue that divine hiddenness is better treated as a theological 0uestion, that is, the answer to it presupposes a !ini!u! ad!ission that #od exists, and his see!ing absence needs to be overco!e by a delicate discern!ent of his presence even in those things and instances *like evil, where e see!s to be totally absent. An atheist could hardly be convinced that #od, as theists $ especially Christians $ clai! i! to be, is present even in those perilous situations. &nly believers !ay be able to see i! in those ti!es, otherwise, the non$believer !ay first have to be converted to faith before sEhe can ad!it the sa!e. In fact, believers who are aware of our creaturely finitude know that only the discovery of #od+s presence can answer the longings of our heart for perfection. %he irony about who we are is the fact that we long for transcendence despite our existential li!itations. It is only in the ad!ission that #od exists where we undersand the co!patibility of our finite hu!an nature and our heart+s inner longing for transcendence. &ur faith aids our understanding as Augustine would say. .ithout faith, we re!ain to be finite creatures and our vision shall be forever li!ited by the boundaries of our e0ually finite world.

%his is a the!e pointed out by ?obert "cFi! in an excerpt entitled 2 iddenness of #od,3 taken fro! his $eligious Ambiguity and $eligious %iversity *6))4, and is featured in Steven Cahn+s *ed., &'ploring (hilosophy of $eligion) An *ntroductory Anthology *-SA( &xford -niversity Gress, 6)44,, pp. 688$6':. 6 5u!sday, %ravis. 25ivine iddenness and Creaturely ?esent!ent,3 *nternational +ournal for (hilosophy of $eligion, H6E4 *August 6)46,( 84$'4. : ?obert "cFi!, in the excerpt !entioned above, also pointed out that this is a characteristically a theist attitude towards the issue of divine hiddenness *see Cahn, p. 6'),. 8 See S% I, 0. 46, art. 46, I http(EEwww.newadvent.orgJ where A0uinas said, 2>ut our !ind cannot be led by sense so far as to see the essence of #odK because the sensible effects of #od do not e0ual the power of #od as their cause.3 5 A0uinas argues in S% 4, 0. 46, art. 4 that our intellect, though incapable of seeing the essence of #od in this world, re!ains capable of seeing #od 2for there resides in every !an a natural desire to know the cause of any effect which he seesK and thence arises wonder in !en. >ut if the intellect of the rational creature could not reach so far as to the first cause of things, the natural desire would re!ain void. ence it !ust be absolutely granted that the blessed see the essence of #od.3 %his possibility of seeing #od, he further explains, is possible in the ,eatific -ision of which he says( 2%herefore, since the 5ivine essence is pure act, it will be possible for it to be the for! whereby the intellect understands( and this will be the beatific vision. ence the "aster says that the union of the body with the soul is an illustration of the blissful union of the spirit with #od3 *see S% Suppl., 0. L6, art. 4,. D See, A.=. %aylor, 2@indication of ?eligion,3 in The &'istence of God, ed. Mohn ick *New Oork( "c"illan Gublishing Co., Inc., 4LD8,, pp. 4'8$4''.

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