Divine Hiddenness, Divine Silence
Divine silence—or, as many think of it, divine hiddenness—is the source of one of the two most important and widely discussed objections to belief in God. It is also one of the most important sources of doubt and spiritual distress for religious believers. Many people seem to be utterly broken by divine silence in the midst of their own suffering or the suffering of others, or simply by the ongoing and unsatisfied longing for the presence of God. In this talk, Michael Rea explains why divine silence poses a serious intellectual obstacle to belief in God, and then goes on to consider ways of overcoming that obstacle. After considering several ways in which divine silence might actually be beneficial to human beings, he argues that perhaps silence is nothing more or less than God’s preferred mode of interaction with creatures like us. Perhaps God simply desires communion rather than overt communication with human beings, and perhaps God has provided ways for us to experience God’s presence richly even amidst the silence. Rea concludes that it is plausible to think that Biblical narratives and the liturgies of the church are the vehicles by which God’s presence is mediated to us.
Michael C. Rea is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, as well as the co-Director for Notre Dame’s Center for Philosophy of Religion. He specializes in metaphysics and philosophy of religion. Rea is also currently the president of the Society of Christian Philosophers.