Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday Quote: J.P. Moreland on God's Existence

“God maintains a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know he's there and yet hiding his presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore him can do it. This way, their choice of destiny is really free.”

– J.P. Moreland


Jeremiah A V Dumai said...

That's a profound line!

Ryan Hemelaar said...

I disagree with J.P. Moreland there. Everyone knows that God exists, but the reason why many deny His existence is not because there is not enough evidence, but because " their unrighteousness [they] suppress the truth." (Romans 1:18).

Brian said...


I agree with the scripture you point out. And, although I cannot claim to speak for Moreland, I would bet he surely agrees with that scripture as well.

However, I would want to point out the distinction between knowledge of God and evidence for God. Moreland's quote speaks of the evidence being, shall we say, ambiguous enough so as to be "non-coercive." He is not talking about the knowledge of God, but the evidence for God.

The scripture does say in Hebrews 11:6 that "Without faith it is impossible to be please God, for he who comes to God must believe that he exists..."

So the evidence is sufficient for those who are willing. But the evidence will not be coercively persuasive to the unwilling.

Anonymous said...

Brian, I have to disagree with you and agree with Ryan. The evidence is sufficiently clear. It is our sin that keeps us from acknowledging (not recognizing the evidence).

(a) In covenant Israel, despite a very conspicuous presence, both Israelites and other nations ignored him.

(b) If the evidence is "non-coercive" then God cannot rightly fault people for not believing in him. It is precisely because the evidence is sufficient (coerciveness is perhaps not even applicable here) that everyone stands condemned for disobeying Him.

Brian said...

This is very interesting. I would like to think about it for a little while and continue the discussion. Thanks for the continued input.

Franck Barfety said...

The everlasting Libertarian freedom vs. various brands of Calvinism, who believe that concerning salvation humans have no choice in the matter, debate.

As the Maker is able to make free choices, we too, created in his own image, are able to freely choose to love him who made us. Free creature choice is the best way to make the world. Even though it brings the possibility for evil. Fortunately the plan of salvation was included at the onset. So, glory be to him who provides the way, the truth and ultimately eternal life for all who believe!

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." John 3:18

Brian said...


Thanks for chiming in. We are not far from 100% agreement on this one, so please don't take my continuing discussion as disputing or debating. Just trying to work out the nuances here... : )

I guess I would want to ask at what points you are disagreeing with Moreland's quote?

mmcelhaney said...

There are so many great responses however mine is long and my two cents can be read at my own blog. Brian thanks for posting this!

Anonymous said...

Not trying to debate. Just trying to challenge and refine my thinking and others. I'd really hesistate to dismiss a statement from JP Moreland as erroneous. Perhaps there is a finer nuance that we missed.

Here is a different take: Very often people ask why the God of the Old Testament was so cruel in asking Israel to kill man, woman and child? Some accounts of God's demands and first blush do seem immoral. However, when you realize that the punishment was in proportion to the revelation, I think we can begin to understand JP's quote. If God were to be as evident as sunlight (he indeed was when he worked to get Israel out of Egypt), you not only have no excuse to not believe him, but God has no reason to not annihilate your open rebellion.

When God works behind the scenes and lets you see the effects of His work (the non-coercive evidence as JP puts it), the immediacy of his judgment is avoided. They are still condemned but in His grace he gives them time until their last breath.

I don't know if this makes sense, but count it as an attempt.

Roberto G said...

"really free"
Biblically, the sense of God (His existence, power, and justice) is possessed by all. It is this knowledge that is a prerequisite for moral responsibility as Rom. 1 makes clear. But the human heart is such that it can, and in most cases does, choose to ignore something it knows is real. Freedom from this miserable condition is granted by God monergistically and then exercised by the sinner at the time of His choosing. Real freedom for us lies not in the nature of the evidence for God's existence as non-coercive, but in the absolute grace bestowed liberation that releases us from our spiritual bondage. Once free, we are capable of giving reasons for the hope that is in us.

Yo said...

Moreland's not saying that people don't believe in God, but that God has made Himself hidden just enough so that if they who want to "ignore" God can freely do so. And many do this by saying that they don't beleive in Him. But, you have to beleive in, or have knowledge of, Him in order to ignore Him.

Unknown said...

This quote has a much earlier origin. Whether Moreland is aware of it or not, I cannot say. I hope he gives Pascal credit for the idea someday. But we know, it really is from God through the Holy Spirit, who can pass on God’s thinking to any of us if we are listening.
The Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), in his arguments with the big name philosophers of his time, wrote one of the best explanations I have heard for why God chooses to remain mysterious and why He avoids providing overwhelming evidence (and I am sorry, I have lost the original Pascal resource, so I do not know where to find this in Pascal’s writings):
“It was God's gracious will to redeem us and to open the way of salvation to those who seek it. It is right for God to allow some, for their hardness of heart, to fail to receive what He grants to others by a mercy they have not earned.
God has not appeared in a manner manifestly divine and absolutely capable of convincing everyone, but neither has His divinity been so hidden that He could not be recognized by those who sincerely sought Him. He wished to make Himself perfectly recognizable to these. His sheep will always hear his voice, and be attracted thereto.
Thus wishing to appear openly to all those who ‘seek Him with all their heart’ and remain hidden from those who shun Him, He has qualified our knowledge of Him by giving signs which can be seen by those who truly want to find and know Him and not by those who do not. There is enough light for those who desire to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.”

-Dr. Bruce Atkinson

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