Introduction to Divine Hiddenness

The problem of divine hiddenness is a philosophical problem, especially for those who actively seek God. In essence, it asks why, if a good and omnipotent God exists, He remains unseen or, at least, unexperienced by some individuals. This is exacerbated by those of us who believe God desires a relationship with all people but remains hidden enough for people to doubt this desire.

Personal Struggle with Divine Hiddenness

It is a problem for all, Christians and non-Christians. I often desire to experience His power and am denied. While I believe in Him though I do not see Him (1 Pet. 1:8), it does not alleviate my desire to experience a realization of Him triumphing over non-belief or doubt—including mine, as my belief is not perfect (Phil. 3:20-21).

Why does he stay so hidden to those who want more confirmation?

Or does he?

Charismatic and Divine Hiddenness

Now, a Charismatic, it would seem, has this problem to a greater degree than non-Charismatics due to their twofold claim: First they claim that God has continued to give specific supernatural gifts, such as prophecy, healings, and miracles. Their second claim is that it is God’s will or desire for every church to exercise these gifts. Yet, we have Christians who believe in miracles and are not charismatic. Many go to charismatic churches and find nothing supernatural. Someone may say that they are present; they just don’t believe them. The problem is that some truly are more than willing to acknowledge them and desire to believe them, but don’t want to be misled. They test the claims and find them wanting and leave in disappointment.

My Hidden Charismatic Experience

Of course, most of you may know I’m talking about myself. For 20 years, I have looked with great desire for a Charismatic church that I feel has a legitimate expression of such gifts.

The Elephant is Not in the Room

God may just be hiding from me, and others like me, in these circumstances. Believe it or not, I am willing to accept that God may show himself to different people in different ways. I would be saddened by this as I want to see Him and be so close to His power. Unlike other hard-cessationists, I do not believe that the Bible demands that the gifts ceased in the first century. I do not believe that the Bible demands that they continued either. However, there is more of an implication for them continuing than ceasing. So, I could go in that direction very easily. But I can’t convince myself there is an elephant in the room when there is no elephant in the room. While the Bible does not teach that the gifts would cease, it doesn’t teach that the canon would be closed either, and most Charismatics believe that the canon is closed.

Concluding Question

I am interested to hear your opinion. Why do you believe that God remains hidden for people who claim to desire to believe in Him? Also, why do you believe that God remains hidden from those, like me, who desire to see His power?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    3 replies to "Charismatics and the Problem of Divine Hiddenness"

    • Rob

      Hello, I spent a number of years in a Charismatic community/church as an effort to assuage my overall doubts as a believer and to “test and see” if there really is a present and living God in the house. Though there were many “edifying” things about that time, overall my experiment was not satisfactory and I pulled the plug.
      So much to consider on this topic.
      I am aware that as much as I may say or pray that I experience God more intimately and experientially, there is a part of me that does NOT want that; out of fear, shame coming face to face with the Living One, and also lest it happen that “to whom much is given, much is required.” So maybe God is “honoring” my own hesitations about being closer.
      Final thought on more of a “mystical” (not necessarily pantheistic) track: Just like we (humans) rarely think about or even feel that we are floating in a sea of gravity on a rapidly spinning planet bathed in oxygen and electromagnetic frequencies, maybe we really are, all of us, from conception, living in and closer to God than our own breath. Maybe the Presence of the Omnipresent Living One is so familiar and ever present that we are just unaware. Unless we get quiet or still enough, (or humble enough or hungry enough) as perhaps some mystically childlike have be able to do.

      • Rob

        Maybe “practicing the presence of Jesus” is just paying attention, waking up. (I’m talking to myself.)

    • Eric Quek

      Your exploration of divine hiddenness struck a chord with me, particularly as I reflect on my late wife’s charismatic faith, a path I haven’t personally followed. Through my evolving theological understanding, I’ve come to appreciate the reasons behind these varied spiritual experiences. Let me share my views with you.

      The diversity in spiritual experiences is multifaceted, encompassing not only the range of spiritual gifts, but also psychological factors, the unique nature of each spiritual journey, cultural influences, environmental contexts, and insights from the field of neurotheology. Beginning with spiritual gifts, as Paul taught us, not all believers will have the same gifts, such as prophecy or speaking in tongues. In my early Christian days, I witnessed church leaders and elders who were dismissive of these gifts, failing to recognize their true value in enriching the Christian community. This experience taught me that spirituality often manifests more in internal character development and personal transformation rather than in outward, visible signs.

      Spiritual experiences are profoundly personal, shaped by each individual’s emotional, cognitive, and cultural background. This means that not everyone will connect with their faith in the same way. For instance, those who learn more towards analytical thinking might engage with their faith in a more introspective and less emotionally driven manner. Yet this doesn’t make their spiritual journey less significant.

      From neurotheology perspective, we learn how our brain’s structure and function can significantly influence our spiritual experiences. This fascinating field suggests that our neurological constitution plays a crucial role in how we experience and interpret the divine. For example, variations in brain activity and levels of neurotransmitters like Dopamine & 5 HT can result in different types and intensities of spiritual experiences.

      This holistic view assists us to appreciate a wide array of spiritual experiences. It underscores that the absence or presence of charismatic experiences neither diminishes nor enhances the authenticity or depth of one’s faith journey.

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