I have some questions regarding the argument of the Canadian philosopher John Schellenberg (Hiddenness of God) or (nonresistant nonbelief). See it here: The argument from nonresistant nonbelief

My questions are:

“(2b)- If there is a personal God who is unsurpassably loving, then for any human person H and any time t, if H is at t capable of relating personally to God, H has it within H’s power at t to do so (i.e., will do so, just by choosing), unless H is culpably in a contrary position at t.”.

  • Does the writer mean that the person through the limits of his power will believe in the existence of God? In other words, does this mean that the writer speaks of disparities in power among people?

  • What does “culpably in a contrary position at t” mean?

    (4)- Necessarily, if God exists, then God perfectly loves such finite persons as there may be.

  • Does the word “necessarily” here have a particular logical meaning? And what about “as there may be”; it refers to what?

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    Unbelief is the result of sin, so Schellenberg's argument fails because the following premise is false: "There are people who are capable of relating personally to God but who, through no fault of their own, fail to believe."
    – user3017
    Nov 6, 2017 at 14:33
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    Many people would say that the idea of a relationship with God is mistaken, since we are already identical. Just thought I'd throw this in.
    – user20253
    Nov 6, 2017 at 14:47
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    @PeterJ. Jesus was not mistaken when He said, "...but I have called you friends."
    – user3017
    Nov 6, 2017 at 14:52
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    First one is basically saying it either lies in your power to relate to God or you are a sinner and only because of this incapable of doing so (given there is a personal, loving God). Second one quite clearly refers to logical notion, although the tone of the SEP entry makes it clear that the use of necessity seems dubious to say the least imho.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Nov 6, 2017 at 15:24
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    It would the complete argument you reference is another version of why is there evil (unbelief) in the world if there is an all-loving God. All monotheistic philosophies share this problem and circular logic. Some result in placing the blame on unbelievers, others try to conclude to agnosticism or atheism. The monistic philosophies share no such quandary. Nov 7, 2017 at 9:30

2 Answers 2


1 Just because God is unsurpassably loving, it does not follow that anyone, H, is culpable - at fault - for not relating personally to God even if H has it in his or her power to do so and hence is capable of doing so. To get to that conclusion you need intermediate premises - extra assumptions- about the obligation to relate personally to the unsurpassingly loving God.

2 “Culpably in a contrary position at t” means, so far as I can see, that H does not respond personally to God at t and is blameworthy or at fault for not responding.

3 'If H has it within H's power' does not imply, without extra premises, that there are degrees of power.

4 'Necessarily, if God exists, then God perfectly loves such finite persons as there may be.' Necessity is a highly ambiguous notion. I think we can rule out physical necessity since God (on most accounts) is not a physical entity. Logical necessity ? This might be cashed out in terms of the proposition, p, 'If God exists, then God perfectly loves such finite persons as there may be' being true in all possible worlds. (Not that this is the only approach to logical necessity - hence my qualifier, 'might'.) My best guess is that metaphysical necessity is involved, the idea being that if there is a God it is of the essence of God, a part of God's essential nature, that God perfectly loves such finite persons as there may be.

5 '... such finite persons as there may be' is, I should say, a recognition that for all we know the extension of the class of finite persons may vary according to God's discretion under God's plan for the world.

I cannot resist adding that on at least one orthodox theology, H has nothing in H's power at any time without the grace of God. But I accept the contrary assumption for the sake of the argument you are examining.


The positive use of philosophy, biblically speaking, according to Colossians chapter 2, verse 8: Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit: according to the tradition of men according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ.

It seems not to be within the realm said philosopher's considerations.

The Bible does speak to the matter of why it is not open to abuse by those who seek in the absence of profitable faith.

Proverbs, 25:2: 

It is the glory of God to conceal the word, and the glory of kings to search out the speech.

King - as those who seek to rule their emotions per the following passage.

Romans, 8:28

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

An deepened study of the Bible gives a different answer that differs in some areas of what most Christians are willing to admit, including how all humans became sinners. But it was well taught by some early Church Fathers, such as Origen, who believed in reincarnation, and that eventually it is the blood of Jesus by which all things will be redeemed.

The biblical proper use of intellect to achieve universal understanding would be that God, again and again attempts to show how it is our own vain devices of ego, rather than the proper use of ego once facing one's own vanity and conditions of such vanity having darkened one's heart. The proper use of human intellect would be convicted of one's guilt and repent and accept the holy spirit as that which can properly teach all things.

Ecclesiastes 7:29  (7:30)

Only this I have found, that God made man right, and he hath entangled himself with an infinity of questions.

Who is as the wise man? And who had known the resolution of the word? 

The resolution begins with a renewed heart but is not completed until one matures from being a baby Christian, on the milk, to an grown with renewed mind.

Heb 5:13,14

For every one that is a partaker of milk is unskilful in the word of justice: for he is a little child. But strong meat is for the perfect: for them who by custom have their senses exercised to the discerning of good and evil.

Ahh, matured believers with the renewed mind tho - how rare such may be. In my own view of present humanity, as far as I can tell, I don't think I have come across any.

  • Hello and welcome! Please try to reformulate some ideas, as they are almost impossible to understand.
    – lukuss
    Apr 4, 2018 at 8:29

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