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The interior of Hillsdale Col­lege’s Christ Chapel. Courtesy | Ethan Greb

One of my favorite com­plaints con­cerning God is that He seems impos­sible to discern. He sends no phone calls, no emails, and not even a tweet or two when I could use some advice. In fact, more often than not, the Divine Person appears quite hidden. His exis­tence cannot be proven and those who doubt Him are impa­tient for evi­dence. Of course, this com­plaint is not mine alone. Just about every Christian I talk with has expressed, now and again, the same objection. 

My first step in dealing with this whiny com­plaint is Holy Writ. And the more I read in those pages, the more it strikes me that God has a similar com­plaint against me.

There was a prophet named Elijah who, after wit­nessing God’s power, was found hiding in a cave out of fear of Queen Jezebel. In those pages, there is story after story of human doubt and a rejection of God by His own people. And just in case we Chris­tians think that our New Tes­tament brethren were made of sterner stuff, the dis­ciples went into hiding when Jesus most needed them. Each of the Apostles wrote letters to Chris­tians who were behaving badly. And these are the people who became the Church which all-too-often in its history has been known for really bad the­ology, deep doubts, weak­nesses, and hypocrisy. After all, is anyone more adept than Chris­tians at hiding the Gospel under a bushel?

We also often forget that the problem is not limited to humans. Holy Scripture tells us that God created remarkable beings called angels – a large number of whom rebelled against their Creator. Out of sheer will and pride, these beings rejected heaven, and now, the Bible tells us, they do every­thing they can to keep people from God. Would one not think that if a person was in heaven or in the Garden of Eden, was a recipient of direct com­mu­ni­cation from God, was at the first Eucharist, the Cru­ci­fixion, or wit­nessed the Res­ur­rection of Jesus, that such a person would have no doubt of God’s exis­tence, power, and love?  

What does God have to do to get our attention? Speak through a prophet? Send a fiery cloud? Raise someone from the dead? Become one of us? I must remind myself that He has done all of that. Indeed, the witness of the Scrip­tures and of the saints through the mil­lennia pro­claims His real presence and desire to be known. When it comes to hid­denness, it must cer­tainly be argued that God has a more pro­found com­plaint against me. 

And what, you might rightly ask, does this ram­bling have to do with our autumn semester at Hillsdale College? I write to argue that our studies offer each of us an oppor­tunity to better know God. His­to­rians might be drawn out into the open by finding some­thing of God’s prov­i­dence in the events and persons of history. The student of lit­er­ature might be drawn toward the light of God’s Truth in epic tales or through the music of poetry. Gerard Manly Hopkins – trans­lating Aquinas – is quoted on the south window of our beau­tiful chapel: “Truth Himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.” The philosopher will remember again the sun outside of Plato’s cave, and is there nothing the student of psy­chology wants more than to under­stand how wounded humanity might be drawn out of dark places?  

It is equally true for those archae­ol­o­gists of science, the physi­cists, chemists, biol­o­gists, and math­e­mati­cians, who uncover ele­ments, processes, equa­tions, and laws estab­lished aeons ago. Even the scholar of political science might find himself drawn into a pro­found under­standing of the “Laws of Nature, and of Nature’s God.” You see, if I could just stop com­plaining about God’s apparent absence, and through my studies respond to His invi­tation to be drawn into the open light of Truth as it is man­i­fested in His time and cre­ation, I am certain to per­ceive some­thing of His presence. He is, after all, that Shepherd who seeks His lost sheep. He is the Father who watches for the Prodigal’s repentant reap­pearance. He is Francis Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven.” Our dear Lord is in need of nothing. But He desires one thing. He has sac­ri­ficed Himself for that one thing. He desires that we accept His invi­tation to cease living as hidden men.

Kenneth Calvert is a pro­fessor of history at Hillsdale College.