In his book, The Hiddenness Argument, J.L. Schellenberg argues that the hiddenness argument trumps arguments for God’s existence because the hiddenness argument is a deductive argument. However, according to Schellenberg, arguments for God’s existence tend to be inductive. Since the conclusions of deductive arguments necessarily follow from the premises, this trumps the structure of inductive arguments where the conclusions only follow with a particular degree of probability.
I don’t find Schellenberg’s distinction very compelling, even granting that it’s true that most/all arguments for God’s existence are inductive these days (are they?). While what he says might be true with respect to argument structure, it doesn’t address people themselves. What do I mean? Well, people themselves will have various confidence levels in certain premises of arguments, including deductive arguments. Even though a conclusion might necessarily follow from certain premises, one can still have a relatively low confidence level in the truth of each of the premises and/or assumptions of the argument.
There are certain assumptions/premises of Schellenberg’s argument that some people might not have high confidence in. Some of the assumptions of Schellenberg’s argument are as follows:
1. Beliefs are not a matter of choice
2. One must believe that God exists in order to have a personal relationship with God (or a conscious, reciprocal, and meaningful relationship).
3. God can always provide evidence causally sufficient for belief that God exists
I don’t think Schellenberg thinks all of the premises of his argument (or assumptions) are known with certainty. Specifically, Schellenberg seems to grant that we don’t know with certainty the premise in his argument that, “nonresistant nonbelief exists”. This means that one can’t just shrug off all the arguments for God’s existence, even if all the arguments are inductive in nature. One could have very high confidence in the truth of some inductive arguments for God’s existence, but have low confidence in Schellenberg’s deductive argument. What one needs to do is weigh the arguments for and against God’s existence, whether or not they are inductive or deductive, unless one thinks there is a deductive argument (for or against God’s existence) where all the premises/assumptions are known with certainty to be true. However, I don’t know of any philosopher of religion (or layman) who believes that there is such an argument.
Now, Schellenberg might reply to me by noting the distinction between objective and epistemic probability. But, I have already noted and granted the distinction.