Does God exist? That, of course, depends on what you mean by “God”. Philosopher Paul Moser suggests, “Much contemporary discussion of God’s existence suffers from consideration of an inferior counterfeit.” The search for God often aims too low. For example, one may look for the First Cause or Designer of the universe. One may instead wonder whether an all-powerful Sovereign directly controls all things.
The answers to these questions (either positive or negative) do not satisfy. Life is hard, even horrific at times. Naturalism inevitably leads to despair in the face of suffering. Mere theism (i.e. a First Cause, Designer, or Sovereign), however, offers little comfort. Something more is required. God must be good.
Accordingly, Paul Moser suggests that the search for God ought to begin by defining “the term ‘God’ as a supreme title of personal perfection rather than a proper name.” God—like President of the United States—is a title or office. One can discuss the office without yet knowing whether it is occupied. “A title can be meaningful but lack a titleholder.”
But why define God as a supreme title? Why not just a pretty good one (like Zeus, etc.)? Moser notes, “We can always lower the bar if our overall evidence calls for this.” In the meantime, we ought to consider whether the office of supreme personal perfection is occupied or vacant. This is an avenue worth pursuing, if only to rule it out.
A God worthy of worship
Supreme personal perfection entails worthiness of worship—worthiness of one’s full personal commitment to and trust in his “perfect goodness and authority.” Simply receiving worship is not enough—worship must be merited.
As such, any candidate for the office of God must be morally perfect. Mere unbridled power is not enough since “no mere potentiate who dominates over all others will qualify as God.” Might does not make right. The office of God requires inherent goodness—goodness by nature.
Of course, the content of moral perfection may be controversial today, especially among moral relativists, conventionalists, or nihilists. What is goodness? Who can define it? Without nailing down the controversial details, moral perfection can be thought to involve individual and relational elements.
The relational element, in turn, must at the very least involve “seeking what is morally best for all concerned … even towards enemies of God.” This relational moral power may be called agapē and is exemplified by enemy-love (all this without specifying a precise morality). This constitutes a necessary divine purpose. Should candidates for God fail to pursue the moral best for all others, they fall short of divinity so defined.
But what is morally best for humans? Naturally, moral perfection is morally best. So the office of God (so described) is committed to bringing about relational moral perfection in humans—agapē enemy-love. Humans, of course, freely resist this purpose and “are in no position to claim that they have satisfied the commandment to love others, including their enemies, unselfishly.”
Why not just crush human resistance and overrule human wills? “If God extinguished human wills, humans themselves would be extinguished as candidates for genuine moral relationships and companionship with God.” To extinguish human will is not morally best for humans, and therefore is conduct unbecoming the office of God. Rather, a God worthy of worship would use non-coercive means to bring about moral change in the human will.
Is the office of God occupied or vacant? What sort of evidence would one expect in either case? Given our understanding of this office, one should expect such a God to reveal himself in a manner that suits his divine purpose. Since human wills widely run counter to his purpose, one would expect God to employ all non-coercive means necessary to persuade humans to love their enemies just as God loves his enemies. This may include hiding at times and permitting severe conditions in human life.
This sheds some light on the human condition. For example, one must ponder “whether—and if so, why—a God worthy of worship would allow human life to be as severe or rigorously difficult as it actually is, at least at times.” It is naïve to presume that God would eliminate all undesirable elements in human experience. Perhaps the severity of life plays a non-coercive role in achieving God’s purpose for uncooperative human wills. As such, life’s severity may not in fact count as evidence against a God worthy of worship.
One cannot test whether the office of God is occupied using naïve expectations. By comparison, I do not suggest that if there was a President in the White House that he would have paid me a personal visit by now, or canceled my taxes (after all, I’m Canadian). One’s expectations for the office-holder must properly reflect the nature of the office. Evidence for God is no different.
Much more can be said about appropriate expectations for a God worthy of worship. Paul Moser does so in some detail in his The Elusive God, The Evidence for God, and The Severity of God. I hope to further discuss his thoughts on this matter in future posts.
 Paul K. Moser, The Severity of God: Religion and Philosophy Reconceived (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 16.
 Ibid., 12.
 Ibid., 11–12.
 Ibid., 12.
 Ibid., 12–13.
 Ibid., 17.
 Ibid., 13.
 Ibid., 17.
 Ibid., 13.
 Ibid., 17–18.
 Ibid., 14.
 Discussed in Moser’s The Elusive God and The Severity of God respectively.