Why doesn’t God make himself clearer?
In Philosophical Fragments Kierkegaard tells a parable which helps to answer the question. He admits it is not valid analogy (and the more I think about it the more I see its flaws), but he hopes that it will enlarge our imaginations so that we can begin to understand.
"Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden" he says. The trouble is that love cannot abide inequality between lovers ("love is exultant when it unites equals, but it is triumphant when it makes that which was unequal equal in love").
The king has three options in his pursuit of his beloved:
- He can bring her up to his level. He can shower her with gifts and give her a title. But he will then be concerned that the love will be spoiled by the inevitable doubt in the maiden’s mind “do I really love him or just love him because of his gifts?” Therefore the king will not do this because he wants his love to be happy.
- He can keep the inequality in their relationship. He can dazzle her with his glory and beauty while she remains in poverty. She will love him truly and be perfectly happy to be married to such a great king, but the king will not be happy because he wants to express his love and not just receive her love. He wants to glorify her and make her beautiful.
- He can come down to her level. He can give up all his wealth and power, not just in a charade but truly. She will then be happy in her love for him, and he can express his love to her by giving her all that he has… even if now all he has to give is himself.
It is because of nature of the God that we have and the nature of relationship that he wants with us that he didn’t just pull us out of current situation, or display himself to his poor bride “in all the pomp of his power, causing the sun of his presence to rise over her cottage, shedding a glory over the scene”. If he revealed himself in a ‘clearer’ way, then it would be a different God and seeking a different relationship than the one who came as a servant.
“But the servant-form is no mere outer garment, and therefore the God must suffer all things, endure all things, make experience of all things. He must suffer hunger in the desert, he must thirst in the time of his agony, he must be forsaken in death, absolutely like the humblest -- behold the man His suffering is not that of his death, but this entire life is a story of suffering; and it is love that suffers, the love which gives all is itself in want. What wonderful self-denial!”
I may not have expounded the parable correctly, so you are welcome to read the chapter online yourself. It was hard going, even having heard a lecturer summarise it, but it is worth marvelling over. There are lots of jewels in the details.