Solid Snippet Article #033

Divine Mystery

Knowing the Unknowable God
March 2012


There is a paradox concerning God and His people. He is in some ways knowable, and yet in others, He is beyond our knowledge or ability to comprehend Him. This comes into view when we are worshipping God. We want to worship Him with the words and abilities that we have to recognize His attributes. But words fall short and our finite brain cannot comprehend the infinite. We struggle with this because we want to know God more, but we also know that we will never know Him fully.

Paul especially helps us to see this paradox throughout his writings. In 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, Paul explains how the Holy Spirit knows the depths of Godís mind and also sees the thoughts of human beings. The Holy Spirit is like a middleman, an interpreter or interceder between God and humanity. Paul has already told us that the things we think we know, or boast about knowing are minute compared to Godís knowledge. How indeed could the infinite be housed in the finite?

We canít wrap our minds around all of Godís attributes and all that He is. But we werenít meant to. We werenít created to know all things. Some people suggest that when we get to heaven we will know all things. They might cite 1 Corinthians 13:12. I donít believe we will know all things, but that we will know what we need to know. Knowing all things is an attribute of God, not human beings, just like having an amphibious nature between spirit and body is part of human nature. One of the things that makes us human is having a body and a spirit. God is spirit alone, without a body. Jesus is unique in that He is both God and human.

Paul even quotes from Isaiah about not having full revelation of what God can do in 1 Corinthians 2:9. It is hard to worship God sometimes because of this paradox of knowledge. We want to worship Him for who He is, but we have to know Him to worship His character. We want to worship Him for what He has done, but there are some things we donít know Heís doing, especially what we are going through right now. Most of the time in our lives, it is easier to see Godís work in the past, not in the present. But how can we worship God fully if we donít fully know Him?

Some give up because of this paradox. Since they cannot know God and fully worship Him, they give up and donít try to get to know Him. Giving up on knowing God is not a biblical way to deal with this paradox. Though we cannot fully know God, we can know Him in part. And if we can know Him in part, then we should fill our minds and hearts with what we can understand of God. Even about other subjects, there are things we donít know or understand. Scientists love to make the point that in time, we will understand something better and with the increase in technology. We have seen that these are powerful tools for learning. But we are never going to be able to fit the infinite into the finite.

I believe that even moreso in our Western cultures, we have a big issue with this fact of unknowability. We live in a world that uses information more than any other age or culture. We are used to having the facts, all the facts. We are used to the ideas posed by modernity, that we can know something and be able to reproduce it. Our historians record every detail, even the most boring or unimportant ones. We catalogue everything! Sometimes that extent of knowledge is useful and helps us to see things we never saw before.

I think because of our culture and being used to having such incredible amounts of knowledge at our fingertips, we find it hard to come to grips with the possibility that there are things we donít know and will never know in this life, at least, about God. But another important point must be made about knowledge. If we knew everything about God and knew Him fully, how would He be God? The one thing I have learned as I study other religions is that you know they are man-made when they make you happy without making you sacrifice, or when they are completely understandable.

There are parts of my faith I cannot explain to anyone. If I could, I wouldnít feel like I was going beyond myself in faith for resources I donít possess. After all, when youíre at the end of your rope, and youíve tried everything you know to try, how could a fully comprehensible and knowable God help you more than youíve helped yourself? Part of faith is seeing what we can see of God, and trusting Him for the rest we canít see. That is why faith is hard. That is why God only provides evidence and doesnít just force us by seeing Him in all His glory to worship Him. We must trust for a bit of who He is.

The mystery that we face should not shut us off to a deeper relationship with God, a more worshipful attitude, or make us feel like the journey is not worth it to begin to know God. In fact, the mystery should make us more apt to worship God, to trust in Him, and to bring our enigmas to Him! It brings me great comfort to know that God, who knows all things, is my best friend. I donít want information overload. I want someone who can guide me to what I need to know.

On my test to become a licensed pastor with the Assemblies of God, I got a few questions wrong. Almost none of them were theology questions, though. Most of them were with how to do my taxes or things like that. During the test interview, where they go over the questions I got wrong, they asked me if I knew these things. I told them if I could look it up, there was no sense in putting it in my brain. The point I was trying to make is that I donít need to know how to work my taxes every moment of every day. I only need to reference that knowledge periodically. I wanted to use my limited capacity for memory on things that I could use every day, like how to study Scripture. This is why we have libraries, because we donít know all things.

I can take comfort in not knowing all things about God because I know He will show me what I need to know for that time and for that moment. When I feel like Iím all alone and have nowhere to turn, God teaches me the knowledge that He never leaves or forsakes me. When I have a financial need or any other need, God teaches me that He is my Provider. I learn the knowledge about Him that I need. Knowing that God is immovable does not help me unless I need a strong fortress, a mighty tower, to run to! We can know what we need to know about God.

Worship can work both ways for such a paradox. I have found that I begin worship often by speaking of what I know about God. I worship Him for who He is in my life, the things He has done in my life. Sometimes I worship Him for what He has done throughout time and space. Other times I tell Him how awesome and wondrous He is, even in what I know of Him, the paradoxes that make my brain go crazy when I begin to think on Him and His ways.

But what I often find is that this is simply a gateway to worship God for the mysteries that are all around me. I have found that gaining knowledge helps me to worship God because I begin to see how incredible and amazing His creativity and mind really are. But other times, I find that I am worshipping God because He is beyond me, wholly other and different, a mystery. God surprises me, and He is there doing things I canít understand, but yet His intent is always for my good. I can worship Him for the things I donít know, because He knows them. I can worship out of my intelligence and out of my ignorance. I can revere God for what I know He is and can do, and I can revere Him because He can do more than I ask or imagine.

He never gets old because Iím always learning that He can do more than I thought. Thatís the kind of God who can be served a million lifetimes with a million surprises. Thatís the kind of God I can believe in, because while He makes great strides to come to my level and show Me Himself so that I can know Him, He also is completely unfathomable and gloriously greater than I can comprehend. And for both the knowledge of Him I have, and the knowledge of Him I donít have, I can bow at His feet and enjoy the friend who sticks closer than a brother, but is wholly other.