Systematic Theology 10: The Knowability of God

How much of God can we actually know? If you are anything close to my age and have been around Churches in the last 10 years, you will likely remember a song by Chris Tomlin called: Indescribable.

The song worships God, not just for all His powerful acts and mighty works, but also for His mystery. When I was a teenager I read a book by Matt Redman who talked about “the Otherness of God”.

In this chapter, Grudem explores this theme, by answering the question: how much of God can we actually know?

Firstly, we see that in order for us know anything about God, He must first reveal Himself to us. To quote Matt Redman again, the pattern of worship: “He reveals, we respond”. We see Him reveal Himself through scripture, through nature, through the Son (Matthew 11:27), through wisdom etc…and yet our sin, and our sinful nature/tendencies blind us to His many revelations (Romans 1:18).

Secondly, even though God habitually and frequently reveals part of Himself, we must concede that human beings can never fully understand God. This flows not just from scriptures like the psalms that explain that He is ‘unsearchable’ (145:3), ‘beyond measure’ (147:5) and ‘too wonderful for me’ (139:6). But also from a logical point of view…how can the finite, ever fully grasp the ‘Infinite’.

One objection to this point is usually made in reference to 1 Corinthians 13:12 which says ‘now I know in part, then I shall understand fully’. However, as Grudem points out, the Greek for ‘understand fully’ means to ‘understand without error’ – not ‘know all things’. In the same way I can understand correctly how my coffee is brewed in the morning, I still do not know the full extent of the brewing process in all it’s complexities. (I’m no coffee expert).

The lack of ability to know God fully, isn’t just because of our sin – though it does play a role in blinding us – but it is also because of His infinite greatness.

Nevertheless, we can and still should seek to grow in increasing knowledge of God (Col 1:10).

Thirdly, despite our limited capacity to know God fully, we can still know God truly. We can know true things of God, because of Scripture. For example we know that He is love, that He is good, and that He is working all things together for our good and His glory. We can know God as a personal relationship, not just exhaustive facts about Him.

In fact, this is what God desires for us: Jeremiah 9:23-24, John 17:3, 1 John 2:13.

We may never know God fully, but we can and we should, seek Him with our entirety. It is a great comfort that we will never find out too much, that we may discover new things every day and still learn more for eternity.

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