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Embracing the Mysteriousness of God

First, let me put away another mystery, though I doubt anyone was wondering that much. I’ve been working on a couple of new book releases and the resulting schedule kept me from blogging most of the week. No mystery there!

The word “mystery” is rather popular today, but only in the sense of something to be solved through the application of proper efforts and skilled detective work. We like mysteries because we like to solve them.

That’s why I used the word “mysteriousness.” God is essentially mysterious, not in a sense of something that will be solved, but rather in the sense of something–or Someone–who will ever elude our best efforts to understand.

This is a piece of baggage that comes with the notion of a God who is infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, or anything similar. We cannot totally comprehend infinity. We cannot really embrace all knowledge. As soon as we attribute such characteristics to God, we are doomed to a certain amount of mystery, in fact a very substantial amount of mystery.

I encounter this most frequently in discussing Biblical inspiration. Why could God not have made the Bible more straightforward, or speak to us in ways that leave no doubt? Why can’t he answer all our questions? Why doesn’t he make his presence more clearly manifest?

Those are good questions, and ones I’m not about to answer! That’s not my topic here.

There’s a certain conversation that takes place between Christian believers and others that goes something like this: Question about Christianity, Answer, Question about Christianity, Answer, … Excessively difficult question about Christianity, “God is a mystery.”

Now many people have a problem with this resort to mystery. It seems like a dodge or perhaps sidestep. I have a problem with it as well, but only in its positioning. It shouldn’t be the last resort; it should be embraced at the first.

I believe in the doctrine of infinite ignorance. God is infinite, suggesting there is an infinity to know about God. I am finite, so any amount of knowledge I hold is finite. Subtract any finite amount from infinity, and you still have infinity. Therefore I am infinitely ignorant of God.

I would like to note I am not saying that I know nothing at all of God. Invert that statement, and one must note that the fact that any finite amount subtracted from infinity leave infinity does not mean that the finite portion is non-existent or even negligible from the proper point of view.

What I am suggesting is that, as Christians, we embrace first God’s mystery. Celebrate how much beyond us he is. Give the “that’s a mystery” response first rather than as a last resort.

We’re stuck with God as mystery, because if we make him fully comprehensible he will no longer be God, at least not in the sense meant by Bible writers and by Christians through the ages.

This may not satisfy questioners, but it is, at least, honest and open from the start. No I don’t know all there is to know about God. I only know a very, very small amount. I’m willing to share with you my attempts at understanding, but I’m always aware of the size of my subject.

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2 Comments

  1. Martin LaBar says:

    No. If God were completely comprehensible to us, He wouldn’t really be God.

  2. Good point. It’s the absolutely definite answers that tend to diminish God while also causing the most unnecessary trouble.

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