I really like theology. Throughout my relationship with the Lord, I’ve often found myself more at home in the academic realm than anywhere else. Thick books with big words and complicated explanations concerning the nature of God have long captivated my interest and stirred my heart for the Lord. I get excited when I get a better grasp of a doctrine, and I am thrilled when I get to share with others about possible ways of understanding the God of our salvation and his ways in the world. I desire to know him and to make him known, as the saying goes. But to grow in an understanding of God is to recognize that God will never be fully understood through my studies in this life.
Paul says it like this:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
The truth I have to come to terms with is that God will always be beyond the scope of human comprehension. No amount of learning will ever fully grasp his nature, his wisdom, his magnitude. Part of this, of course, is due to the fact that we now “see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Sin, I believe, affects our ability to perceive truth and to understand it rightly. But a large part of this inability to fully know all there is to know about God is simply due to God’s apparent infinity compared to our finitude. As I think I’ve shared before, I love Job 26. There, God is seen as great and awesome. In response to his friends, Job says, that,
“The dead tremble under the waters and their inhabitants. Sheol is naked before God, and Abaddon has no covering. He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing. He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not split open under them. He covers the face of the full moon and spreads over it his cloud. He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness. The pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke. By his power he stilled the sea; by his understanding he shattered Rahab. By his wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent. Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?”
The mighty acts of God in creation are not only signs of his sustaining power (see Colossians 1:15-17), but, according to Job, these are but outskirts and whispers of his ways. The things that make men tremble, the things that are beyond the control of men, are the smallest glimpses at God’s glory and might. As the people learned in Exodus 19 and 20, it is a terrifying thing to behold the Lord, even in small measure.
God is beyond my comprehension, but that does not decrease my desire to know him. Rather, I am encouraged to pursue even more fully this great God, because I know that the journey will never end. There will always be more to learn, more to understand, more to study. This is a source of great joy.
This is also a great challenge. I must continually lay down my pride, reminding myself that I simply cannot have all of the answers. I’m taking a class now that studies how God reveals himself, and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned thus far is simply that we can only know God insofar as he has revealed himself, and that we often get in trouble and stray from the path when we begin to exalt our knowledge and understanding above God himself. The pursuit of God in theology must include an acceptance of humble ignorance.
There are things we may never understand. But let this not stifle our desire to know him. Let this not keep us from pouring ourselves out for his name’s sake. Let us never cease to seek his face. Let us worship this God who has made himself known to man. Let us follow the Lord who opened the doors of fellowship to sinners like you and me. And let us always learn about, always grow in, and always declare forth the wonders of his glory and love.