Indescribable

Indescribable

"The perfection of learning is to know God in such a way that, though you realize he is not unknowable, yet you know him as indescribable." - Hilary of Poitiers

There is something profound about the Christian faith. We confess that God is the only absolute being. That is to say, he is above all and, therefore, incomprehensible or unknowable in his being. However, the moment we have said this, we have said something about God. We claim a certain kind of knowledge. Ironically, when we say that we can't know God, we are making a claim about something we can know about him. We know that we can't know him. That very statement takes quite a bit of knowledge of God to even make it. Augustine said:

We are speaking of God. Is it any wonder if you do not comprehend? For if you comprehend, it is not God you comprehend. Let it be a pious confession of ignorance rather than a rash profession of knowledge. To attain some slight knowledge of God is a great blessing to comprehend him, however, is totally impossible."

God is incomprehensible. He is unknowable in his being. He is unknowable because as an absolute being he is infinite and we are not. The finite can not grasp the infinite. There is a limitation to the knowledge that the created can have the creator. On this, the church and Scripture agree with all the agnostics who say that God cannot be known. However, contrary to the agnostics, the church and Scripture say something different about the claim of the incomprehensibility of God. They say that our knowledge of God is unique to the knowledge of anything else in the world.

It is unique because we can say positively that God is infinite. That is, he is completely distinct from all of creation. Yet, all other claims we make about him have to be negative. To put it another way, nothing we say about God can be understood in exactly the same way it is understood when talking about creation. At its core, because God is incomprehensible, all our language about him then must be mere analogy.

It is only by analogy that we can say that we have knowledge of the unknowable, and the reason we have knowledge is because he has chosen to reveal himself. He has made himself known, chiefly in the person of Christ. Nevertheless, all analogy needs an univocal center (that is a center that functions as a sort of key to understanding the analogy). For God, Christ, who is the Word made flesh, functions as the key, the univocal center of revelation. He is the key to our understanding of God. It is in knowing Christ that we are able to delve into the mysteries of God.

Bavinck starts out volume 2 of the Reformed Dogmatics with this line, "Mystery is the lifeblood of dogmatics." It is this mystery about which he is talking. Trying to plumb the depths of the God that we worship. He is unknowable, yet he has made himself known. He is incomprehensible, yet we can apprehend him.

Oh the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable are 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 and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. - Roman 11:33-36

 

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Knowing God

Knowing God

Creation and the Trinity

Creation and the Trinity