During the Emerging Church conversation a few years ago, there was a lot of talk about mystery. What can we know? How can we know it? Should mystery be embraced?
When it comes to God, the Bible seems to simultaneously encourage and dispel mystery. The Bible is God's revelation to humanity, and in it, he discloses himself. And yet, the Bible often reminds us of what we can't know about God.
- The Apostle Paul tells us that God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16).
- Many passages in Scripture portray God as distant, removed, altogether holy and distinct from us.
- The Psalmists praise his glory and greatness, saying that no one can fathom just how awesome he is (Ps. 145:3).
- His knowledge is too wonderful for us.
- His thoughts are so high and lofty that we cannot think them after him (Psalm 139:6).
- His ways are beyond finding out (Romans 11:33).
Verses like these clue us in on the fact that God is not like us. We were made in his image, yet we seek constantly to make him into ours. Coming to grips with the magnificence of God reminds us that we cannot fully comprehend him. If we could completely wrap our minds around God, then we might as well trade places with him. We would become God, and he would become a creation of our own imagination.
Seeking to understand God always leads us to a place of mystery.
Mysteries intrigue us. Many novels, short stories, television shows, and movies utilize the compelling genre of mystery, in which more and more truth is revealed as the story progresses. In the Scriptures, the truth of God's nature is also revealed progressively, culminating in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
But even world-class theologians who have become experts on studying the nature of God will admit that the more they learn about God, the more they realize how much is left to learn. The more we know about the infinite God, the more we see the finiteness of humanity.
Finite Before the Infinite
But this is a good place to be. It's a big thing to know you're small. Being aware of our smallness both frightens and comforts us. Our fear of the infinite, holy God drives us to our knees - just as it did Isaiah. Yet in this posture of worship, we sense comfort. Deep down in our bones, we know we were made to worship. We were created to stand as finite creatures before an infinite God. Once our sin is exposed, we are driven to our knees in repentance before a mighty God whose perfect attributes have no end.
Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote:
"The whole law of human existence lies in this: that man be able to bow down before the infinitely great."
C.S. Lewis said our talk about God is like staring at the sun. We cannot fully take in the sun's brilliance, but its radiance enables us to see everything else.
God's essence remains, in part, a mystery. If we are to embrace God, we must embrace this mystery. We must bow before the infinite with the firm realization that his ways are past finding out. We must put our hand over our mouth and recognize the unchanging holiness of the Holiest One. And to think that the Infinite God put on humanity and dwelt among us...
Well, now my small heart pounds with gratitude for the great love of a big God.
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