The Knowability of God

What’s remarkable is when the mind sets itself upon a concept that cannot be conceived; one that cannot be explored further than expression. One cannot ask the question, “What was before time and space?” because “before” can only be in time and space. It requires a change from one state to another, the measurement of which we call “time.” Our faculties are only equipped to probe as far as the beginning, and no further. For there is no “further” as far as it is defined locally and temporally. We may only ask, “what is existence without (not as a spatial or temporal preposition, but outside the conceptual sphere of) time and space?” Namely, what is existence without change? What is immutable existence? What is atemporal existence? To this we may only answer, “God.”

In a similar manner, we cannot ask what something completely other is. We can only understand and comprehend something to the degree that we have language, experience, and concepts to describe it. But if something is completely outside of our sphere of existence, how would we describe it? We can only say what it is not. Regarding how this something relates to time, we may only say it is not bound by the constant change from one state to another. This, however, only describes it negatively and does not tell us anything about how it in fact does operate. For such could never be truly conveyed if, indeed, it is wholly other. We may only say, “It is not like us.”

From this, one might argue for the unknowability of God. One may say that since God is so completely other and transcendent, it is impossible to have a true knowledge of him. Even if there were some revelation, it would either be beyond comprehension or so condescendingly accommodated to our faculties that it is completely removed from any real sort of truth. Such a position demands that all of our language and concepts originate from within the sphere of our own existence.

However, what if our concepts of truth, justice, beauty, love, reason, wisdom and the like are not byproducts of evolutionary processes or social constructions, but have their origin in God? What if they are given to man so that he may actually know something of God. If this be the case, man may know that God truly is something. This requires though that all these concepts be defined by God and not man, lest they be subjective, then revealed to us in some way. The Scriptures teach us, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27; ESV). Though God is truly other, we have an avenue by which we may know him: his image in which he created us. We may ask, “Has God created us with the capacity to truly know him?” The Holy Scriptures testify that this is the case (Jer 9:23-24; John 17:3; Rom 1:20-21). He even intervenes in the world so that men “should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Ac 17:27a). In Exodus we have God’s self-disclosure to Moses.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”
God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (Ex 3:14-15)

The pinnacle of God’s revelation of himself would not come for another 1400 years at the incarnation of Jesus Christ. “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30).

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Heb 1:1-4)

Thus asserting that man may know true things about God, is not to similarly assert that we can comprehend him. God is still completely other and we can only know him as far as he has revealed himself and equipped us in all our language, concepts, and faculties to understand. There are vast, uncharted oceans of the character of God, the quality of which man cannot even begin to understand, it being outside our realm of existence. Besides that, even the ocean of what we can know about God which is before us cannot be explored to its furthest point or deepest depth. It is most certainly true that “the secret things belong to the LORD” (Deut 29:29).

O God, you are transcendent yet immanent. You are incomprehensible yet knowable.

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