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Friday, July 18, 2008

Thoughts about Mystery

The first statement we can make about God is also the last. God is utterly and ultimately incomprehensible. God is beyond us. God is transcendent and even the divine imminence is baffling to us. The infinite cannot be contained by the finite. The limitless is not bound by limitations. Certainly, we have some sense of God. We gain insights and like Moses can on occasion glimpse the afterburners of God. But to know God well, let alone completely, is simply further than the reaches of human capacity.

Some bristle against this assertion, thinking “in heaven someday, I will understand it all.” The apostle Paul said that during his earthly life, he knew in part, as we all do. Yet he did not follow up that statement with its inverse, “and one day I will fully know,” as we might expect. Rather, he said, “one day, I will be fully known.” Paul had no expectation that one day he would reach the outskirts of divine understanding. He, and we, will always know in part.

For generations now theology books have been written to provide answers about God. Proof-texts and outlines and explanations have filled volumes in an effort to dissect God. Yet the unintended consequence of these efforts is that mystery has been sucked out of God. What is more beautiful and captivating – a butterfly in flight or one pinned to a science project?

It might very well be that good theology leaves us with more questions than answers. Good theology might well feed our doubts as much our faith. Good theology points us in the direction of the God who is yet beyond our reach. The incomprehensibility of God puts mystery at the heart of theology.

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2 comments:

Laurie said...

My thoughts and feelings exactly! The more I know about God, the more I know that I don't know. And the older I get, the more convinced I am that sin distorts my perception about absolutely everything. It's certainly humbling. Makes community even more vitally important than ever.

innerworking said...

We visited your church today. we met your wife. I remember her saying that she thought we were the coolest visitors in the history of visitors....
Okay. I am a big liar. She didn't say that. We enjoyed it- and we will be visiting again next Sunday. We are looking for a church home.