How Much Can We Know God?

What can we know of God and His ways?

Thought Experiment:  Imagine two kinds of people who answer this question oppositely.

The first is one who knows everything.  If you’ve got a question, he’s got an answer.  There’s nothing in the world that can’t be known about God.  Knowledge of God is wielded with absolute certainty and as we all know certainty is arrogance.  Ever met this guy?  You know what?  I never have.  I’ve heard about him, heard him complained about, but I’ve never met him personally.  Truth is, I’m starting to doubt that he exists.  I’ve read many Biblical commentaries theology texts and even the most conservative never say that everything can be known of God.  Absolute knowledge of the infinite can never be had.

Imagine a second person now, one who has been discouraged by the supposed existence of the mythical first guy.  She claims that nothing can truly be known about God because He (?) is shrouded with impenetrable mystery.  Anything that can be said about God mustn’t be trusted because anything said with certainty limits the infinite.  This person is not as mythical as the first; I have met a few like her.  Many think Christian believers are arrogant because we claim to know everything about God.  Well, we don’t.  We can’t.  Some cards He holds to His chest.  But surely, on a spectrum of knowledge between absolute and none there is somewhere to stop that can be both humble and confident.


What can we know of God and His ways?  As in many areas, God’s truth here rests between two absurd extremes.  Here it is:

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.  Deut 29:29

A beautiful little statement that stirred my soul.  Of course, Moses here is referring to God’s Law being given but there isn’t really any reason that this doesn’t apply to all His self-disclosure.  Here’s my brilliant paraphrase:  What we can’t know, we can’t know but what we can, we can.  And we can pass it on and must do something about it.  Knowledge of the infinite doesn’t limit because there is no end to knowing the infinite God.  God doesn’t tell us everything but what He does, He does.This is a great act of kindness on the part of the Divine Communicator.  Knowing something of God’s nature or will isn’t like stealing fire from heaven.  In His loving kindness He brings some knowledge down to us.  What he has given us to know is actually a great deal, I expect to spend all my days searching it out.  And past the grave, there may be much more to learn.

Why do we need to know about God?  In order to do something about Him.  What He tells us about Himself and His work, we must decide about.  Whether we will believe and have faith, or dismiss and reject.  We are called to faith in Who He says He is.  What He tells us about how we should then live in light of Him, we must obey and do.  …that we may do all the words…  Maybe it’s that that keeps us wanting to not know anything.  You don’t have to trust in what you can’t know.  And you certainly don’t have to obey.  Could love of unknowing actually be a smokescreen for unwillingness to follow?  Could sophisticated sounding ambiguity be a mask for disobedience?  As philosopher Peter Kreeft once said.  “Peasant farmers understand what God wants from them, washer women do too.  You have to go to seminary to get confused about it.” *

We can never know it all but what we can, we can.  And what we have been given to know make claims upon us.  God help us to believe.
*  This is my paraphrase because I can’t remember the exact lecture!


One thought on “How Much Can We Know God?

  1. Pingback: A Pox on False Choices! | Words of Truth & Reason

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