Coffee Table Theology
- Nothing out of his control - The sovereignty of God (1)
- Clinging to the Rock - the immutability of God (2)
- God is self-sufficient (3)
- God is Omniscient (4)
- God is incomprehensible (5)
- God Is Omnipresent (6)
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, after reading this article, you concluded that I really don’t know what I am talking about. In fact, I very much hope that is what you will conclude.
I don’t know what I’m talking about. And neither do you. Because I’m going to be talking about God. And God is incomprehensible. Or to use Scripture’s phraseology, ‘his greatness is unsearchable’ (Ps. 145:3). What does that mean?
God is unsearchable
Let’s begin with what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to know anything about God, far less that it’s impossible to know him. Nor does it mean that we should be agnostic or uncertain about what may or may not be true about him. The Bible reveals a God who can be known and is full of true statements about who he is and what he is like.
But not a single one of them is an exhaustive statement. Instead, Scripture pulses with countless statements of how a full and complete understanding of God will always be out of our reach. It’s not only ‘his greatness’ that’s ‘unsearchable’, it’s also ‘his understanding’ (Isa. 40:28), ‘his judgements’ (Rom. 11:33), his ‘riches’ (Eph. 3:8) and even ‘the number of his years’ (Job 36:26). His love too, ‘surpasses knowledge’ (Eph. 3:19). And where does he dwell? In ‘unapproachable light’ (1 Tim. 6:16). So you may be, or become, an expert on many things but I guarantee that God will never be one of them. In the book None like him, Jen Wilkin puts it like this: ‘The only expert on God is God.’
Chew on this for a moment. The truth of God’s incomprehensibility isn’t that he is simply ‘so big’ that there is too much for us to take in all at once – as though, theoretically, given enough time and mental energy (and perhaps a colossally powerful search engine), you could steadily work your way through all there is to know about him, gradually expanding what has been discovered and gradually reducing what remains mysterious. No, for both you and the search engine would always remain confined to operating within the world of the creature.
God is not part of that world.
We can only search for what can be sought. But according to those texts, God is unsearchable. He cannot be googled. There are realities in God which are not simply yet to be discovered; they are in fact beyond all discovery. And they shall be eternally. Even with a perfect mind and unclouded soul in the new creation, you will never grasp an infinite number of things about God. You will still be a creature. He will still be the Creator. In the words of Augustine: ‘We are speaking of God. Is it any wonder you do not comprehend? For if you comprehend, it is not God you comprehend.’
God reveals himself
And yet, as I said earlier, it is still God you can know – truly, richly, clearly, personally.
Because of Jesus.
‘No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known’ (John 1:18). ‘No one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Luke 10:22).
When set against the backdrop of the utter incomprehensibility of God, the sheer revelatory power and clarity of the incarnation ought simply to stagger us. No, God cannot be searched; but he does reveal himself – and what a revelation! He cannot be googled; but boy, does he speak! In Christ we have both ‘the whole fullness of deity’ (Col. 2:9) and someone from Northern Israel that 2,000 years ago you could just bump into – someone you can be friends with.
I suppose you might also be a little concerned. There are things we’ll never know about God. I grant that this might feel a bit ‘unsafe’ to you. Or you may be concerned that perhaps hiding in these mysterious realms of the Almighty are some unpleasant surprises – some things you’d rather not know about. Perhaps that’s why he keeps them concealed.
God is good
But fear not. Everything you don’t know about God – even that which will stay hidden to you in the new creation – is simply another good thing you don’t know about him. For there is nothing but good in God. ‘The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works’ (Ps. 145:17). Jen Wilkin puts it this way: ‘In a sense, God has a closet filled with infinite secrets about himself, but it contains only priceless treasures, no skeletons.’
The mind-bending, heart-assuring truth of God’s incomprehensibility is that you will never know just how good he is. Before long, the earth will be filled with the wonder of endless discovery, as on each dawnless day, God smiles and allows us to perceive yet more new beauties in his glory. Every corner you round in God will reveal fresh delights to his character which you never saw before. Jen Wilkin describes it as being ‘like a Christmas morning with always another present to unwrap.’ There will never be a dull moment. There will never be a hint of a plateau in our friendship: always, ever deeper, richer, stronger. And this, amazingly, all because of God’s incomprehensibility – not in spite of it.
So I hope that you can see why, when it comes to God, there’s a very real sense in which I truly don’t know what I’m talking about. But I also hope you can see why that is a stunningly good thing. I hope it might leave you taking a step back with the apostle Paul, and exclaiming – ‘Oh!’
Oh! The depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways! (Rom. 11:33).
Eleven full chapters of the most sustained, logical argument about God and his ways do not leave Paul straightening his papers and saying, ‘Great. Everything plain now?’
No. It leaves him open–mouthed. It leaves him worshipping.
Next in this series: God Is Omnipresent »