Knowledge of God

Only as we understand the character and nature of God can we understand every other doctrine properly.

GOD INCOMPREHENSIBLE

“Historically, the first undertaking for systematic theologians is the study of the incomprehensibility of God…. Theologically speaking, incomprehensible does not mean we cannot know anything about God but rather that our knowledge of Him will always be limited.” We “can never, not even in heaven, have an exhaustive knowledge of Him; we cannot totally comprehend all that He is.”

As John Calvin said, ‘the finite cannot grasp the infinite.’ …Our minds are finite, lacking the capacity to grasp or understand all that God is. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts [Isaiah 55:8-9]. He surpasses our ability to comprehend Him in His fullness.”

ANTHROPOMORPHISM

God in His graciousness and mercy condescends to address us in our language, just as a parent might talk “baby talk” when speaking to an infant.

“We find this idea in the Bible’s anthropomorphic language. Anthropomorphic …simply means ‘in human form.’ When we read in Scripture that the heavens are God’s throne and the earth is His footstool (Isa. 66:1),” we do not think that God is actually “a massive deity seated in heaven and stretching out His feet on the earth.”

“The Scriptures tell us that God is not a man – He is spirit (John 4:24) and therefore not physical – yet He is often described with physical attributes. There are mentions of His eyes, His head, His strong right arm, His feet, and His mouth.”

God speaks to us as finite human beings. We “do not conceive of power in the same way God conceives of power. He has an infinite understanding of power, whereas we have a finite understanding of it.” Therefore, God “speaks to us in the only language we can understand.”

GOD DESCRIBED

One of the most common ways to describe God is “by saying what He is not. For example, we have noted that God is infinite, which means ‘not finite.’ Similarly, human beings change over time. They undergo mutations, so they are called ‘mutable.’ God, however, does not change, so He is immutable, which means ‘not mutable.’”

                Another way to describe God is to take human concepts to the ultimate degree, such as the terms omnipotence [“all-powerful”] and omniscience [“all-knowing”]. God is all-powerful and all-knowing, whereas we are only partially powerful and knowing.

                The third way is that we positively make specific statements about the character of God, such as “God is one,” “God is holy,” “God is sovereign.”

But when we say, for example, that God is good, we do not mean that God’s goodness is identical to our goodness, but “that His goodness is like or similar to our goodness, …enough like ours that we can talk meaningfully with each other about it.”

[Adapted from Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul]