Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, part 9
No, seriously, really don’t hold me to that! Forgive me, Padre, for I have sinned: it’s been over a month since my last blog on Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. The last few chapters I read in it drained me of all enthusiasm I had for this project, and I no longer feel the pressure from outside forces to firmly know what I believe about certain topics. I’m ok with doubt and uncertainty, and certainty may be the problem itself.
Chapter 10 – The Knowability of God
Can we know God? I firmly believe that we can, but the problem lies when our knowing of God becomes the de facto knowing of God. There have been countless godly men and women throughout Church history who have known God, and all paint a similar picture, but the details can widely vary. Can they all be right, or must one be absolutely right while the others are false? If anyone knew the Father perfectly, it was the Son. We don’t and can’t. Perhaps a better question instead of “Can we know God?” is “Can God know us?” To that, I would definitely say yes, and it is through God knowing us that we begin to relate to and know God.
Wayne Grudem starts off this chapter by showing from Scripture the necessity for God to reveal Himself to us. He mentions the revelation of God through nature, but remarks how man can confuse and corrupt this revelation. It’s important also that we receive personal knowledge of God that comes in salvation. “This kind of knowledge of God is not found through human effort or wisdom: ‘in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom.'” Nature, more than revealing God, helps us understand the testimony about God. Nature shows us that God is good and loving, for instance; but also at times he can be terrifying.
We can never fully understand God. I know many would argue with Wayne Grudem on this point, but I’m not one of them. I think there are mysteries and aspects to God that we will never fully know. Many will throw out the verses such as “all things are revealed to those who are in the Spirit”, and the “hidden and mysterious things of God he made known”, or even the great Job 33:3, “Call unto me and I will reveal things to you” (obviously I’m paraphrasing), but no where in Scripture does it explicitly state without butchering the text that God will reveal all truth and all knowledge and all mysteries to a single person. Some truth, some knowledge, especially as it pertains to Jesus and salvation, sure. But no one can walk around and claim he knows all because God revealed or reveals it to him.
I like mystery. I like there to be questions left unanswered. That may be what is partly driving this postmodern age we live in, the desire to get away from, not so much absolute truth, but absolute certainty, so that there can be mystery, and questions, and answers either new or non-established. I especially appreciate this insight by Grudem – “Even in the age to come, when we are freed from the presence of sin, we will never be able fully to understand God or any one thing about him. (pg 151)” Amen. My inner post-pentecostal is screaming “but we can live free from the presence of sin right now, today is the day of salvation, right now! So we can fully understand God through the Spirit!” But part of the goal of this study is to utterly and ruthlessly kill that inner voice and all other inner voices except for my own and God’s.
“Because God is infinite and we are finite or limited, we can never fully understand God. In this sense God is said to be incomprehensible, where the term incomprehensible is used with an older and less common sense, ‘unable to be fully understood.’ This sense must be clearly distinguished from the more common meaning, ‘unable to be understood.’ It is not true to say that God is unable to be understood, but it is true to say that he cannot be understood fully or exhaustively.”(pg. 150)
Yet We Can Know God Truly. Love the title of this section. “Even though we cannot know God exhaustively, we can know true things about God.” Amen and hallelujah.
This was a quick chapter. The next two chapters, which is where I left off a month or so ago, easily feel like they are around 200 pages combined. I’m not certain when I’ll get to it, but I know I need to continue on this study. Coming up soon – “The Incommunicable Attributes” of God.