R.C. Sproul: What can we know about God? That’s the most basic question of theology, for what we can know about God and whether we can know anything about Him at all determine the scope and content of our study. Here we must consider the teaching of the greatest theologians in history, all of whom have affirmed the “incomprehensibility of God.” By using the term incomprehensible, they are not referring to something we are unable to comprehend or know at all. Theologically speaking, to say God is incomprehensible is not to say that God is utterly unknowable. It is to say that none of us can comprehend God exhaustively. Incomprehensibility is related to a key tenet of the Protestant Reformation—the finite cannot contain (or grasp) the infinite. Human beings are finite creatures, so our minds always work from a finite perspective. We live, move, and have our being on a finite plane, but God lives, moves, and has His being in infinity.
Kyle Strobel: We often think of heaven as something that affects us after we die, with little impact on our daily lives now. Heaven feels speculative, ethereal, and impractical; we’re better off spending our time dealing with down-to-earth things. But Jonathan Edwards believed that being “too heavenly minded for earthly good” is an impossibility. The only way to be of true earthly good is to be heavenly minded. Thinking about heaven doesn’t take our eyes off of the world; it allows us to live in the world according to the way of Christ. Knowing God To live a heavenly life now you must “set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). The “things that are above” don’t primarily reference a place, but the triune God. Heaven is only “heavenly” because God is there. He’s the spring of love that gives life and direction to that place. The life we know
Sam Storms: In the opening words of his prayer to the Father in John 17, Jesus defines for us the essence of eternal life. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Sometimes I get the feeling that such texts as this were written distinctively and intentionally for our day and time. Of course, they are written for all God’s people in every age, but it is hard to think of a more immediately relevant statement to what we are facing today than what we find in v. 3. In a day when many are insisting that Allah, the alleged ‘god’ of Islam, is one and the same with the God and Father of Jesus Christ, this text is a ringing denunciation of that claim. Notice first that Jesus says the Father is “the only true God.” And this “Father” is explicitly said on countless occasions
We cannot know God fully. We can know him truly. This post by Erik Thoennes is adapted from the ESV Study Bible: The Incomprehensibility of God Scripture teaches that we can have a true and personal knowledge of God, but this does not mean we will ever understand him exhaustively. The Bible is clear that God is ultimately incomprehensible to us; that is, we can never fully comprehend his whole being. The following passages show this: Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. (Ps. 145:3) Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand? (Job 26:14) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your
What matters supremely is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it–the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is not a moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters. This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort–the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates–in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point
“Sound Bible exposition is an imperative ‘must’ in the church of the living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God.” A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (London, 1967), pages 9-10. (HT: Ray Ortlund)
Erik Raymond: What is your most prized possession? To find out we would only have to look at what you give your time, attention, and resources to. For the Christian, what should be the most prized possession? Everyone including the First Grade Sunday School Class just rightly answered, “Bible.” Very good; but, why? The reason why is because the Bible is rock of revelation that our faith is built upon. How do you know God? You know him from his word. There is a sense in which God’s character is revealed in creation (Ps. 19) and even to a degree within us as image bearers (Rom. 1). However, our view of this revelation is strained and the revelation itself is inferior. It is strained by virtue of our sin and the revelation is inferior to the Scriptures. The knowledge of God is chiefly given through the revelation of God by means of the word written and incarnate (Heb. 1:1-3; John 14:9; 2
Kevin DeYoung: When John Piper preached at our church two weeks ago, he talked about the very high view Muslims have of the sovereignty of God. They believe in a God who ordains whatsoever comes to pass. They believe in a God who knows the hairs on our heads. They believe in a God who can do as he pleases. So is there any difference between a sovereign Allah and the sovereign God of the Bible? Piper argued that in Islam the sovereignty of God operates independently of his other attributes, such that Allah can be capricious and arbitrary in his exercise of divine power. This is, no doubt, how some Christians see the Reformed view of God and why they reject it so strenuously. But when Calvin and other early Reformed thinkers exulted in God’s design and decrees, they typically did so with a different word besides “sovereignty.” They much preferred to talk about providence. Obviously, the two are related. There
Jennifer Wilkin: A few mornings ago, my son queued up Handel’s Messiah on his iPod and began playing it through the stereo. It was a day of cancelled school, so I sat, coffee in hand, with all four kids – some of us working, some of us reading the paper, all of us periodically humming or singing the parts we loved best – for the full two hours and 47 minutes of the recording. Hard to believe, since two years ago I couldn’t get them to suffer through a single track. What had changed? How had they grown to take pleasure in something they once found boring and pointless? The answer is one that is common to all humans, according to Paul Bloom, a Yale professor with a PhD in Cognitive Psychology. Dr. Bloom’s area of specialty is in pleasure research – how we as humans develop the ability to derive pleasure from people, experiences and things. He has discovered through his research
Jared Wilson posts: Look ye blind, that ye may see – Isaiah 42:18 “I come now . . . to show the truth of the doctrine; that is, to show that there is such a thing as that spiritual light that has been described, thus immediately let into the mind by God. And here I would show briefly, that this doctrine is both scriptural and rational . . . First, It is scriptural. My text is not only full to the purpose, but it is a doctrine that the Scripture abounds in. We are there abundantly taught, that the saints differ from the ungodly in this, that they have the knowledge of God, and a sight of God, and of Jesus Christ. I shall mention but few texts of many. 1 John 3:6, “Whosoever sinneth, has not seen him, nor known him.” 3 John 11, “He that doth good, is of God: but he that doth evil, hath not seen God.” John 14:19, “The
J. I. Packer: What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it—the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands [Isa. 49:16]. I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters. This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort—the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates—in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly
Great post from Trevin Wax: Evangelicals love to speak in theological shorthand. We employ phrases and terms that become popular, become a badge of identification, and over time get emptied of their meaning. Obedience Fueled by the Gospel? Take “gospel-centered” language as an example: Our obedience is fueled by the gospel. The gospel is what motivates our obedience. We need to be captured again by the gospel. We need be refreshed in the gospel every day. And on and on. The more I hear this kind of talk, the more I’m convinced that we are using the word “gospel” where we really mean the Holy Spirit. We often talk about the gospel doing stuff when actually it’s the Spirit who is working. So we say, “The gospel fuels our obedience,” but what we really mean is the Spirit captures our affections with the gospel in order to fuel our obedience. Now, knowing the Spirit, He probably doesn’t mind all that much that we’re devoting so much attention to Christ. That’s who He’s about, after all. But I do
Paul Tripp: It is hard to overstate the importance of functional awe of God to your ministry. Awe of God is one thing that will keep a church from running off its rails and being diverted by the many agendas that can sidetrack any congregation. Awe of God puts theology in its place. Theology is vitally important, but our awe of theology is dangerous if it doesn’t produce practical awe of God. Awe of God puts the ministry strategies of the church in their proper place. We don’t put our trust in strategies, but in the God of awesome glory who is the head of the church. Awe of God puts ministry gifts and experience in their proper place. I cannot grow arrogant and smug about my gifts, because unless those gifts are empowered by the glorious grace of the God I serve, they have no power to rescue or change anyone. Awe of God puts our music and liturgy
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. . . . For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. . . . Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is. Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God.” A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York, 1961), pages 9-10. (HT: Ray Ortlund)
From Desiring God.
My thanks to Justin Taylor for this: Kelly Kapic: It is important to note that Owen maintains an essential distinction between union and communion. Believers are united to Christ in God by the Spirit. This union is a unilateral action by God, in which those who were dead are made alive, those who lived in darkness begin to see the light, and those who were enslaved to sin are set free to be loved and to love. When one speaks of “union,” it must be clear that the human person is merely receptive, being the object of God’s gracious action. This is the state and condition of all true saints. Communion with God, however, is distinct from union. Those who are united to Christ are called to respond to God’s loving embrace. While union with Christ is something that does not ebb and flow, one’s experience of communion with Christ can fluctuate. This is an important theological and experiential distinction, for it protects the
If your knowledge of the Scriptures and of the doctrines of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has not brought you to this knowledge of the love of Christ, you should be profoundly dissatisfied and disturbed. All biblical doctrine is about this blessed Person; and there is no greater snare in the Christian life than to forget the Person Himself and to live simply on truths concerning Him. . . . We should never study the Bible or anything concerning biblical truth without realizing that we are in His presence, and that it is truth about Him. And it should always be done in an atmosphere of worship. Biblical truth is not one subject among others; it is not something that belongs to a syllabus. It is living truth about a living Person. That is why a theological college should be different from every other kind of college; and that is why a religious service is essentially different from
“If we have regarded religion merely as a means of getting things — even lofty and unselfish things — then when the things that have been gotten are destroyed, our faith will fail. When loved ones are taken away, when disappointment comes and failure, when noble ambitions are set at naught, then we turn away from God. We have tried religion, we say, we have tried prayer, and it has failed. Of course it has failed! God is not content to be an instrument in our hand or a servant at our beck and call. Has it never dawned on us that God is valuable for His own sake, that just as personal communion is the highest thing that we know on earth, so personal communion with God is the sublimest height of all? If we value God for His own sake, then the loss of other things will draw us all the closer to Him; we shall then have
From current Christian publications, you might think that the most vital issue for any real or would-be Christian in the world today is church union, or social witness, or dialogue with other Christians and other faiths, or refuting this or that ism, or developing a Christian philosophy and culture, or what have you. But our line of study makes the present-day concentration on these things look like a gigantic conspiracy of misdirection. Of course, it is not that; the issues themselves are real and must be dealt with in their place. But it is tragic that, in paying attention to them, so many in our day seem to have been distracted from what was, is, and always will be the true priority for every human being–that is, learning to know God in Christ. –J. I. Packer, Knowing God (1993 IVP ed.), 279 (HT: Dane Ortlund)
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