Q&A: The Value of God's Incomprehensibility

The Value of God's Incomprehensibility

What do theologians mean when they say that God is incomprehensible?

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Answer

Sometimes when we hear someone say that God is incomprehensible, we sort of react negatively to that well, can't I know him, can't I come to know him? And of course, the Bible is God's self-revelation. He has revealed himself so that we can come to know him in a personal way and that we can come to know something about him. But if you stop and think about it, if God is truly the infinite God, then my poor little mind, and even the best theological minds that have ever lived will not be able to comprehend him in his fullness. By definition, if I could comprehend him, I would be as great as he is. And so this is a very important part of our God is not a little God. He is not small enough that I can get all of him into my mind or into a book. We are grateful that he has revealed enough of himself and that he has provided for our salvation that we can come to have some understanding of him, and can come into fellowship with him to live rightly in fellowship with him, and to think rightly about him, though not exhaustively.

But the incomprehensibility of God is also an important part of our worship. When I come to worship God, the Lord the Triune God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ and provided for our salvation through Christ's death on the cross, through his incarnation, death on the cross, resurrection, ascension and session at God's right hand, who sits there now ready to minister to me and to all of his people the grace that we need, the forgiveness and cleansing and grace that we need to live. When I worship him, I worship him with adoration for all that I know about him, for his great love and his redemption. But I also worship with a sense of awe, because I realize that this God is so much more than what I understand C. S. Lewis has a good statement somewhere, though, that the prayer before all prayers is that it be the real "I" who prays, and it be the real "Thou" to whom I pray. And so, it's important, if we're going to pray to the real God and not to some God that we've made up in our own minds, some limited idea of God which really turns out to be an idol even if it is not shaped in an image, that we remember that God he has revealed himself and that revelation is wonderful, it's our salvation, we are accountable before it, and we are amazed at his love for us and yet, he is far, far more than that. I think sometimes some of the hard passages in the Bible help us to remember that, some of the things that people were squeamish about in the Old Testament, you know, you just need to remember that we can't put God in our box. And when we say define the love of God, it's not defined by my idea of love, it's defined by God himself in Scripture, in what he has done, and how he has revealed himself. So, the recognition that God is incomprehensible in his fullness. He is knowable in that he has revealed If he hadn't have revealed himself we wouldn't know anything. But he is knowable in that he has revealed himself, but he is incomprehensible and his fullness, is very, very important in our understanding of God and in our worship of him and obedience to him.

Answer by Dr. Gareth Cockerill

Dr. Gareth Cockerill is Professor of Biblical Interpretation and Theology at Wesley Biblical Seminary as well as Academic Dean