Thursday, June 24, 2010

How great is our God!

I've been thinking about what theologians call the "incomprehensibility" of God. By this they mean that our knowledge of God is limited by our finite capacities. We will never fully comprehend his nature and attributes though we may spend an eternity trying. He "dwells in unapproachable light" (1 Tim. 6:16). However, despite our limitations we can possess true and genuine knowledge of God because we are his image-bearers and because he's graciously made himself known. I like how the editors of the Reformation Study Bible explain it:

As it would be wrong, however, to suppose ourselves to know everything about God (and so in effect to imprison Him in the box of our own limited notion of Him), so it would be wrong to doubt that our concept of God constitutes real knowledge of Him. One of the consequences of being made in God's image is that we are able both to know about Him and to know Him relationally, in a true if limited way. Calvin speaks of God as condescending to our weakness and accommodating Himself to our incapacity, both in the inspiration of the Scriptures and the incarnation of the Son, in order to give us genuine understanding of Himself. By analogy, the form and substance of a parent's baby-talk bears no comparison with the full contents of the parent's mind, which might be expressed in conversation with another adult; but still the child receives true information about the parent from the baby-talk, and responds with growing love and trust.

Baby talk is something I understand pretty well by now, and the analogy is helpful in that it also reminds me that God's proper name is Father of my Lord Jesus Christ. If you know Jesus you know the Father. If you don't know Jesus you don't know the Father. The Old Testament often uses anthropomorphic language to describe God. God is said to have a face, ears, eyes, feet, etc. A good example is Isaiah 59:1 (NIV) "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear." The LORD doesn't literally have arms and ears, but the language helps us understand something of his true character. As we delve into these mysteries it's important to remember that knowledge of God is not an end in itself. Theology without doxology is an empty exercise. Again, I like how the RSB sums it up.

We should never forget that the purpose of theology is doxology; we study in order to praise. The truest expression of trust in God will always be worship, and it will always be proper worship to praise God for being greater than we know.

Chris Tomlin's lyrics express well this connection between knowing God and praising God.

How great is our God,
Sing with me
How great is our God,
And all will see
How great
How great is our God!

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