The Mystery of God

One of the biggest challenges to the belief that God exists is that the concept of God is incoherent. All the properties we traditionally associate with God, like omnipotence, omniscience, goodness, immutability, trinitarian nature, etc., are either inconsistent in themselves or inconsistent in conjunction with one another. A boy with the property of being 150 pounds and the property of being heavier than his 200 pound sister, simply can’t exist, because those two properties are inconsistent with each other. Since contradictions can’t exist, it would follow that God doesn’t exist if He’s a being with inconsistent properties.

There are good responses to these challenges (I have a few myself), but some people respond to these challenges by simply appealing to mystery. God is just too big and incomprehensible for us to understand. He is, in a sense, beyond logical constraints. We just need to be in awe of His majesty and have faith. Christian philosophers and theologians who rightly try to come to some rational understanding of God can be accused of trying to fit God into their intellectual boxes, which ultimately diminishes Him.

Of course, the Christian is right that we need to be in awe of God’s majesty! He’s right that God is mysterious. We are just infinitesimal specks compared to God’s measureless infinitude. David, when reflecting on God’s knowledge about the smallest details in life, exclaimed “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it,” (Psalm 139:6).

Honestly, ideas oriented people do tend to squeeze God into their intellectual box so much that they won’t allow for any mystery.

Therefore, I think we need to make a distinction between comprehensibility and coherence. We can’t fully comprehend God, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t make sense. For example, the attribute of omniscience means that God knows and believes all true propositions. We cannot comprehend this kind of knowledge, but the concept makes sense. There’s nothing contradictory about it.

We also need to make a distinction between knowing God exhaustively and knowing God truly. We can’t possibly know God exhaustively, but we can know true things about Him. The Bible is full of true information about God, even if it’s not exhaustive. So, while there is mystery to God, there isn’t any incoherence in Him

If we go too far in the direction of mystery, we won’t be able to know anything about God because we can’t comprehend anything about Him! If we go too far towards intelligibility, then there’s no mystery at all. It’s clear that we can’t go too far towards either extreme. So I encourage my fellow brothers and sisters to embrace God’s mystery with a childlike faith (Matt. 18:3-4), and seek understanding of God with a grown-up’s mind (1 Cor. 13:11).

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