Knowing the Incomprehensible God

Knowing the Incomprehensible God

We receive the eternal reality of the Son through created means: God is knowable. If nothing else, by revelation we know God is incomprehensible(!), but by grace and pure condescension we know much more. For God has spoken to us in Christ, who is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. (Heb. 1:2,3)

Regarding the creator-creature distinction, there is no disagreement among Christians as to whether God knows a greater number of propositions relative to man, or whether God understands how all bits of knowledge exhaustively relate to each other in a mode or manner not available to created beings. Indeed, there is a quantitative difference between God’s knowledge and man’s. God simply knows more stuff. But as just alluded to, the mode or manner of how God knows is radically different than how man knows. We may say that God’s knowledge is original and intuitive whereas man’s knowledge is derivative and receptive. No Christian demurs.

Where things get a bit trickier is over the content of what God and man know. Does the proposition God is Spirit have the identical meaning for both God and man? If not, then how can man know God given that for true knowledge to obtain man’s thoughts must intersect the mind of God? Must man know univocally in order to know God?

Revelation, an accommodation:

The object of our knowledge is God’s revelation of himself, which is a replication (or divine interpretation) of the original, intended to accommodate finite creatures. In other words, God reveals himself to created beings through created things – for instance language, laws of inference and categories of thought. Yet the propositions of revelation pertaining to God that are processed through the human mind are not themselves God. They are suitable accommodations to our finitude. Although God knows himself originally and intuitively, he lisps his revelation of himself to us in a manner fitting to our creaturely capacities.

With respect to mode or manner, God cannot have us know him in the same way in which he knows himself. We’d have to share in the divine essence to know God that way. Accordingly, our descriptions of God will be proportional to what God desires us to know through the revelatory mode in which he has allowed us to know him. But again, must man know univocally to know God? If not, then how can man truly know God even partially?

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