Knowing Me, Knowing You – We cannot comprehend God (Session Four)
Knowing Me, Knowing You – We cannot comprehend God (Session Four)
Session four moves into the area of knowledge or 'epistemology'. How is it possible for finite human beings to know an infinite God?
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In this study and the next we move into the area of knowledge or ‘epistemology’. The most basic question that both chapters address is how it is possible for finite human beings to know an infinite God. In this study, the third of our six theological ‘keys’ to Scripture is: We cannot comprehend God. Like the other theological keys in KMKG, incomprehensibility is clearly taught in Scripture.

On the basis of God’s simplicity, God’s knowledge is his essence. That means that God cannot be ‘separated’ from his knowledge. He is his own theology. This divine self-knowledge is sometimes called archetypal theology. What God knows to be, he wills to be, and therefore it is. In contrast, our human knowledge is creaturely: finite, fragmented, and (now) fallen.

This theological key can help stop us from overreaching ourselves in trying to grasp and express what is going on in God’s essence. A good example is our interpretation of Scripture texts that say God ‘regrets’ or even ‘repents’. We must interpret Scripture in light of Scripture: those texts that are clearer to us then become the interpretative framework by which we can understand those texts that seem more obscure. There is a distinction between God as known in his effects as experienced by ever-changing creatures like us, and God in his essence.

Recognising our lack of ability to comprehend God can help us in our discipleship, give us much consolation, and even impart joy to us as we rejoice in our epistemological limitations.

Aims of study

Starter questions

[A]s we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

How might your life have been different if you had known the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns? What might have been the downsides of such knowledge?

Questions to review understanding and for discussion

Bible passage: Jeremiah 18:7-11

Suggested application questions

For further study

My favourite introduction to Christian epistemology is John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1987). Frame’s book would be good further reading for both this study and the next.

For a higher (almost sublime) level treatment of the main theme of this study, you surely couldn’t do better than turn to Herman Bavinck’s chapter on ‘The Incomprehensibility of God’ in Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, God and Creation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 27-52.