God is Unknowable but Knowable – Doctrine 101


This week I’m starting a new weekly series. In order to nurture the next generation of leaders, our church is developing a year-long training program known as the Leadership Development Team. I am privileged to be one of seven young men (well, the rest are younger than me 🙂 participating in this first-year pilot.

As part of that process, we are working our way through the Doctrine 101 course at King’s Online Bible School. In addition to audio and a manual, we are reading R. C. Sproul‘s Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. In keeping with my usual pattern, I figured I’d blog my notes and homework. Feel free to kibbitz from the sidelines!

a) Why do you think God decided to reveal himself to us?

Because He loves us, and wants us to share in His glory.

b) In what ways can we learn more about God from his revelation in Scripture than we can from the revelation in nature?

The same way we learn more by interacting with a person than merely observing them.

Would you call your present relationship to God a personal relationship? How is it similar to your relationships with other people, and how is it different? What would make your relationship with God better?

Alas, I think my relationship with God suffers from the same challenges as my human relationships: too transactional and me-driven…

Read RCS #10 (incl. Bible passages).

Written work:
1. What is meant by the idea of a distinction between “secret (or hidden)” things and the “revealed” things?
2. Summarize the conclusions to the class discussion questions above.

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Doctrine 101: Learning about God
Worksheet 1 – Unknowable; Knowable

God is unknowable

Why did John Calvin say that God speaks to us in a kind of lisping?

The emphasis is that God condescends to speak to us in a way we can understand, like a parent speaking to a baby.

Since this is true, how should you respond?

Well, a baby responds by trying to imitate the words, and then relating them to the context and behavior of its parents. So, that implies we need to understand what God means by observing what He actually does, since our language is too limited to convey His full informational content.
What limits us from knowing God completely?

The fact that we are finite, fallen, fallible 3+1 dimensional creatures trying to grasp something utterly transcendent.

Do you think we will know God completely when we get to heaven? Explain your answer.

Not really. I think our knowledge will be “perfect”, the way a circle is perfect, but it will still be “limited”, the way a 2-D drawing is a limited representation of a 3-D sphere.

Job 38.1 – 41.34

Job 38.1-2 What does God mean in v. 2?
To what is he referring?

Job has been more-or-less chiding God for not measuring up to his (Job’s) standards. God is basically pointing out that Job has no clue what he’s talking about.

38.21 Who is speaking? Why is he saying what he is?

If this is the right verse, I assume God is speaking sarcastically about the lack of Job’s credibility of matters far beyond his years. The implication is presumably that God was around then, and does fully understand all that.

Using just one word or phrase, identify the focus of each of the following sections:

38.4-11 God as creator

38.12-41 God as sovereign sustainer

Job 39 God as Father to the animals

40.10-14 God is judge (you’re not)

40.15-24, Job 41 God as maker of untameable monsters

40.8 What had Job done that prompted the Lord to ask him this?

Questioned God’s wisdom/justice in treating Job so badly.

What is the Lord’s purpose in asking all these questions?

To restore us (Job) to a right understanding of our place as His children.

Ps 139.1-18
What three things does David specify that he is not able to know? Write out the lines from the psalm that are most helpful in identifying these three.

A. God’s knowledge of his actions
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

B. God’s foreknowledge of his decisions
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

C. God’s protection over him
5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

Rom 11.33-36
What does Paul have in mind as he writes these words? (Look back at the previous verses for the answer.)

God’s incredible mercy towards us Gentiles, as well as the mind-boggling ways He uses disobedience to bring about obedience.

1 Cor 2.6-16 Who is “we” (vv. 6-7)?

Paul and Sosthenes.

How does this passage support the idea that God is unknowable?

It emphasizes that rulers of this age could not understand God’s, and that it was literally inconceivable to any human mind. It also emphasizes how any human being is not fully comprehensible from the outside.

In what ways is God made knowable according to these verses?

By the Spirit of God speaking through others, to His Spirit within us, as we take on the mind of Christ.

Read Isa 55.8-9
About which sort of His thoughts and ways do you think the Lord is speaking?

  • the ones that are hidden to us?
  • the ones that are available to us?
  • both the ones hidden and the ones He wants us to know?

All of the above. 🙂

Explain why you answered the way you did.

I think there’s several layers to this statement. The context is about seeking and submitting to God, which is the only rational response to something too good for us to understand. At that level, all of God’s ways are totally beyond us; we just need to accept them, even if we can’t grasp them.

That said, He is clearly communicating His will to us, so in that sense He does want/expect us to “grok” His thoughts (at least some of them), so they aren’t completely beyond us. And, we are responsible for what we know, as imperfect as it is, because God has “made it [his glory?]” plain to us.” But though we hold those truths with conviction, we must also bear them with humility, for we need to be open for God to further refine our thinking.

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