Yesterday my family and I read the first two of the three sections in Chapter 10, “The Knowability of God,” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994) in our after breakfast Bible reading time. They explain the need for God to reveal Himself and why we can never fully understand Him.
If we are to know God, He has to reveal Himself. In “The Existence of God – Part 1” I quoted Romans 1:20, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV), to show that God reveals Himself in nature. However Paul went on to observe that sinful people misunderstand that revelation, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts…[and] exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (1:21-25). Thus we need the Bible to understand God’s revelation of Himself in nature (and in our consciences and in history).
Despite God’s having revealed Himself in the Bible (and in nature, etc.), we can never understand Him fully because He is infinite and we are finite. Some Bible passages that show this are:
– “Such knowledge [God’s knowledge of us] is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6).
– “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1).
– “Great is our LORD, and abundant in power, his understanding is beyond measure” (Psalm 147:5).
– “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33).
Such passages indicate that although we can know something of God and His attributes, we can never know them fully.
Grudem points out that this inability to know God fully is good because it means that there will always be more for us to learn about Him. Thus we should continue to enjoy studying the Bible (and theology) and of having fellowship with God.