Incomprehensible but Knowable: Human Knowing
The Bible teaches that God is incomprehensible. God is so far above us as the supreme being and only infinite being that we as finite creatures are never going to be able to know and understand all that there is to Him. Even to say we are like an ant trying to understand the vastness of the Milky Way galaxy does not even begin to quantify the difference between God and man. How can the finite ever truly grasp the infinite?
Is. 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Not only are we never going to be able to truly know all that God knows, we are never going to be able to know in the way that God knows things. In other words, when God knows something He understands all of it. For Himself, He knows Himself completely and in absolute perfection. When He knows something about you or me, or anything He created, He knows it as the perfect Creator.
In salvation, we do come to know God (John 17:3; Gal. 4:8-9). God has made Himself known to us. He reveals Himself to us in the Son, Jesus Christ. In salvation, the knowledge of God in the gospel is given to us through the Holy Spirit. We come to have fellowship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 1:6-7). We do know God.
When we know God, it is not that we merely know less about God than God knows about Himself, we also know God is a different capacity than God knows Himself. The finite cannot contain the infinite. We can only ever know God as a creature knows the Creator. God always knows us as the Creator; He knows Himself in infinite perfection. We will never attain to God’s level. The difference between how God knows something and how I know something is not simply a difference of quantity (i.e. God simply knows more) but also a difference of quality (i.e. God knows as the originator of knowledge). We can only know things as image bearers.
Psa. 25:14 The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
Psa. 36:9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.
We can and do know things about God and His creation. The reason we are able to come to know them is God has made these things known. What we know is the truth. God speaks to us in language and in ways we can understand so that it can be truly grasped by our capacities. When God reveals Himself in Scripture and in Jesus, the Son, we can come and truly know Him. We can be in a covenant relationship with Him even if He always the infinite, perfect, and incomprehensible one and I am always the finite creature. When God shines His light and makes something know I can come to know it.
All human knowing is dependent upon the God who knows all things. First, I am never going to know something that God does not already know. Thus, I am constantly dependent on Him. Second, I am never going to come to know something as fully or as completely as God. I will never know something in the capacity of being its Creator. My knowing something is always and only as someone who is an image bearer of God.
Consider the profound privilege it is to know God. God is indeed incomprehensible, yet He has delighted to reveal Himself to us. Like a parent, he stoops down to his children and shows us truth about his being and his character. He shows us enough that we can truly know Him. But even as I know Him and grow in the knowledge of Him, I need to stand in awe of the fact that He is ultimately incomprehensible.
Knowing God is an act of trust and faith. God says “this is who I am” and He shows us that in the work of the Son of cross. We need to take Him at His Word. We will never understand the fullness of the Trinity but we can know that God is Triune. God tells us as much.
When I consider the incompressibility of God and the capacity for human knowing it should drive me to a deeper humility. Think of how God questions Job: “I will question you, and you make it known to me” (Job 38:3; 40:7; 42:4). That is sobering, I cannot explain the creation to the Creator. Who am I that God would even tell me about Himself? This deeper humility should drive me to a deeper reliance on God. What a wonder it is to think that everything that I can ever discover and known about this world, God has already known and known in a greater capacity. For the Christian, this should make us hungry to pursue truth. Knowing that God knows things first should also serve as a guard against philosophical notion that truth, knowledge, and understand are all just social constructs or word games. There is truth because there is God.
Tim Bertolet is a graduate of Lancaster Bible College and Westminster Theological Seminary. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He is an ordained pastor in the Bible Fellowship Church, currently serving as pastor of Faith Bible Fellowship Church in York, Pa. He is a husband and father of four daughters. You can follow him on Twitter @tim_bertolet.