The unknown God, Part one

This week in our journey together we will look at the unknown God, this is a length topic so it will be divided into 2 parts, I hope that you find this edifying, and will draw you ever closer to our Lord.

In the last I talked about ‘on knowing God’, but in this we are left with a problem. If it is true that wisdom consists in the knowledge of God and ourselves, the question then raised is this “who has such knowledge? Who truly knows God or knows themselves?” If we are honest, then we must admit that as long as we are left to ourselves, none of us truly knows God or ourselves adequately.

Here is the dilemma that we find ourselves in. we do not know ourselves because we have first failed to know God. But why do we not know God? Is God unknowable, so far out of our reach to ever find Him? Is the fault then His or ours? It is easier for us to blame God for being unknowable, but before we jump to that conclusion, we should be aware of what is involved. If the fault is ours, and even though this may be an uncomfortable thought, it can be corrected, God can intervene. But on the other hand, if the fault is God’s (or as we might prefer, the fault is the very nature of things), then nothing at all can be done to remedy this situation. The key to knowledge will inevitably elude us and life is absurd.

In the book ‘The dust of death’ by Os Guinness, he describes a skit by comedian Karl Vallentin that illustrates this point. In the skit the comic comes onto the stage illuminate by a single spotlight. He paces around and around the circle of light with a worried expression on his face. He is searching for something. After some time, a police officer joins him and asks what he has lost. “I’ve lost the key to my house’ he responds. The police officer then joins in the hunt for the keys, but it is unable to be found. ‘Are you sure you lost it here?’ the officer asks. ‘Oh no, not here, I lost it over there’ and the comic points to a dark corner. ‘Then why aren’t you looking over there?’ asks thew officer. ‘Because there’s no light over there.’ is the response.

If there is no God or if there is a God but the failure to know Him is God’s fault, then the search for knowledge is just like the skit. Where the search should be made, there is no light, and where there is light there is no point in searching. But is this so? The Bible declares that the problem is not God’s but rather ours, therefore the problem is solvable. God has already taken steps to reveal Himself to us, thusly providing us with the missing/ lost key to knowledge.

There is a distinction to be made, the difference between an awareness of God and ‘knowing God’. Knowing God is entering into a knowledge of our deep spiritual need and of God’s provision for that need and then coming to trust God. An awareness of God then is merely the sense that there is a God and that He should be obeyed and worshiped, but our natural inclination is that we do not know, obey, or worship him. We only have an awareness of Him.

Paul recorded in the letter to the church at Rome some of the most important words for humanity, ‘The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.’ (Romans 1:18-23). Three important ideas are seen here, 1, the wrath of God is displayed against the natural man. 2, man has wilfully rejected God, and 3, this rejection has taken place in spite of a natural awareness of God.

The failure we have in knowing God is not God’s fault. God has given us a two-fold revelation of himself, and we all have this revelation. The first part is the revelation of God in nature. This knowledge is limited however and can be defined as two things- God’s eternal power and His Deity. Although this knowledge is limited, it is sufficient to remove any excuse for the person to move from it to seek God fully. The words God’s eternal power and Deity can be rendered as supremeness and being. We can say then that there is ample and convincing evidence in nature of a supreme being. God exists and humans know it, that is the argument that Paul made in the passage above. When we then subsequently refuse to acknowledge God and worship Him, the fault is not in a lack of knowledge but in their irrational and resolute determination not to know Him.

The second part of this two-fold revelation can be described as an internal revelation, or the ability for receiving one. In our natural state we cannot come to know God in the full biblical sense. But we have been given the ability for receiving natural revelation, this is what Paul says in verse 19 of the above passage ‘since what may be known about God is plain to them’.

Suppose you are driving down the street and you come to a sign that says ‘stop’ but you ignore it, and it happens that a police officer is also there, who stops you because you didn’t stop at the stop sign, what excuse do you give? You could say that you didn’t see the sign, but that’s no good it is your responsibility as the driver to be aware of signs and obeying them is on you. So, Paul is saying that there is a sign, it is the revelation of God in nature, and you have vision, if you choose to ignore the sign, the guilt is your own. The judgement of God does not come because you didn’t or couldn’t know God, but because being aware of God you refused to acknowledge Him.

Paul is not saying that there is enough evidence about God in nature so that a scientist can be aware of Him, he is not saying that the sign is hidden, but that the sign is plain to see. No one no matter how significant or insignificant can be excused for missing it. There is enough evidence of God in a flower to lead a child or a scientist to worship Him. There is sufficient evidence in a grain of sand, or a fingerprint to make us glorify and thank God. This is the way to knowledge, but people will not do this. They substitute nature for God and find their hearts darkened. Calvin in his institutes gives us this conclusion ‘But although we lack to natural ability to mount up to pure and clear knowledge of God, all excuse is cut off because the fault of dullness is within us. And indeed, we are not allowed thus to pretend ignorance without our conscience itself always convicting us of both baseness and ingratitude.’

We will continue this next week, but until then please leave a comment, and have a blessed day

In Christ our redeemer Ps Jeff

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