“God is unknowable – stop looking for him, and you will find faith. The more you claim to know God and attempt to delineate his nature, the less likely you are to have hit the bull’s eye.”
This was the headline of a short article a few years ago from The Guardian in the UK by David Bryant, a retired vicar of The Church of England. The article was disturbing on many levels. It was disturbing not only because of the content that suggests “Faith is not the progressive unearthing of God’s nature but a recognition that he/she is fundamentally unknowable.” But also because it is a trend that has consumed the Church of late, not to mention general culture.
There is this fortune cookie notion that follows closely this quotation from St. John of the Cross, which Bryant quotes with approval: “If a man wishes to be sure of the road he travels on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”
This type of thinking sounds pious, but in reality is toxic and incoherent. Incoherent because here certainty is said to depend on a posture of ignorance—I never what to see a doctor who lives by that moto! And toxic because this thinking suggests that God isn’t really knowable at all, and we need to get over it.
Thankfully for you and me Bryant is wrong.
Our human situation with God is not one of blind, dark travel. Rather our path toward the only one true God is lit brightly by at least 5 distinct lighthouses guiding our way toward a God who is there and who is not silent.
Here are 5 reasons why God is knowable, and why any one of us can say so:
1) God Reveals Himself Therefore I Can Know
2) Scripture Reveals God Therefore I Can Know
3) Creation Reveals God Therefore I Can Know
4) Jesus Reveals God Therefore I Can Know
5) My “Self” Reveals God Therefore I Can Know
Perhaps there’s a better way of saying this, but I didn’t know how without ruining my poetic rhythm!
What I mean to say is that deep down we all know God exists—our internal “self” reveals that God is there and is not silent. This is why every civilization from the dawn of time has had some type of religious ritual and rhythm of worship, and why at least 8 in 10 people in America and elsewhere continue to believe that a God/god (whatever or whoever it is) exists.
Let’s return to the same passage from Paul in his letter to the Roman church. In it he writes that we all actively suppress the knowledge and revelation of God:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness…For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him. (Romans 1)
Faith is not the progressive unearthing of God’s nature but a recognition that he is fundamentally unknowable.