Understanding God…

Some time ago I wrote a post on the difficulty of systematizing God. It brought some interesting responses that are detailed here and here. Ben Witherington addresses it well here.

I like what Witherington says about our need for intellectual certainty. Ironic that we, who proclaim the incomprehensible God, demand and, dare I say, contrive such precision in understanding His ways.

6 thoughts on “Understanding God…

  1. You were just begging for a response from me on this one, weren’t you?

    While we proclaim the incomprehensible God, we also proclaim the knowable God – who has revealed himself in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.

    Systematic Theology doesn’t contrive precision in understanding his ways, but shows the range of what God has revealed about his ways in His Word; and in such a way that we can see when someone goes beyond that acceptable range.

    For example, above I made the systematic statement that God has revealed himself in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. That brings a wide range (66 books) of understanding God’s ways; but also makes it clear that if someone says they know something of God’s ways because of something they read in the Qur’an – we can say that they have gone beyond the acceptable range.

    Systematic theology affirms a great deal of range in the mystery of the Trinity, but does so in a way as to refute the heresies of Arianism, modalism, et al.

    Undoubtedly there are some (and not just Calvinists) whose need for “intellectual certainty” makes them think narrowly; instead of what Scripture (and Systematically thinking about Scripture) does – which is to make us realize how big God’s ways are; but know that God will never stop being God as he has defined and revealed himself in his Word.

    Intellectual certainty that produces narrow-mindedness is seen as much (and I would say more so) in evolutional scientists and pontificating celebrities as it is in pessimistic Calvinists.

    Does that simply make me an optimistic Calvinist?

  2. OK, question. Can you point me to an example of a competent, knowledgeable and coherent Calvinist who is attempting to construct a theological system to contain the “knowledge of God”? (I used the three qualifiers there to eliminate websites in sixteen-point font and all caps). Are we talking about the Westminster Confession, or some cranky bloggers? I’d like to know whose side I’m taking here.

  3. I think you’re asking that question on the wrong blog, Matt.

    What I liked about Witherington’s post was in the second paragraph:

    …Calvinism seems to feed a deep seated need in many persons for a kind of intellectual certainty about why the world is as it is, and what God is exactly like, and how his will is worked out in the world, and most particularly how salvation works and whether or not one is a saved person.

    Some people don’t even ask those questions. I do. That’s why I liked the paragraph — it was like someone shining a little light into my mind. I see that “deep seated need” in myself.

  4. Does that simply make me an optimistic Calvinist? ~Dan

    Dan — you know the reason I post this stuff is to bring it to your attention and to provide you a platform to speak to it in rebuttal. 🙂

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