Do Christians Grasp God Better?

Jason Micheli —  November 5, 2014 — 7 Comments

Untitled101111I’ve become convinced that its important for the Church to inoculate our young people with a healthy dose of catechesis before we ship them off to college, just enough so that when they first hear about Nietzsche or really study Darwin they won’t freak out and presume that what the Church taught them in 6th grade confirmation is the only wisdom the Church has to offer.

I’ve been working on writing a catechism, a distillation of the faith into concise questions and answers with brief supporting scriptures that could be the starting point for a conversation.

You can find the previous posts here.

II. Witness

12. Is the Bible our only authority? 

Of course not.

Jesus Christ, the fullness of God made flesh, who reigns the Earth from the right hand of the Father, is our sole authority.

Jesus is Lord not the Bible nor our imperfect interpretation of it.

The Bible is our primary witness to Christ, but even the Bible’s witness is mediated to us by the witness of the saints and our own experience of the Holy Spirit’s work in the world- the gift of the world itself speaks to the sheer gratuity of God.

And because all truth is God’s truth, our reason and apprehension of the created world elaborate upon (and sometimes correct) the witness to God we find in the Bible.

‘Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’

– Acts 2.36

13. Are the Bible’s words about God accurate?

Not inherently, no.

The words of scripture are human words, the same words we use to describe ordinary objects like bears, coffee and computer keys. The words themselves possess no inherent capacity to speak of God.

The fullness and meaning of the Word, Jesus Christ, cannot be mined by any number of human words; therefore, scripture cannot be understood as a fixed archive of truths about God as though faithful description of God is reducible to regurgitation of scripture.

Indeed, as the creed’s reliance on the term ‘substance’ makes clear, faithful witness to God may require words that go beyond the language of scripture.

Within the language of scripture itself, the words do not all testify to God in the same way. As St Thomas notes, words like ‘rock’ or a ‘warrior’ can describe God only metaphorically while words like ‘good’ and ‘love’ can be taken literally if analogously.

“But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” – John 21.25

14. Do Christians who read scripture grasp God better than non-Christians who do not read scripture?

Never.

Sorry.

God is transcendent, the reason there is something instead of nothing, Being itself not a being within the universe. Scripture does not render God any less transcendent nor does scripture rein God in to the universe of knowable objects.

So scripture does not provide us with a schema by which the transcendent God becomes comprehensible.

Because God, by definition, remains unknowable to creatures- known only insofar as he makes himself known- there is no ground on which Christians can claim to grasp God’s essence any better than non-Christians.

Rather, what makes Christians different from non-Christians is that Christians know how, apart from grace, nothing they confess of God can be true, and that even where Christians succeed, by grace, in confessing the truth about God they can never know how it is true.

‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

-Matthew 7.21

Jason Micheli

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7 responses to Do Christians Grasp God Better?

  1. Good job

  2. Lot to disagree with here. But so as not to hog the blog, let me pick on this statement:

    “And because all truth is God’s truth, our reason and apprehension of the created world elaborate upon (and sometimes correct) the witness to God we find in the Bible.”

    What in the Bible is corrected by our reason and apprehension of the created world?

    • Hog is my favorite meat- no need to be shy, Jean.
      When I typed that sentence I was thinking specifically of the sun not going round the earth.

  3. Jason,
    I would agree with you that the ANE people possessed an ancient cosmology, which God worked with in the authorship of Scripture. In other words, God did not give the Scripture writers a 21st (or for that matter 23rd) century science lesson. We believe that God was able to convey inerrant timeless theological truths through these authors, and that their ancient cosmology (as well as ancient biology) does not negate or cast doubt on the truthfulness of the theology conveyed thereby. Would you agree with this description?

    • Generally, I can go along with that though the post liberal in me gets nervous anyone speaks of the bible’s ‘inerrant, timeless truths.’

  4. Remember your catechism: God doesn’t change.
    If there’s truth there, it’s not going to become untrue.

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