God is a mystery. This seems to be a central truth of our faith. There are and always will be limits to our knowledge and experience of God. God is bigger than our denominations, dogmas, doctrines, bigger even than the Bible. I love The Orthodox Way by Father Kallistos Ware because he always seems to sum things up nicely:

A God, that is to say, whom we claim to understand exhaustively through the resources of our reasoning brain turns out to be no more than an idol, fashioned in our own image. Such a “God” is most emphatically not the true and living God of the Bible and the Church. Man is made in God’s image, but the reverse is not true.

Are we comfortable with the mystery of God? Do we embrace God as a mystery? Or do we subtly and not-so-subtly reduce God to a bite-sized portion? I’m amused at Christians who read the Bible and presume a complete understanding of God. This smacks of bibliolatry (which I’ll talk about in the future sometime). The Bible does reveal God to us but only in part, limited by the medium of the written word but especially limited by our humanness, our finiteness.

A Bible study I attend at church is very focused on studying the book of Romans. We’ve worked on Romans for two years and are only halfway through the book. We dissect and analyze a verse or three a week. At times we get to “difficult passages” as they are called. Predestination vs. freewill. Eternal vs. conditional salvation. As we try to discern what the Scripture says people do backflips and contort wildly to make the Scriptures fit their particular view. Everyone has passages that support their view and passages they ignore because they seem contradictory.

I don’t feel the need to do this. I accept that the Bible is a limited document. It can never tell us all we want to know about God. It may not even tell us all we need to know. I let Scripture serve as a roadsign, pointing me toward the greater mystery that is God. I can rest confidently in that. I don’t have to understand everything. When I try to force life to fit into neatly organized categories I run the very great risk of limiting God. Father Ware again:

We see that it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery.

When we reach for the easy answers, the clear-cut dogma, we insulate ourselves from the awe-inspiring wonder of God. One of the reasons I worship is because God is mystery. I am small, limited, human. What else can I do but worship?

I had a philosophy professor in college who used to make fun of Christians. He’d talk about apparent contradictions and inconsistencies in our faith and would then paraphrase the Christian response as “It’s a mystery! Now shut up!” I know he was against the anti-intellectual trends we find among Christians at times. But the reality is that we can never understand reality. Things happen and we don’t have explanations. God is inscrutable and the farther we travel on this path the thicker the darkness becomes. Does it make sense to me? Not always. Embrace our limits. Praise God.