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The knowability of God is a topic in Christian theology that deals with the degree to which God can be known by mankind. Some religions contend that he cannot be known, sometimes arguing that God is so unique from humanity that it is absurd to think that finite humans can relate or know him in any significant way. Christians, however, contend that although we cannot fully know everything about God, since he has chosen to reveal himself to his creatures in a variety of ways we can know him personally, meaningfully, and significantly, in a limited but ever-increasing way throughout eternity.
God cannot be known exhaustively
Scripture does reveal that God can never fully be known. The Psalmist tells us that "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable," (Psalm 145:3). Paul adds to this idea, observing that "the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God," and later notes that, "no one comprehends the things of God except the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10-12). David further emphasizes this when he says that, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it" (Psalm 139:6; cf. 17). This idea is ultimately summed from the very mouth of God,
- For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).
What can be known about God
Although God cannot be known completely, we can know true things about him. For example, we know that God is love (1 John 4:8), God is light (1 John 1:5), God is spirit (John 4:24), and that God is just or righteous (Romans 3:26). These aspects of God have been revealed to us in Scripture. However, more than mere facts can be known about God.
- "Thus says the LORD: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.'" (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Scripture tells us that we can know more than facts about God - we can actually know him as a personal being! Even more, what this passage tells us is that our source of joy should come from knowing God and not from our riches, wisdom, or might. Another significant passage comes from the Gospel of John, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent," (John 17:3). John later writes in his epistle, "I write to you, children, because you know the Father," (1 John 2:13). God can be known, and in knowing God we should take great joy, for by knowing God, we can pray to him, hear him, and commune in his presence.
- Revelation of God
- Natural theology
- Transcendence of God
- Immanence of God
- Accommodation of God