Eternal. Infinite. Omnipotent. Omniscient. Holy.
We describe God in these abstract, maximalist terms, but how fully do we feel their weight? Each of these terms reaches as far as it can to describe our infinite God, but ultimately none can fully describe him, and we cannot fully comprehend him.
At its heart the Christian faith is full of profound truths that push us to the bounds of our understanding. The Trinity, God’s purposes, the incarnation, the resurrection, divine and human agency in salvation—none of these are problems to be solved by reason or puzzles to be dismissed as inconsequential. Rather, these are grand mysteries, which point us to God’s greatness and goodness and which, when contemplated, evoke awe and worship.
K. Scott Oliphint is professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary and in The Majesty of Mystery he asks us to embrace these mysteries and to use them to help us shape our hearts and guide our worship to better reflect God’s infinite glory.
Mystery does not sit at a remove from truth. Oliphint puts it this way:
As a matter of fact, it is just the teaching of Scripture that gives us the biblical truth of that which we hold to be mysterious. A biblical view of mystery, in other words, is full of truth. It is truth that has real and glorious content. That content includes truths that we must affirm, as well as falsehoods that we must deny, statements that are necessarily a part of a biblical understanding of mystery, as well as exclamations that point us to its truth. So mystery, if we understand it biblically, is infused through and through with the truth that is found in the Word of God. Mystery is the lifeblood of the truth that we have in God’s revelation; it flows through every truth that God gives us.
Thus, in accepting God’s mystery and incomprehensible qualities we are not setting aside truth nor disdaining intellectual rigor. Rather, we are brought to an appropriate intellectual response to awe: worship and study. Oliphint argues that to appreciate mystery, we must deeply know the truths of God.
Oliphint describes how these mysteries lead us to worship the God who faithfully reveals himself to us. Embracing mystery means pushing back against the rationalist instincts that pervade our post-Enlightenment culture. There are things about God that we can’t explain, that we’ll never know and that we can’t discover. They are beyond us. And they are wonderful.
While theology can at times turn God into an abstraction, The Majesty of Mystery grapples with God in a refreshingly honest and timeless way. Read it and take up its challenge to worship our incomprehensible God.