Every Tuesday for the next few weeks, I invite you to contemplate the mystery of God with me. A couple of years ago, my colleague Steve Boyer and I wrote a book titled The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable, published by Baker Academic. In these blog posts, I want to share with you some of our thoughts. Occasionally I may offer direct excerpts, in other cases I may paraphrase something we wrote, or offer a riff on one of the book’s ideas.

In the Introduction, Steve describes a walk from his home in Wayne to Eastern University, where we both taught at the time we wrote the book. It was a bright, sunny day, and Steve was struck by how the sun’s light illuminated so many things as he made his way to Eastern. As Steve describes things, “…there was a great deal to see on such a bright morning: squirrels running skillfully along telephone wires, small birds pecking in the grass for a bit of breakfast, children waiting for a bus to take them to school, an elderly woman working in her garden before the day became so hot, a man in a tie climbing into his automobile, a procession of cyclists in their colorful biking attire.” Steve was able to see all these wonders of a normal day because the sun was shining brightly. It was indeed a beautiful, sunny day.

Do you remember days such as this? I particularly recall a day – I must have been six or seven – in Phoenix. The sun was shining brightly as I stepped out the door. I remember my mother warning me, Enjoy the sun’s brightness, but never look at it directly.” Of course, then, the first thing I did – after assuring myself that my mother wasn’t watching me — was to look directly at the sun, the very sun whose light enabled me to see everything else. For a brief moment I saw a bright, shining disk, and then everything began to turn dark. I quickly looked away, having learned my lesson. Somehow I knew, even as a little boy, that if I kept looking at the sun, something very bad would happen. I’d go blind. I simply was not created to look at the star whose light made everything around me look so clear. 

Here, as Steve puts it, is a rather ironic situation. Not only is the sun a key element in a pleasant spring morning, but it is also the one element that allows me to see all of the other elements that contribute to the pleasantness.” The sun was making all things visible to Steve as he walked, yet if Steve looked at it directly, he was immediately blinded. The only way Steve managed to even glance at the sun was through the foliage offered by nearby trees. 

As we explore the mystery of God together, I’d like you to keep Steve’s experience in mind, along with what happened to me as a little boy in Phoenix. I think a bit of theological pondering is called for. C.S. Lewis would agree. He observes: We believe that the sun is in the sky at midday in summer not because we can clearly see the sun (in fact we cannot) but because we can see everything else.” 

Lewis’s point is clear: there may be certain things that are in themselves too great to understand but that nevertheless enable us to understand lesser things with remarkable clarity.

Catch up with all of Chris Hall’s blog posts on Conversations with Chris.

This series has been adapted from Steven D. Boyer and Chris Hall’s The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable. Hungry for more? Please visit Baker Academic for more information.