Our heart’s desire is to know God. To know God, to think about God, to wor­ship God — here is the heart of the­ol­o­gy and a vibrant spir­i­tu­al life. And, as we’ve seen, if God is indeed a mys­tery, to know God and to wor­ship God is to know and wor­ship a mys­tery that has been revealed to us. The rea­son Chris­tians desire to under­stand the mys­tery of God is not mere­ly that we might achieve the right answers on a Chris­t­ian doc­trine exam. We desire to under­stand the mys­tery of God so that we may live and wor­ship well – and life and wor­ship depend on a right rela­tion to a divine Per­son more than to a cor­rect analy­sis of, as my friend Steve Boy­er puts it, cos­mic metaphysics.” 

As Steve and I express in our book The Mys­tery of God, the goal of a rela­tion­ship with the Holy Trin­i­ty is not mere­ly that we should get our the­o­log­i­cal for­mu­la­tions right, but also and more sig­nif­i­cant­ly that we should get our­selves right; not that we should mas­ter the­ol­o­gy, but that we should by mas­tered by the theos [God]” we approach when we think and prac­tice theology. 

C.S. Lewis pic­tured the­ol­o­gy like a map. Does the pur­pose of a map lie in itself? Obvi­ous­ly not. A map is designed to help us reach our des­ti­na­tion. Sim­i­lar­ly, the goal of healthy, wise, dis­cern­ing think­ing about God is wor­ship. No the­ol­o­gy that is not ulti­mate­ly ori­ent­ed toward the liv­ing, obe­di­ent, wor­ship of God can be ful­ly or final­ly satisfying. 

Remem­ber that the dis­tinc­tion between truth and false­hood is absolute­ly essen­tial. We must always be sen­si­tive to the dan­gers of a mys­ti­cism that, as the old quip goes, begins in mist,” cen­ters in I,” and ends in schism.” In par­tic­u­lar, while there may be a cer­tain mist” in approach­ing any God wor­thy of the name, this must not be a mist that con­fus­es Cre­ator with crea­ture, or that eras­es any dis­tinc­tion between ortho­doxy or heresy, or that oth­er­wise casts aside the faith which was once for all deliv­ered to the saints” (Jude 3, NKJV). There is gen­uine, full-blood­ed truth to be artic­u­lat­ed in speak­ing of the mys­tery of God and any approach to God’s mys­tery that los­es the truth­ful­ness of our think­ing and prac­tice has fun­da­men­tal­ly missed the mark. 

Where do we find the truth about God as mys­tery? First and fore­most, in the bib­li­cal texts God him­self has giv­en to the peo­ple of God. Our under­stand­ing of the mys­tery of God grows out of and is faith­ful to God’s rev­e­la­tion of him­self in his Word. 

As we approach God’s mys­tery, we not only attempt to take seri­ous­ly what God has revealed in the bib­li­cal texts but also what God has explained in the his­to­ry and tra­di­tion of the church. Here we have won­der­ful resources for our think­ing about God’s mys­tery. Con­vinced of the Holy Spirit’s ongo­ing guid­ance of God’s peo­ple wher­ev­er and when­ev­er they are locat­ed, we want to take seri­ous­ly the the­o­log­i­cal con­clu­sions and prac­tices of all God’s peo­ple when­ev­er the oppor­tu­ni­ty presents itself. Yes, Chris­tians can fall into error. But which of us wish­es to claim too con­fi­dent­ly that he or she is entire­ly immune? 

To sum up for this week: God, accord­ing to Chris­tian­i­ty of every stripe, is the supreme mys­tery, a blind­ing sun too bright to look at, but the source of illu­mi­na­tion to every­thing else on the landscape. 

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. 

Text First Published May 2016 · Last Featured on Renovare.org May 2021

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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