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