Divine Incomprehensibility

King David pondered the Lord’s perfect awareness of all his ways and declared, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6). And he confessed that God’s “greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3). Through the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord declared that his thoughts and his ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). The Apostle Paul exulted in the knowledge and wisdom of God by declaring his unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways (Romans 11:33-34).

In Judges 13, the theophany of the Angel of the Lord visits Samson’s parents. Samson’s father Manoah asks the theophany what his name is, and the Angel replies, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?”

This sheer wonderfulness of God is his divine incomprehensibility. The absolute deeps of God’s being are profoundly mysterious and unfathomable. There is nothing about God which we can comprehend (i.e. fully understand or entirely grasp). We cannot “get to the bottom” of God’s being and know him “all the way to the top” so to speak.

In affirming God’s incomprehensibility, we are thoroughly resisting the hubris of the mindset of modernism, which believes it can fully objectively get ‘beneath’ or ‘outside’ of its own embeddedness in reality and build a model of existence for understand things in a totalizing fashion. We can’t do that with the created order, and we certainly can’t do that with the Creator God.

In affirming God’s incomprehensibility, we are also fully denying the false modesty of the mindset of pop-culture postmodernism, which says that the incomprehensibility of a thing amounts to the complete unknowability of a thing. We know God truly, but we do not and cannot know him fully. In other words, we do not comprehend God, but we do apprehend God. By his benevolent accommodation to us, we do begin to touch the surface of his bottomless depths and get an honest sense of who and what God is. He has made himself genuinely known.

By confessing God’s incomprehensibility as a matter of apophatic theology (i.e. denying the possibility of a complete understanding of him), we are affirming that he is, in fact, a Substance and Being that is too great for our finitude, because we have been blessed with a small apprehension of this divine greatness (i.e. absoluteness). We affirm and confess the apprehensibility of the incomprehensible God.

This should fill us with comfort that God actually is mysterious when we despair in thinking that we ought to know him better than we do. We should be comforted that a divine mysteriousness is a genuine mark of the true Faith — a strangeness that should console us as paradoxically familiar and normal — and not a sign of some failure on our part to achieve perfect certainly (the hobgoblin of modernism). There is mystery in our faith. And this should produce in us much humility of mind as well as wonderment in our thoughts lovingly set upon our Lord.