“Is God Knowable?” (Response to reader)

Can we know God?

The easy answer would be to come out right away and say, “Yes!”

But, I won’t. I think the more honest answer is, “Yes and no.”

For one thing we can’t even know people that well. We can live with a spouse, or family member for years, and still find out new things about them, time and again. People are deep wells of information, experiences, natures, and characters… but through time and devotion, we can get to know them…. We never know them completely. What I mean is, we become thoroughly familiar with those we’ve spent plenty of time with, but it is naive to say we know them fully. 

BUT- what about God? God is SO different, right? He is UNFATHOMABLE. He created everything, and is everywhere, all-knowing, all-powerful, so says the Bible, right? How can we REALLY REALLY possibly KNOW him, right? He is beyond language. Correct? Well, the short answer is “yes, kind of.” 

God made it possible for us to have an amazing book in our reach called the Bible which talks all about him. It can’t capture him fully with words, but the narrative that runs like a river through the whole council of the Bible can loosely give a good contour of the Supreme Being that is all at once Almighty God, Father, Savior, Friend, and much more. We can’t sketch a sunset with pencil, but we can get some shapes down. We can’t use words to describe what tasting coffee is truly like, but with words, we can outline a bit what the aroma is like, and how good a warm cup tastes and feels when it is drank. One can imagine well what it is REALLY like based on a word description. So too with God. The reality of him can be known, but not fully grasped. He is knowable, but not fully comprehendible. It is limited knowledge, but entirely useful.

Let us not dismiss some of our best ways to encounter God by calling them shoddy when we use and trust language for so much else. It is on the basis of language, words, and propositions, that we first encounter all our initial ideas before they are incorporated into our lives. They are a starting point, not the end all be all to knowing God. Like any complex relationship, knowing God involves invests of time and devotion, not just mere research.

Do you know God? How have you encountered him? Feel free to leave your comments.


2 responses to ““Is God Knowable?” (Response to reader)

  1. Hi Lisa,

    Just stumbled on your blog while trying to write a column for the local paper looking at whether God is knowable. Thanks so much for your thoughts, they were incredible. I may even quote you, if that’s ok. I am a pastor and love the idea of repainting the faith and allowing people to journey toward authentic spirituality. I have been putting my columns on a blog page. You can check it out and let me know what you think if you like.

  2. Only recently have I come to know God in ways that I cannot adequately express in words. Its both amazing and confounding being at that place.

    Your initial question also made me think of fearing God which is ultimately knowing him in an intimate awe producing way.