The previous post in this series may be found here
In the remainder of the chapter, Owen details the manner in which we do not know God. The study will pick up on page 111 of Kaipic/Taylor.
- Has any one ever seen God? What of Moses?
- The Puritans (as advised by William Perkins) would engage in the work of addressing objections to a doctrine (you will see this in Spurgeon’s sermons when he says, “Someone will say ….”). What is the objection which Owen addresses?
- While it is true that we have a fuller knowledge of God after the Incarnation, we still do not have a full understanding. What language does Paul use to describe our knowledge of God?
- Owen draws an analogy of how we understand God, and how a child understand his father. Explain and apply this analogy to our knowledge of God. (p. 113)
- What will say when we finally come to see God when we come into the presence of His glory?
- The next argument Owen uses to prove his point is an argument from the lesser to the greater: If we do not know what we will be (the lesser), how can we possibly know God (the greater)?
- Owen now seeks to detail and prove his point: We do not know God.
- Note how God describes himself: “invisible, incomprehensible, and the like?—that is, he whom we do not, cannot, know as he is. And our farther progress consists more in knowing what he is not, than what he is.” (114). In-visible means not visible. In-comprehensible means not to be comprehended. These are negative describes, something is not, rather than an affirmative statement of God is.
- Identify some verses which describe God as invisible or incomprehensible (or infinite, or other statement of what God is not).
- Consider carefully these descriptions. We think in terms of what we can see. When it comes to things which we do not understand, we seek to see it. God is a being we cannot see. Take the next element, incomprehensible: Do you expect to comprehend God? Do you find that we human beings expect to be able to understand God, who God is, what God does? Do we — do you — ever attribute reasons to God (whom we cannot understand).
- What is the effect of the light surrounding God? Can any creature approach unto God?
- If God is infinite, eternal, unchangeable, then what is God? Can you imagine anything which is merely infinite? As soon as you conceive of something, you have made it finite? What of eternal, as soon you have any beginning or ending (or perhaps even now) you have something which is not eternal. Can you imagine something which cannot change? We cannot possibly understand the mere being of God.
- If we pretend to understand the incomprehensible God, what have we done?
- If our goal, if it is not to understand God’s being? (114).
- When it comes to the nature of God, the nature of the Trinity, is it a problem that we cannot explain such things? Are there things about physical universe which human beings do not understand? Can you explain the way in which the soul and the body interact? Can you explain how God moves upon the heart? Is it a surprise that we cannot explain God?
- If we cannot know God’s being, how can we know God?
- If we cannot know God by the “normal means” (our senses), how can we know God?
- Knowing something “by faith” seems like nonsense to post-Enlightenment Westerners: we have a prejudice to claiming that we only “know” things by senses. This is a problem in many ways. First, our senses can be wrong. Second, our beliefs about things are what permits us to know anything. We must believe certain things are true to know anything. Example: You must belief that there is a real world, that you are not dreaming, that there are other rational beings before you can know anything about them.
Moreover, we can only know certain things by faith, by belief. Imagine a young couple: each has formed a deep romantic love for the other, but that love has never been expressed. The love exists but it cannot be known until it is believed. What if the young man tells the lady, “I love you” — but she does not believe him. The love is real, but it is unknown. Only if she believes it to be real, is it real.
The truth about God is real and apparent: Creation, Conscience, Christ; yet, it is not known until it is believed.
Thus, faith in God is not a make-believe exercise.
- Since knowledge of God is relational it is regulated by the persons in relation; God is under no obligation to make himself known. What is required to lay hold of things not seen? Whom does God reward?
- While knowledge by faith is real, does it have any limitations?
- What are the affirmative statements in the NT which describe the manner in which we do know God?
- Do we know “enough” of God? In what way? For what purpose?
- What is the end of our knowledge of God?
- Explain how we comparatively know God better after the Incarnation?
- What is the difference in knowledge between a believer and an unbeliever?
- How can an unbeliever know “about” God? An unbeliever can know about God from Creation — even from the Scriptures. Unbelievers can study the Scripture and make conclusions based upon that data.
- Analogy: Is it possible for a historian to know a great deal about President Lincoln (without knowing Mr. Lincoln?)?
- What does God not intend by his self-revelation?
- What does God intend by revealing himself to us?
- A doctrine is never to known simply for its factual value: A doctrine is to known for its effect. What effect should the ultimate incomprehensibility of God have upon us?
Let us, then, revive the use and intendment of this consideration: Will not a due apprehension of this inconceivable greatness of God, and that infinite distance wherein we stand from him, fill the soul with a holy and awful fear of him, so as to keep it in a frame unsuited to the thriving or flourishing of any lust whatever? Let the soul be continually wonted to reverential thoughts of God’s greatness and omnipresence, and it will be much upon its watch as to any undue deportments. Consider him with whom you have to do,—even “our God is a consuming fire;” and in your greatest abashments at his presence and eye, know that your very nature is too narrow to bear apprehensions suitable to his essential glory. (118)
- How will such an effect result in deadening (mortification) of sin in our lives?