Q: How do we picture an infinite God in our infinite minds?
A: We learn by using what we already know as a bridge over which we pass to the unknown. It is not possible for the mind to crash suddenly past the familiar into the totally unfamiliar. Even the most vigorous and daring mind is unable to create something out of nothing by a spontaneous act of imagination.
Q: So how does the Bible give us a picture of God?
A: The effort of inspired men to express the ineffable has placed a great strain upon both thought and language in the Holy Scriptures. These being often a revelation of a world above nature, and the minds for which they were written being a part of nature, the writers are compelled to use a great many “like” words to make themselves understood.
Q: What is the role of the Holy Spirit in allowing us to “comprehend” God?
A: When the Spirit would acquaint us with something that lies beyond our field of knowledge, He tells us that this thing is like something we already know, but He is always careful to phrase His description so as to save us from slavish literalism. For example, when the prophet Ezekiel saw heaven opened and he beheld visions of God, he found himself looking at that which he had no language to describe. What he was seeing was wholly different from anything he had ever known before, so he fell back on the language of resemblance. “As for the likeness of living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire.”
The nearer he approaches the burning throne the less sure his words become: “And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the color of amber, the appearance of fire round about within it … this was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” One gathers that the whole scene is very real, but entirely alien to anything men know on earth.
Q: But if we as men are made in God’s “image,” can’t we comprehend that He is like us, only greater?
A: When the Scripture states that man was made in the image of God, we dare not add to that statement an idea from our own head and make it mean “in the exact image.” ‘To do so is to make man a replica of God, and that is to lose the unicity of God and end with no God at all. It is to break down the wall, infinitely high, that separates that-which-is-God from that-which-is-not God. To think of creature and Creator as alike in their essential being is to rob God of most of his attributes and reduce Him to the status of a creature.It is for instance, to rob Him of His infinitude: there cannot be two unlimited substances in the universe. That would be to take away his sovereignty: there cannot be two absolutely free beings in the universe for sooner or later two completely free wills must collide.
When we try to imagine what God is like we must of necessity use that-which-is-not-God as the raw material for our minds to work on; hence whatever we visualize God to be, He is not, for we have constructed our image out of that which He has made, and what He has made, is not of God. If we insist upon trying to imagine Him, we end with an idol, made not with hands, but with thoughts; and an idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hands.
Q: But the question of “what God is like” is the one thing so many of us want to know. What are we do do?
A: The yearning to know what cannot be known, to comprehend the incomprensible, to touch and taste the unapproachable, arises from the image of God in the nature of man. Deep calleth unto deep, and though polluted and landlocked by the mighty disaster theologians call the Fall, the soul senses its origin and longs to return to its Source. How can this be realized?
The answer of the Bible is simply “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” In Christ and by Christ, God effects complete self-disclosure, although He shows Himself not to reason but to faith and love. Faith is an organ of knowledge, and love an organ of experience. god came to us in the incarnation; in atonement He reconciled us to Himself, and by faith and love we enter and lay hold on Him.
(Blogger’s Note: These excerpts come from A.W. Tozier’s “The Knowledge of the Holy.” Tozier, (1897-1963) was a popular evangelical author and minister. The author of more than 30 books, he has been called one of the most influential American evangelists of the 20th Century.)