Knowledge of the Holy: part 2


As human beings, we learn by category and association.  When faced with something new, our mind immediately begins to search for something in our history or experience with which to link this new thing.  For example, when we learn to read, our brain develops categories for sounds, letter shapes, and whole words.  As we grow, these categories become almost inviolable, which is one of the reasons that it is harder to learn new languages as we get older.  The brain stores these categories in a short-term memory that functions almost like RAM on a computer.  The more you can access in these centers, the more fluent you are in a language.

Because we naturally try to make connections between the known and the unknown, when we are faced with something that is truly incomprehensible, our mind often makes false connections.  Think about the “false friends/faux amis” in foreign languages–that is, words that sound like a word in English, but means something else entirely. (One of the most famous faux amis is “Berliner.”  A person from Berlin? Nope, a doughnut.)

Tozer suggests that how we think about God is often like a “false friend.”  We make connections that seem to make sense, but more often than not lead us to a misunderstanding of God rather than a deeper understanding.  For example, think about God the Father.  Even the best definition of an earthly father pales in comparison to our Heavenly One.  Still, how many of us have confused our own fathers with God’s Fatherhood?  For example, if our fathers were harsh or untrustworthy, we find that our view of God is one of a harsh, untrustworthy being who cannot have our good in mind.  The Son of Man knew that we humans are subject to false connections, and tried to expand our thinking.  In Luke 11:9-13 and Matthew 7:7-12, Christ notes that even though we are bent creatures, we know how to give good gifts to our children.  And yet, He says, how much more our Father in heaven lavishes on His children.  In other words, though we need a category to create a mental bridge between the known and unknown, we should never confuse the bridge, the category, with the Unknown itself.

It is not through preconceived categories that God has revealed Himself to us.  It is in the person of Jesus Christ.  It is through Christ that we are introduced to His goodness:  His love for the poor, the outcast, the low-cast, the oppressed.  His hatred for hypocrisy and lies.  Tozer writes, “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” (9).  God is comprehensible only through Christ, and Christ is only comprehensible by faith and love.

“‘What is God like?’ If by that question we mean ‘What is God like in Himself?’ there is no answer.  If we mean ‘What has God disclosed about Himself that the reverent reason can comprehend?’ there is, I believe, an answer both full and satisfying” (11).  God is essentially unknowable.  Yet He has revealed Himself through Christ in a way that we can comprehend.

Questions to ponder:

1. What faux amis do you think you have created about God?

2. What examples in the life of Christ do you think corrects these false connections?


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