Transcendent, Yet Immanent: Our Majestic Knowable God

In the Old and New Testaments, a tension exists between God’s ineffability and His knowability. God is both incapable of being seen, yet capable of making Himself known to selected witnesses on special occasions. The ineffability of God finds expression in Exodus 33.20: after Moses’ request to see God’s glory, God says to him, “Man shall not see me and live.” In John 1.18, the Apostle declares, “No one has ever seen God.” Yet the biblical writers also emphasize the accessibility of God, with the promise and expectation that people will come to know God and know, in that case, what pleases him. When the Israelites are delivered from Egypt, they “will know that (Yahweh) is the LORD” (Exodus 6.7; 7.5; 8.22, etc.). In Exodus 33.11, we find that “the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” The eternal life possessed by the followers of Christ consists in the fact that “they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17.3). This paper will seek to resolve this tension by qualifying the sense in which human beings know God, and it will do so following three steps of argumentation. First, it will examine the measures taken by God to reveal Himself to finite human beings. Second, it will examine the powers of human beings to receive what God has communicated concerning Himself. Third, it will show that a personal knowledge of Christ maximizes human receptivity to God’s self-disclosure, as indicated under the first stage of the argument described above.

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