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The Possibility of Knowledge of God

We know nothing of God except and until he makes Himself known. Any Christian discussion of God can speak only of the God who has made himself known. Thus Christian theology is not looking for God, but proceeds boldly upon the unconcealed presupposition of its being already addressed by God.

Although Christian faith celebrates God's self-disclosure in nature and history generally, it does not regard either nature or history as synonymous with revelation. For in neither nature nor in history is the will and purpose of God unambiguously disclosed. Christian theology does not pretend to speak of any other God than that God who is made known in the history of the people of Israel and the Christ event.

Four Sources of Theological Authority. Our authority for speaking of God is fourfold: scriptural truth experienced in life, made intelligible and self-consistent through reasoning, and mediated through the historic Christian tradition. All talk about God in the Christian community is called to be responsible to these four criteria. Each exists in responsive dialogue with the alleged self-disclosure of God. None exists wholesomely without the correctives and balancing features of the others.

Thus we cannot focus our affirmations about the self-disclosure of God exclusively upon narrow scriptural literalism (fundamentalism), nor upon an ambiguous ecclesiastical or cultic tradition, however rich, which would claim to have an infallible interpretation of it (ecclesiastical archaism), nor strictly upon our own capacity to make sense out of it or order it into a self-consistent whole (rationalism), nor upon merely our experiencing the benefits of it (pietism). To focus upon one resource so as to exclude the others is to subvert a wholesome theological method.

Could not all of these ideas about God merely be a projection of our own needs? There is much truth in that. Most of our ideas about God are merely human wishes. But the Christian faith begins with the audacious assumption that God has in fact revealed Himself precisely against our illusions about him!

Reference: TSOA, pp. 85, 87-88.