Can We Comprehend God?

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The conventional answer to that question is of course, “No way!”  But is that really true?  I think my answer is more like “Probably not.”  Maybe the question is too broad, maybe it should be, “Can we comprehend the ways of God?”

I’m still not sure; it’s a little too theoretical for my usual tastes, but it does deserve more thought than we usually give it.

I’ve posted in the past about not being able to comprehend heaven and salvation, and the conclusion I usually come to is that we simply lack the vocabulary to properly and adequately describe them, and the references to transmit their fullness in language.  My thinking is that since nobody has been to heaven per se, nobody has invented the words that would be needed to describe it.  When the Bible makes reference to heaven, it uses word pictures to describe it, using earthly frames of reference that, when taken literally, can lead us to inaccurate conclusions about it. A word picture is not intended to be taken literally.  Moving forward, if you have ever studied a foreign language beyond the very basic level, you have come across words that don’t have an English counterpart, and are thus difficult to translate.  One such word from my own experience is the German word Gemütlichkeit, there just isn’t an English word that can translate this one; it takes several sentences, and then I’m still not sure we’ve quite got it.  According to Wikipedia, the closest word is “cozy” and then they go on and on from there, so the limitations of human vocabulary is one problem that we face with our questions about God.

Another problem that we have in trying to comprehend the ways of God is our lack of adequate frames of reference.  These references are the little hooks of understanding that convey whole experiences or meanings that go well beyond the mere words.  Recently Little Monk posted a piece that used frames of reference from Star Trek only to discover that younger readers had no clue what was meant!  I got it, but then I am not as young as I once was… I can remember the time that my father used the expression “Hooverville” and I had no clue. Being a persistent lad, I made him explain it, and I got a history lesson about the Great Depression.  Lately I’ve noticed that Little Monk and Paulfg have been using the word “sacred” to describe God’s ways in certain respects; at least it provides some of the attributes of references.  Certainly, the only place we can really go for references would be Scripture, and yet those Scriptural references tend to take us more to texts than to concepts… imperfect references at best.

Here’s an idea, what do you think of this one:  You’ve heard that the scientists say that we only use a very small percentage of our brain’s computing capacity, right?  I’ve been hearing that said for 45 years or more, and that the percentage we actually use is something like 5-10 percent.  Could it be that the other 90% is the “God part”?  Maybe when they sinned in the Garden, God cut them off from the Tree of Life because it contained the access code to unlock the rest of our brains’ abilities. Maybe we don’t get that access code until we actually get to heaven!

Weil, even if that were true, we’d still lack the references and the vocabulary, unless….

Well, enough of that idle speculation. It’s just a crazy thought.  But it is kind of fun to think about if you have a little extra time on your hands.  I know that if I were still hanging out in the faculty lounge with the other theology professors, I’d run it up the flagpole.  If nothing else it would be more fun to talk about that over lunch, than hearing yet again how bad my Lakers are this year!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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25 Responses to Can We Comprehend God?

  1. Anonymous says:

    No doubt He is incomprehensible to us. I really hadn’t thought about having the proper vocabulary but that has to be true, thanks!!!

  2. Reblogged this on joebright2013 and commented:
    grate piece 🙂

  3. authorjabar says:

    This is so deep!

  4. paulfg says:

    Thank you for a weekend surprise! I am 90% sure you may be on to something. Yet the other 10% is still not sure I understand. It’s a bit too simple for my liking. 🙂

    • Don Merritt says:

      Wow, you’re at 90 – 10! I’m at about 51 – 49 on the brain part (and 100 on the words and references)

      • paulfg says:

        Words and references. Funny this word “sacred”. Sort of expresses, for me, the value of each of the elements created. All equally valuable+++. The “heaven bit” and “God bit” – I stop at pure love. And all the attachments/lack of attachments that make pure love work for me. Which I think means I use my own headline words – along with everyone else using their own versions.

        The “no access” concept – made me chuckle. When you mentioned earlier you sparked a thought/idea in a quite week – that was one I would never have pre-empted! Yet on reflection it is a curious idea with merit. In my head I always thought that was where the “cowboy ghost town”- complete with wind whistling and dust blowing – resided. You certainly brightened up my afternoon! 🙂

        • Don Merritt says:

          I’m always glad to provide amusement, chuckles, and who knows, maybe even the early form of a beginning of thinking about the latest and greatest crazy theory. Anyway, it all came out of your comment yesterday morning (Friday US time) rattling around my head while doing laundry!

          Oh, the access code thing. Yes, right you are. That’s just me struggling for a frame of reference that sort of conveys an idea in my head that I don’t have the right words to explain…

          I just recommended your blog to a guy I know (William Haney) Can’t tell you how many times I’ve read your posts and been reminded of him! He’d love your Batmobile thing, really into pop culture, works in TV, etc etc… Sadly, he doesn’t blog, but if he did it would be a hoot to read!

          • paulfg says:

            Lovely comments Don, thank you. The batmobile has been in the garage of late – have to see if the lord is still taking it for a spin!

            Your access code has been on my mind (weekend of payroll and timesheets here). That theory of “thin places” and your “access code” are sliding towards each other in a foggy kind of way. LM’s Omniverse floating around there as well.

            Plus my payroll program comes with every gizmo included. Except access is restricted to different elements only released with licence fees paid.

            It’s a slow day here!! 🙂

  5. William Haney says:

    I am compelled by the 90% theory that I’d God’s realm. That could blow mortal science out of the water. God knows us and comprehends. It’s the halfwits in this world who truly cannot comprehend mine and others feelings. Some personal frustrations toward some others I must admit. Cool, you mentioned Star Trek, fascinating…. Live long and prosper 🙂

    • Don Merritt says:

      William! You just reminded me! Check out this guy’s blog, the two of you would have a great time getting to know each other; he really reminds me of You!

      justmebeingcurious.wordpress.com

  6. dwmartens says:

    Your comments on this subject, in general, are as practical of an explanation as I’ve seen. When the subject of understanding these things comes up, my mind generally goes to 1 Cor. 2:
    “9 However, as it is written:
    “What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
    and what no human mind has conceived”[b]—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—
    10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.”
    (Verses 10 & 16 sort of gives a hint that our having his Spirit gives a glimpse of what’s ahead, but just a glimpse.)
    Also, 1 John 3: “2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”
    And, a number of other verses that tell us how infinitely greater He is than we are, like Is 55: 8-9.
    Sin/Self has certainly “dumbed us down,” but with our eyes on Jesus we are looking in the right direction to see him, and the better as we get closer to him. (cf. John 1:18)

  7. vwoods1212 says:

    Wow, really wild theory. Part of my memory trapped inside of me? Interesting. VW

  8. sotefj says:

    I have wondered the same thing. 🙂

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