Last week in class we started out by doing a general overview of what we’re covering in the course, and set some basic foundations for the content. One of the best things – and main emphasis – of what we talked about was the fundamentally dependent nature of theology. Dr. Garner read the following quote to the class which I found very powerful:
There are two important things to note from this passage:
This is to say that we cannot postulate and speculare up into a true knowledge of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). We must first look for God as God over us before we can know anything further about God (his attributes, character, personality, etc.). God must speak for us to know anything about him. What Kuyper nails in this passage is that if God does not speak about himself, there is no ground for knowing anything about him. We know God because he’s gracious. We know God because he loves revealing himself. And why does he love revealing himself? Because he loves making his glory great, for “from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36). Because God’s revelation of himself is the only way we can know him, the thought of testing that knowledge against anything else is absolutely absurd, and fundamentally a misstep of faith. Why? Because when we want to test something to see if its true, we test it against things that it is like. You test the testimony of one person on an event against another person on an event; you test the accuracy of a gun against the accuracy of another gun. So how will you test the revelation of God? Against… another god’s revelation? If God speaks, his “Word is truth” (John 17:17), and as such, there is no other truth or word to test it against. We receive – we depend on God to reveal himself, and we believe. It is a joy to know the Word of God and receive him in joy (isn’t that one of the underlying themes of Psalm 119?).
This is a point more for meditation than exposition, but consider: When we say, “God’s Word is not sufficient to know God”, what are we fundamentally doing? Among many things, we are then putting our judgment above God’s, and making an idol after our own image of what we think God should be. This is at least one of the things Paul underlines in Romans 1:18ff – When people reject God on God’s terms, they raise up themselves and an idol to worship like themselves. When we turn from receiving God, dependent on him, longing for his Word and revelation – when we turn from this view of theology, we automatically start creating an image of God that we can control, we commit idolatry.
So, in light of that, I’d encourage you to re-read Kuyper’s quote.
What this means for my soul is that it impresses upon me the importance of prayer in theological work as in the rest of life. The Lord says, “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). “You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek’ (Psalm 27:8). The aim of God in my life is for me to seek his face, to know him in prayer and quietness. To know him for all that he is and all that subsequently says about me – which should drive me to trembling prayer. The knowledge of God, even in an academic setting, should set me on edge, trembling for how great he is. What a severe glory – I can only know God on his terms. This underlines his sovereignty and puts his grace in Technicolor. The mouth requires the hand atop it, for there is nothing else to do here. Silence and prayer before this God whom I love to know. Does this not put new depths to Jesus saying, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63)? Let us come before this God, who in the fullness of time sent His Son that we might be reconciled from our sin and idolatry by His blood to have fellowship and knowledge of Him.