What Can We Know of God with Our Minds?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” - Isaiah 55:8-9
In my first reading of the question I was to address, I misread it as “What can we know of the mind of God?” I wondered if simply answering, “nothing” would suffice, even as I contemplated the nuances of how God’s mind may be revealed to us both through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
I was grateful to return to the assignment and realize that the question was in fact, “What can we know of God with our minds.” I was again tempted to oversimplify and answer, “everything”. Our God is the God of all creation, anything and everything we know is of God. So then, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, all that we know with our minds, is in fact of God.
While tempting, these all-or-nothing answers are not entirely satisfactory. Indeed, God is known through all things but what of God? Philosophically there are few definite to be known, whereas others fields of science are more versed in known entities. Scientific advancement has revealed a great deal about creation, well beyond casual observation.
I had the good fortune of attending a presentation by some leaders from NASA about the telescopes planned for Mauna kea (Maui). The lead presenter spoke at length about general advancements of science, leading us toward to current progression of telescope technology. He explained that despite other advancements, location of these instruments was critical to maximizing their potential. He went on to explain, with no small amount of fascination that our definitive knowledge of further and further systems continued to expand. It is also interesting to note that throughout our progression of understanding the expansiveness of creation, so too our understanding of smaller and smaller aspects of creation come to light.
He observed that science still offered no definitive answers to the beginning of the universe, nor could it. But, whatever set the course of creation in motion was still at work. Indeed, it seems that creation is still being created, even at an ever-increasing pace. He paused to note that they did not know, or name this force. I muttered to those nearby that I had a few suggestions in this department.
I see science and faith as old friends. Perhaps they have a spat every few generations, but I am hopeful for their restoration. I believe this hope is well founded, as some in the science community who have been reluctant to believe in God because of what could be known are now also able to see that some force beyond creation (named or unnamed) has certainly interceded. The calculable odds of creation and all of its complexity simply happening are unfathomable.
No matter how much knowledge we accumulate, mystery remains. While God can be observed through the knowledge, I imagine God resides more so in the mystery. So then, can the knowledge found in philosophy, theology and doctrine be easily differentiated from our scientific knowledge? Is it similar to the difference of knowing something and experiencing it to be true?
Mercy, grace and love are not easily quantifiable. Yet, I know they exist. I have experienced mercy, grace and love from other persons. I have experienced mercy, grace and love of God. I believe these are principle expressions of God. I know with my mind, that part of my role as a Christian and as a priest of the church is to make God’s mercy, grace and love known to others as well.
The Rev. Paul Klitzke is the rector of Church of the Ascension in Dallas.