Ever been faced with a big, complicated theological issue and studied it for a little bit before completely giving up?
There are so many theological questions in the world and so many great, godly people who fall on all sides of the issues. Credobaptism or paedobaptism? Arminianism or Calvinism? Dispensationalism or New Covenantism? Methodism or Southern Baptistism or Anglicanism? So many “isms” out there to think through.
I’m in the middle of a lot of questions, big and small, in my walk with the Lord. So here’s a disclaimer: I don’t have the answers. I’m just a very confused young believer with a desire to know the God of the Bible as much as I can. It’s also motivating to love a guy who believes some things differently than me and tests every concept thoroughly, just like 1 Thessalonians 5:21. So knowing my own lack of expertise and insufficient answers, what you’ll find here are some conclusions I’ve reached and things I’ve found helpful.
People go to various extremes when responding to these types of questions. Maybe your reaction is, “My pastor says _____, so that must be the way it is.” Maybe you’re more persistent, studying the topic until it gets too complicated, and you give up. Maybe you pursue the topic for 20 years, and you will never stop until you have the complete, perfect answer that explains it all. Maybe from the moment you were faced with the question you accepted that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts so there is no reason for trying to understand it.
Are these the right responses we ought to have for these questions? Let’s look at the biblical answer for how we, as Christians, should approach our hard questions.
The first thing that we have to accept for any theological question we may have is that God is ultimately incomprehensible. We can never have all the answers. We will never completely understand (Job 11:7-8, Psalm 145:3, Job 37:5, Isaiah 55:8-9).
It’s not because we’re sinful that we can’t comprehend - it’s because of who God is. His majesty and infinity render Him incomprehensible even to the angels. Charles Spurgeon spoke of this truth about God, saying, “If we could understand God, He would not be God, for it is a part of the nature of God that He should be infinitely greater than any created mind.”
When I dwell on the incomprehensibility of God, I tend to feel discouraged (aside from feeling a teeny bit smart for using a 19 letter word). It’s overwhelming. But look at Paul’s words, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33).
He’s moved to praise! As my pastor, Dr. John Snyder, put it in his Sunday school curriculum Behold Your God: The Weight of Majesty, “Strangely, these unapproachably glorious realities of God’s character did not discourage or dampen Paul’s worship. They moved him to exalt the solitary honor of this God.”
We’ll never have perfect answers. Paul tells us many times that the gospel is a mystery (1 Timothy 3:16, Ephesians 3:4, Romans 16:25). Can we say our response echoes Paul’s? Do we praise or do we wish He would have explained more?
Secondly, despite the truth of God’s incomprehensibility, do not give up on hard questions. God’s infinity means we will be able to grow in our knowledge of Him for all of eternity without ever reaching the end. John 17:3 tells us that knowing God is itself eternal life! Philippians 3:10, 2 Peter 3:18, and 1 Peter 3:15-16 all give us various motivations to know God more fully. If we aren’t growing in our knowledge of God, something is wrong. Test everything, hold fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
There aren’t any exceptions or excuses for a Christian to not know God more fully with each day. Don’t indulge the lies that you are too busy to study the answers, that you don’t know where to start or how to study them, that they’re not important enough, or that there’s something else more amusing you should spend your time on.
Whatever questions we may have, God can be known still because of His gracious revelation and illumination in His word. Erik Thoennes wrote that “God’s knowability should lead to eager, diligent, devoted study of God’s Word so that we can understand him as he has revealed himself and avoid any false view of God that will dishonor him. We should never grow apathetic in seeking to know God because we are in fact able and equipped to know Him and to please Him with our lives.”
Don’t shy away from hard questions. When we haven’t thought through our theological stances, our worldview will be easily toppled. Establish your worldview more firmly and test everything, holding fast to what is good. The point is, don’t give up when it gets complicated or discouraging. “Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord,” as Hosea 6:3 exhorts us, for that is eternal life.