God Will Elude You in Your Study

by on January 4, 2016

I recently found myself looking, back through A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy  and was reminded just how good of a book it is for seminarians to read every now and then.

In a sermon preached by Tozer on God’s Holiness, he tells the story of Leonardo Da Vinci painting the “Last Supper”. When he was painting, Da Vinci had little problem with anything except the faces. Then he painted in the faces without much trouble except for one: the face of Christ. Feeling helpless to paint him but knowing he must, Da Vinci finally gave in and painted his face quickly. In despair he said that it was hopeless to do any better since he could not adequately paint Christ.

Tozer remarked that attempting to talk about God and His Holiness is much like this; he knows he is helpless to be able to do justice with words to describe the infinite, eternal, perfectly Holy God.

And oh wouldn’t it be so helpful if the culture and atmosphere of seminary was soaked with this humility! Here are some Tozer quotes to sit in:

“’God has no origin,’ said Novatian, and it is precisely this concept of no-origin which distinguishes That-which-is-God from whatever is not God…The child by his question, ‘Where did God come from?’ is unwittingly acknowledging his creaturehood…He must be told that God has no origin, and he will find this hard to grasp since it introduces a category with which he is wholly unfamiliar and contradicts the bent toward origin-seeking…” 

“Philosophy and science have not always been friendly toward the idea of God, the reason being that they are dedicated to the task of accounting for things and are impatient with anything that refuses to give an account of itself. The philosopher and the scientist will admit that there is much that they do not know; but that is quite another thing from admitting that there is something…which indeed they have no technique for discovering.”

God cannot be proven empirically through human methods of scientific or social inquiry precisely because those methods can be applied only to those things which are created and thus, have a cause. A being with no cause or beginning simply cannot be explained through human inquiry or the scientific method. This approach is entirely unable to touch God.

Yet so often we seminarians approach God as if He were equal with us, as if “God” were more of a position to be occupied rather than the self-existent, self-sufficient, perfectly Holy, eternal God that he is.

What if we went through seminary while holding the truth in our minds that God, unlike us who are entirely contingent upon him, has no outside source he must consult or rely upon for life or indeed, for anything. He has life fully in himself and needs nothing. He is the only being that is entirely free in the truest sense of the word.

As Tozer puts it, “The word ‘necessary’ is wholly foreign to God.”

“To admit that there is One who lies beyond us, who exists outside of all our categories, who will not be dismissed with a name, who will not appear before the bar of our reason, nor submit to our curious inquiries: this requires a great deal of humility, more than most of us possess, so we save face by thinking God down to our level, or at least down to where we can manage Him. Yet how He eludes us!”

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About

Frequenting the coffee shops of Philadelphia while employed in social work and finishing up a Masters of Divinity from the Newbigin House of Studies at Western Theological Seminary. He serves Liberti Church as a deacon and seminary intern. Paul blogs at the long way home and tweets as @PaulBurkhart_.