Last time we made the claim that knowledge of God and salvation by God go hand in hand. Only those who have been saved by God know God. At the same time, coming to know God is another way of describing being saved by God.
Therefore all those truths we hold so dear about salvation are equally true for knowledge of God. Knowledge of God is by God’s grace alone. It is received by faith alone. And it is given to us in Christ alone (the Christ of Scripture alone!). We must receive the freely given truth about God by faith – that truth is in Jesus. Christ alone reveals to us the true and living God.
Now at this point people generally have a few objections.
People will often say: “Hang on. Don’t people know lots of things about God? Aren’t there billions of people who may not trust Jesus, but they have plenty to say about God?”
Well of course that is true. People have lots of things to say about some kind of higher being – and many of them may even use the word “God”. But using the same name does not at all mean that they know the same person (or Persons)!
I share a name with my father which is very confusing for people who think they know Glen Scrivener. People may know my father very well indeed and be able to tell you all kinds of personal things about Glen Scrivener, some of them may even be true of me! But they are NOT describing me when they use those words. Any actual correspondence between their words about my father and my own situation would be utterly co-incidental. They do not know me at all.
The same is true of statements about “God”. A non-Christian may have plenty to say about “God”, yet however similar their descriptions may sound , they have no knowledge of the True God whatsoever.
Over the next few posts we’ll look at four areas where people have attempted to by-pass revelation in Jesus and come up with a knowledge of God:-
- Other religions
- Biblical religion
Perhaps we can use reason and logic to build up for ourselves a true picture of God. Certainly we won’t be able to get the whole picture – but basic truths about God as Creator, God as Intelligent, God as Powerful – surely these can be deduced without the need for revelation.
Descartes is a good example of someone who believed this. From the ‘unshakeable’ foundation of “I think therefore I am”, Descartes set out to build a picture of reality. This picture was based not on external revelation – he doubted all external sensory experience – but trusted instead the powers of his own mind to bring him truth. He used an age-old philosophical argument for God’s existence – the ontological argument – and came up with a definition of something he called “god”. At heart, this “god” was a being of infinite perfections (whatever they are).
What do we make of all this? Is that the God we worship? Well Matthew 11 has made us pretty dubious about a wise and learned approach to God! Those famous verses from Proverbs 3 are an age-old warning:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding… Do not be wise in your own eyes. (Proverbs 3:5-7)
Combine this with three verses from Paul’s epistles and we see that the human mind and its powers are not to be trusted:
Romans 8:7: the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
2 Corinthians 4:4: The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Colossians 1:21: Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour.
Our rebellion against God alienates us from God. This, we know. Yet Paul says, strikingly, that the focus of this rebellion is in our minds. Our minds are not dispassionate observers, collating data and building logical pictures from assured foundations. Our minds are weapons used against God. Reason will never come up with the truth about God, it will only yield idolatry. Descartes’ so-called god is a philosophical idol constructed in opposition to the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In Colossians 2:8, Paul warns us very sternly about the dangers of philosophy:
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”
All our thinking must be based on Christ – built from His sure foundation. The people who say they can get part of the way through reason are utterly wrong. You can’t even get off the ground without the foundation of Christ. We never reason our way towards Jesus, we must start with Him.
As the 4th century theologian Athanasius said:
“The only system of thought into which Jesus Christ will fit, is the one in which He is the starting point.”