Mysteries beg to be solved. This explains how I could get so engrossed in mind-bending puzzles at Science Museum Oklahoma that I lost my son. That also explains why I have a hard time putting down a detective novel but not so much when reading a political primer and why movies are so much easier to finish than documentaries. Something about unanswered questions calls us to journey to the end of the earth to find answers.
Yet when I consider the mysteries of Scripture, I often feel like I am left with more questions than answers. How could a sovereign God control everything yet escape culpability for evil? How could a God who is not in control of evil be in control in the first place? How could the Father be separated from the Son, the second person of the Trinity, while that Son was crushed beneath the weight of the Father’s wrath? How can man be separated from the presence of an omnipresent God for eternal damnation?
These mysteries can sometimes overwhelm me. I feel incompetent as a thinker and unfounded as a Christian. “Surely,” I think to myself, “no serious and intelligent Christian would leave such major questions unanswered.” So I find answers only to find those answers raise more questions. Unfortunately, what little I have come to know about God and myself from the Scripture provides little hope for comprehending these mysteries any time soon. God is infinite and we are finite. The learned professor and the uninitiated church member are all flailing theologians at best.
Yet whether I am the professor or the layman, if I have responded to the mysteries of the divine with a sense of overwhelming depression or despair, perhaps I have misunderstood the point of theology. At least, the apostle Paul seemed to think so. He concluded his treatise on the gospel in Romans by saying, O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
To study God and walk away feeling like a failure because you have unanswered questions is to miss the point of theology entirely. Theology is our feeble attempt to know God. And (as our study informs us) we will never entirely comprehend Him. Theology done right might not answer all our questions, but it should engender a sense of awe and subsequent worship that sounds loudly from our mouth and louder still from our behavior.
To more deeply know God as He has revealed Himself in creation, in the Scriptures, and in Jesus Christ, should be our constant passion as believers. Providing adequate answers to real problems with our understanding of God must ever be the aim of the theologian. But the mysteries that still boggle our minds should not cause us to bury our faces in our hands in dismay. Instead, they should move us to worship the God Who is far greater than any mystery, to lift our hands in praise to the God Who so exceeds our comprehension that our quest for understanding will never be complete, and to move forward in life, believing by faith that He has provided enough light for the next step.