“My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” (Ps. 131:1).
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness…” (1 Tim. 3:16).
This month I have been reading in Irenaeus. Irenaeus was a great theologian of the 2nd Century. He was taught by Polycarp, who was in turn taught by the Apostle John. Reading Irenaeus we get a glimpse of a faith that looks back not 2,000 years as we do, but a mere 200.
Irenaeus wrote much against the heresies of his day, particularly against the teachings of Gnosticism which made Christ a sort of sub-god who only seemed to be human. In fact, one of his greatest works was called simply “Against Heresies.” Irenaeus clarified many truths and answered many questions, but he also insisted that many, many mysteries were to us simply unknowable.
If any one, therefore, says to us, “How then was the Son produced by the Father?” we reply to him, that no man understands that production, or generation, or calling, or revelation, or by whatever name one may describe His generation, which is in fact altogether indescribable. Neither Valentinus, nor Marcion, nor Saturninus, nor Basilides, nor angels, nor archangels, nor principalities, nor powers [possess this knowledge], but the Father only who begat, and the Son who was begotten….
While we are here on earth as Paul says, “we know in part and prophesy in part” (1 Cor. 13:9). Since, then, we know only in part, we must leave all matters of perplexing questions in the hands of Him who gives us some small measure of grace. For example, the Lord has clearly declared, and the rest of Scripture proves, that everlasting fire is prepared for sinners. Scripture likewise proves that God foreknew humanity would sin, since He prepared this everlasting fire from the beginning for the disobedient (Matt. 25:41). But what causes the disobedient to be what they are: this has not been told by Scripture, nor an apostle, nor the Lord Himself. – Irenaeus, Against Heresies, xxviii
At one point in His ministry Jesus said, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16;12). Jacob was denied knowing the name of the one with whom he wrestled at Jabbock (Gen. 32:29), and when Manoah asked his angelic visitor a similar question the angel replied, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?” Or in other words, “beyond understanding,” i.e. filled with wonderment! (see Judg. 13:17-19).
Yes, some things are certainly unknowable to us now. And for me, that gives me great confidence. After all, what kind of a God would He be if in all the infinitude of creation and eternity my puny mind could comprehend Him?
Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.