Vol.XV No.II Pg.4
April 1978

How Can We "Know" God?

Robert F. Turner

The modern theologian places emphasis upon "existential man" rather than upon a pre-existent, personal God; and would say that man can know of God only via his inner responses to God-concepts. To many these "concepts" are but developments of civilization, fruits of soul-searching on the part of our prehistoric ancestors as they groped for an explanation of the unknown. The modern theologian knows God in his "heart" — through transcendental meditations o r the like. He reasons that God is not subject to man's five senses, and therefore can not be "known" as one might know of material things.

There is an element of truth in the above. God IS Spirit, and cannot be adequately represented by things material (Jn. 4:24 Ex. 20:4 Acts 17:24). We do the idea of God an injustice when we "place" Him literally on some celestial cloud — a stately old gentleman with long beard. But we must reject Karl Barth's statement, "— we are not thinking of some being existing in self-contained form prior to his revelation to man. God is identical with his revelation." God, worthy of the "God-concept," must have existed prior to the revelation of Himself, being eternal in nature (Jn. 17:5, 24). What true God must be created by the imagination of his creatures? With such a basis there is nothing left for us but the subjective speculation of men — making themselves the laboratory, the manual, and the final judge of the experiment.

We believe the Bible provides man with an objective approach to God. Before you "turn us off" give the idea a fair examination. What does it offer? What may one expect from an objective study of the Bible? May we expect to fathom the true essence of Deity; to appreciate, via translation into human experience, the true nature of God? This is impossible, for man has no experience comparable with immortality, no basis for understanding such things. If God had, somehow, expressed the actual glories of Himself, as "known" by Himself, these glories would remain hidden from man for we lack the capacity to appreciate them. But the Bible is filled with "anthropomorphisms," a Greek compound meaning "human in form." Attributes of God are expressed in "man form" so we can grasp them.

God is Spirit, but He "walked in the garden" in the cool (f.m. wind) of the day (Gen. 3:8). "No man has seen God at any time" (1 Jn. 4:12), for He is wholly immortal (1 Tim. 6:16) yet Moses talked with Him "face to face" (i.e., directly, rather than through a prophet; — and "thou shalt see my back" (Ex. 33:11, 18-23). Moses saw something less than the full "glory" of the Lord v. 18), but enough that this glory was reflected upon his face (34:29-35). Heaven has gates of pearl and street of gold because man thinks "value" in these terms.

Yes, the idea of God "transcends" material things, and a transcendental operation is essential if we are to know Him. But man does not do the transcending. God crossed the gulf —the gap between deity and humanity — and revealed Himself and His will for man in terms and means of communication suited to His creatures. (continued next page)