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Comprehending the Incomprehensible

Chuck Colson | BreakPoint | Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Comprehending the Incomprehensible

December 24, 2008

In the latest installment of his Great Books Audio CD Series, Dr. Ken Boa speaks of A.W. Tozer as a man who “understood the ways of God.” That understanding is amply demonstrated in Tozer’s classic book The Knowledge of the Holy.

“This is really a meditative and a devotional approach to the attributes of God,” Boa says. Those include more attributes than we’re used to thinking about all at once. For instance, Tozer discusses God’s omniscience and omnipotence as well as His love and mercy.

But Tozer doesn’t just show us the reality of those attributes; he also shows how they work together to form a harmonious whole. They are not contradictory, but complementary.

But our view of God, Tozer argues, is often “distorted” or “diminished” because we have embraced the prevailing mindset of our culture and imposed that mindset upon Scripture. So we find ourselves unable even to begin to comprehend concepts like His holiness, power, and majesty. (Keep in mind, by the way, that Tozer wrote this nearly 50 years ago. The man wasn’t called a prophet for nothing.)

Tozer’s desire was to expand our vision and thus our capacity to worship God rightly. If we fail to do this, Boa says, that’s when our understanding of God becomes distorted, and we move away from Him. “Imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God,” Tozer believed, are responsible for all our errors in doctrine and in faith. Thus, he defines idolatry as “assuming that God is other than He is.”

When you look at it that way, you can see just how widespread idolatry has become in our day and how much havoc it has created within the Church. Boa connects this kind of thinking to the modern prosperity gospel, which tends to turn our prayers into “strategy sessions” rather than true communication with God.

Paradoxically, Tozer acknowledges the “incomprehensibility” of God, even as he is helping us to better understand His attributes.

When we draw closer to God, you see, we begin to understand just how much greater He is than anything we can grasp. Our instinct is to make God into something “manageable” and “controllable.” That was the sin of the Garden—to be like God. But if you could do that, you wouldn’t need Him.

So instead of trying to manage or control God, we must surrender ourselves and place our trust in Him even though we can’t fully understand Him.

And when we do this, we are not groping in the dark, for as Tozer tells us, “[God] in condescending love has by revelation declared certain things to be true of Himself. These we call His attributes.” He has provided enough knowledge of these, Tozer says, “to satisfy our intellects and ravish our hearts.”

There is much more in Tozer’s rich, witty classic than either Ken Boa or I have time to go into today. But get started by visiting our website, BreakPoint.org, and subscribe to Ken Boa’s Great Books Audio CD series—and then experience The Knowledge of the Holy for yourself.

I believe it’s an important step toward unlearning some of the most common errors about God, and learning how to begin to comprehend the incomprehensible.

Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.