Is God knowable?

Unknown It is very fashionable these days to question whether God is – not only unknown – but even unknowable.

I think it’s a valid question, it’s the sort of question I like to ask myself, and I think it’s good for humility, but I wonder how many have followed this question to it’s logical conclusion?

One of the most prominent proponents of this theology of unknowability is Pete Rollins, author of “How (Not) to Speak of God”. If you drop over to Pete’s website you’ll find him suggesting, “we endeavour to speak of that which manifests in our world as a no-thing, as an absolute mystery which infuses our world with light and life.” Is that all we can say of God?

Many people I know have taken that line of thinking to it’s logical conclusion: they’ve asked, how can we even be sure that God exists? Or that God is good? Or that God is transcendant? Or even that God is one? Could God be pluraform, many, polytheistic even?

Again, good questions. But before we get to carried away I think it’s worth noting that Dionysius the Areopagite, the father of negative (apophatic) theology, was also a proponent of positive (cataphatic) theology. Dionysius saw a need for synthesis beyond thesis and antithesis. Dionysius only explored apophatic theology having already affirmed cataphatic theology. I think there is a lesson here, if we can hear it.

Pontius Pilate once asked Jesus, “What is truth?” I ask, have we no more insight than Pilot?

8 thoughts on “Is God knowable?

  1. Good questions Matt, they pose difficulties for the church that is trying to communicte God to the world.
    Can we communictae unknowability?
    Do we perhaps need to stand somewhere betwenn the knowability and unknowability of God, embracing both the apophatic and the cataphatic…
    Perhaps Pilates question should be ongoing in all of our thinking on one level…


  2. I think we do have to stand soemwhere between the knowability and unknowability of God. Can we deny that God is love? I think not. But can we affirm that human love provides an adequate basis for understanding God’s love? Again, I think not. So, synthesis.


  3. Depends where you start from. God is unknowable, but he chooses to make himself known. How? In Jesus. So to know God, look at Jesus.


  4. But God is unknowable UNLESS he chooses to reveal himself to us. I totally agree that we can’t know much (anything?) about God by working our way to it through logic or nature or philosophy.
    But if God chooses to reveal himself, then that changes everything. Isn’t that the gospel???


  5. Yes, but some would say God remains unknowable, that what he reveals is his unknowability. Taken to this extreme Jesus becomes a sort of Rorschach blot who reveals nothing but our inner selves. To me that’s negative theology taken too far. As you say, it is important to affirm God’s capacity to reveal himself.


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