In 2005 I read a paper at ETS with the title, “Divine Mystery as Theological Method.” My thesis was that when trying to resolve difficult theological questions—such as how the Trinity could be one and three or how to integrate divine sovereignty and human freedom—we should choose the option with the most mystery, the one that we can least comprehend.
I feared that my fellow professors would revoke my union card and say I was too dumb to teach theology, but the session went surprisingly well. One professor, I believe it was Steven Boyer, introduced himself afterward and said he was researching a book with Christopher Hall on this topic. Well, the book recently came out and it’s splendid.
The Mystery of God is one of the best things I’ve read in awhile. It has stretched me, and even when I initially disagree with it I usually come around and see their side. Boyer and Hall nimbly hold the double line of mystery and revelation. We can’t comprehend God, just as Flatlanders will never comprehend a third dimension (and so they think that a cube is just a circle), but we do have real knowledge of God through his revelation.
Boyer and Hall do a fine analysis on what we mean when we say God is a mystery. God is not an investigative mystery, where if we learn a little more we’ll answer all our questions. God is a revelational mystery. His revelation tells us that we will never comprehend him, and why. Our problem isn’t merely that God is more than us (quantitative mystery) or different than us (qualitative mystery) but rather that he dwells in a wholly other dimension (see Flatlanders and the cube). God transcends all of our categories, including the category of transcendence! But he isn’t limited by this transcendence, for his transcendence of transcendence is what enables him to be immanent.
This is rich theology, and artfully written. There are many nuggets in this book that you will chew on and want to include in your teaching or preaching. Boyer and Hall show us how the mystery of God applies to the Trinity, incarnation, divine sovereignty and human freedom, petitionary prayer, and dialogue with other religions. There is much that is controversial here, and much to learn from. I plan on blogging through some of their key insights, as they have much to teach us, even when we might disagree.
As I look back at this post I sense that I haven’t conveyed my excitement over this book. Let me just say that if you are responsible for teaching God and his ways of God to others then you really need to read this. You will be much better for it. I know I am.