The Rational Mystery of God


In one of the recent comments someone brought up that it’s apparently a contradiction to say that belief in God is rational, yet also say that God is beyond knowledge and beyond reason. In fact, I’ve dealt with this topic before.

Yet, there’s no reason to assume that “God is incomprehensible/a mystery” is somehow mutually exclusive to, “Believing in God is rational.”

To say that God is incomprehensible or that God is a mystery is pointing to God’s ontology; since we are finite and He is infinite, it necessarily follows that we cannot understand Him. Thus, His ontology (should it be said that God has an ontology) is beyond our own, which places necessary limits on our epistemology. This is not to say, however, that we can’t have knowledge of His existence or know the plausibility of His existence.

While we may not understand God, we can point to some evidence where God is plausible, or we can point to logical proofs to show that God necessarily exists. But all of this has to do with our knowledge of His existence, not with His existence proper. When dealing with His existence proper, rather than our knowledge of His existence, we conclude in mystery because He is greater, therefore mystery is a necessary conclusion.

One can think of the universe and how it is a mystery to us because it is greater than us. Yet we can know it exists and we can know certain things about the universe. We do not see the mystery (and our lack of knowledge) as contradictory to our belief that the universe exists; we do not say it is irrational to believe the universe exists just because we see it ultimately as a mystery. So it is with God.

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7 thoughts on “The Rational Mystery of God

  1. Huh? This looks like a buncha words with a Christian tinge all strung together. But it makes no sense.

    1. What’s confusing about it? I’m saying that even though God is incomprehensible, we can still rationally know He exists. Comprehension of a being isn’t required to rationally believe that such a being exists.

  2. It may be helpful for non-christians if you discussed the mystery of God’s ontology in terms of universals. For example, we know that what trees are because we have direct experience (depending on your view of epistemology) of the form of tree. Likewise, we can know other things because multiples of those things exist. However, we do not have direct experience of the form of God; God is a singular type and since he is incorporeal, we only experience the effects of his existing. So we can rationally believe in his existence using inductive reasoning from his effects. Obviously this does not end the discussion but it does provide some justification for the rational belief in God’s existence. Or, atheists could have some intellectual integrity and read Plantinga’s warrant series

    1. The last line explains why I didn’t put a lot of effort into explaining my position. Those that have intellectual integrity and honesty will ask questions or make the connections themselves. Those that don’t, won’t. Why waste my time on those that don’t?

  3. This all sounds very Kantian, and it is not a bad basis for ones epistemology and metaphysics. There is actually we do not know, like those things that are beyond our senses, but we come to infer the existence of something else that is unknown (in the sense that we have no experience of it from the senses).

    1. I never drew the Kantian connection, but upon reflecting on it I do see some Kantian thoughts in there. However, I would argue that I’m drawing off an idea present in the early Church Fathers, so it’s more Hellenistic than Kantian, though certainly there would be vast similarities between the two.

      1. I’m just saying that there is what we experience, and what we do not experience. This is Kantian, and that science relies, heavily in fact, on things that we do not experience and cannot experience. We cannot experience, but we experience certain phenomena (like lines in a cloud chamber), and we invoke something that we can never experience to account for it, which is atoms. These are noumena, and can never know that they exist. But God is of a greater degree.

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