by Mike Phay
God’s ways do not always make sense to us.
I’ve heard it said that if we knew all that God knew—that is, “if all were known”—we would both understand his reasoning and make the same decisions that he does. There is an appeal to this argument that is, in essence, an intellectual nod to God’s basic rationality and a tacit call to trust the deep wisdom of God. However, let’s think about the implications of this line of reasoning and perhaps expose why it might be a bit ridiculous for us to assume that this would be the case.
As humans, we’re prone to think that if we knew everything—if all the facts were laid on the table—we could understand God’s sovereign and mysterious ways: the “why” behind the befuddling choices that He seems to habitually make. Not only that, but we demand from God an answer to the “why” question. But let me suggest that there is much more to the story than a mere intellectual understanding—more than just seeing “all the cards on the table.”
There are at least three issues that keep this kind of understanding from being possible.
First of all, we have a capacity issue. If all of the cards were laid on the table, we simply couldn’t handle it. Our minds would explode. The sheer amount of information would be too much for us. I can hardly handle it when two or three of my kids are simultaneously asking me questions. How would I ever be able to grasp all that God—in His infinite all-knowingness—grasps in a moment? We are creatures, not the Creator. There is a fundamental difference in our capacity.
Secondly, we have a compatibility issue. Not only is our capacity for understanding different, our ways are different. As Scripture makes clear: “[M]y thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
“If all were known” assumes that God is limited to human-like rationality in His decision making. But our minds don’t run on the same kind of software as God’s. For all that we know, everything that we know about God is—like in Plato’s allegory of the cave—nothing but shadow puppets playing on a wall. Kid-speak. Puppet show and stick figures. We should be amazed that God lowers Himself to speak to us at all.
Finally, we have a care issue. Deeper than our ways and our thoughts being different from God’s, our hearts are different from His. How? First of all, we are tied up and bound with all sorts of sin and brokenness. We are fallen, and even though redeemed, still wrestle with the habits of the flesh. And yet, even if we were completely holy and pure humans, we are still limited by our finiteness. But ultimately, our hearts do not share the same love, affection, care, and concern that God has for all of his creation.
In the end, I’m convinced that “if all were known” is not the correct response to God’s mysterious and often perplexing ways. As Job learned (Job 40:3-5), the overwhelming divergence between the human and the Divine should drive us to quickly find a place of humility and silence. It is best for us to cover our mouths, bow our heads and our knees, and humbly worship our Great God.
All cannot be known. Perhaps we should just stop trying and simply worship.