Our Finite Knowledge (Van Til)

Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed. One aspect of being a human, a created being, is that our knowledge is limited and finite. For example, in Job 38ff God’s rhetorical questions show that Job is neither omnipotent (do you give the horse its might? 39:19) nor omniscient (do you know the ordinances of the heavens? 38:33).  In fact, after God’s rebuke, Job admits the finitude of his knowledge: I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know (41:3).

I appreciate how Cornelius Van Til explained this in Christian Apologetics:

“…We must stress the point that man must always be different from God.  Man was created in God’s image.  Man can never in any sense outgrow his creaturehood.  This puts a definite connotation into the expression that man is like God.  He is ‘like’ God, to be sure, but always on a creaturely scale.  For that reason, the church has embedded into the heart of its confessions the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God.  God’s being and knowledge are absolutely original; such being and knowledge is too wonderful for man; he cannot attain unto it.

Man was created finite and his finitude was originally not felt to be a burden to him.  Man could never expect to have comprehensive knowledge even in heaven.  It is true that much will be revealed to us that is now a mystery to us, but in the nature of the case God cannot reveal to us that which as creatures we cannot comprehend; we should have to be God ourselves in order to understand God in the depth of his being.  Man can understand God’s revelation only ‘promensura humana’ (according to human measure, that is, within the limits of our creaturely capacity to understand).

The significance of this point will appear more fully when we contrast this conception of mystery with the non-Christian conception of mystery….  The difference between the Christian and the non-Christian conception of mystery may be expressed in a word by saying that Christians hold that there is mystery for man but not for God, while non-Christians hold that there is either no mystery for God or man or that there is mystery for both God and man.

Cornelius Van Till, Christian Apologetics (Philipsburg: P&R, 2003). 40-41.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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