This distinction allows the authors to avoid the extremes of modernist rationalism, which attempts to explain all aspects of God in logical terms, and "postmodern" mysticism, which says that we can only know what God is not, never what he actually is. Boyer and Hall work hard to preserve the true, ungraspable mystery of God, while making sure that we do not fall into "using 'mystery' in a despairingly investigative sense, as describing our sheer, hopeless ignorance." Those who hide behind such ignorance often appear to be (and may truly be) humble, but such a position inevitably leads to relativism and agnosticism. The fact is that God wants to be known and has revealed himself to us thorough the written and incarnate Word.
Our true position is like that of a Flatlander who lives in a two-dimensional world and is suddenly presented with a sphere. He cannot, of course, perceive the sphere in any empirical or even rational sense. Such a figure will seem logically impossible, just as the Trinity and Incarnation seem logically impossible to three-dimensional creatures for whom three cannot also be one and a single person cannot be simultaneously human and divine. But let's say the Flatlander receives trustworthy revelation that there is a greater, radically transcendent world where spheres do exist. Though such a revelation will not allow the Flatlander to comprehend the sphere within the limits of his two-dimensional space, it will enable him to recognize his limits and embrace the mystery. "The things of God are not internally self-contradictory," the authors explain, "but what we say about God would be self-contradictory if we were speaking of the ordinary things of our world."
Such simple but profound statements allow Boyer and Hall to navigate the dangerous strait between mystery-free rationalism and content-free mysticism. They also allow the authors to mediate between a static, "Platonic" view of orthodoxy and one that leaves greater room for historical development. Yes, the authors admit, it took the church several centuries to define such key doctrines as the Trinity and Incarnation, but that does not mean they made them up out of whole cloth. Once we accept a "revelational" paradigm of mystery, we will realize "that the historical development of orthodoxy is a crucial part of our genuine understanding of orthodoxy." We do, in a sense, follow the clues, but those clues are revealed to us and lead us, slowly, toward greater understanding. Often, we find that a doctrine like the Trinity is not only important in itself, but has the power to illuminate other aspects of God, ourselves, and our world. The fact that God is a community of Love that includes an eternal relationship between Father and Son sheds light upon human marriage, family, and friendship, even as the fact that Jesus was fully God and fully man sheds light on our own composite, incarnational nature.