Can We Know God?
This 5-session Bible study looks at the mysteries of our faith, such as: the things about Jesus we'll never know, how we can know the unknowable God, what it means that God came to Earth in Christ as a uniquely different person than all others, and how to restore a flawed idea of who God is. Each of these studies includes a Christianity Today article to further discussion.
The Jesus We'll Never Know
The quest for the Historical Jesus has failed. But our faith is founded on something deeper.
Mark 4:35-41; 8:27-38; 9:1-8; Acts 9:1-19
In the Christianity Today article "The Jesus We'll Never Know," author Scot McKnight points out that we all tend to remake Jesus in our own image. New Testament scholar McKnight gives students in his classes a standardized psychological test. "The results are nothing short of astounding," he says. "The first part is about Jesus. It asks students to imagine Jesus' personality, with questions such as, 'Does he prefer to go his own way rather than act by the rules?' and 'Is he a worrier?' The second part asks the same questions of the students, but instead of 'Is he a worrier?' it asks, 'Are you a worrier?' The test is not about right or wrong answers, nor is it designed to help students understand Jesus. Instead, if given to enough people, the test will reveal that we all think Jesus is like us." Much of the recent Jesus scholarship, McKnight insists, reveals more about the scholars who promulgate it than it does the central figure of the New Testament.
Knowing the Unknowable God
Knowledge of God begins by accepting our limits.
Job 37:14-24; Malachi 3:1-5; Matthew 5:1-12; 2 Corinthians 3:7-18
Though God made us in his image, we cannot fully grasp his infinite nature. In order to better know God, we must take a close look at what the Bible does-and does not-tell us about the Creator of the universe. Knowledge of God begins by accepting our limits.
What it means that the Word became flesh.
Isaiah 55:8-9; John 1:1-14; 10:11-38; 14:1-6; 16:12-15
Christianity, while inspiring some of the greatest religious and philosophical thinkers in history, isn't primarily a philosophy. Nor is it simply a means to come into contact with God, though Christians down through the ages have done just that. Instead, Christianity is first and foremost news-good news, to be sure-but news nonetheless. It is about what God has done to reach down to save weak, helpless sinners such as we. Even more specifically, it is about a God who did this by becoming one of us.
The Uniqueness of Jesus
Jesus called himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life for a reason.
John 13:36-14:7; 15:18-27; Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 4:7-12
In the 1977 movie Oh, God!, Jerry Landers, the assistant manager of a grocery store, asks God (played by George Burns) whether Jesus is his son. God/Burns says, "Yes"-then adds that Muhammad, Buddha, and others are also his children. In other words, Jesus is neither more nor less special than anyone else. While this approach wins plaudits in our pluralistic times, it runs counter to the witness of Scripture and the words of Jesus, who said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). So are we going to believe a comedian or Jesus? And if we are going to believe Jesus, what difference does his uniqueness make for our faith?
Our Vision of God
Jesus enables us to see God not as a stern taskmaster but as our loving Father.
Genesis 3; Psalm 5; John 1:1-18; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Evangelicals are good at explaining how our sin separates us from a holy God. "I was raised to understand that sin's gravest consequence is the way it forces God to perceive me: God is holy, I'm not, and there's no way he can even look at me until I have the covering of Christ's blood," Carolyn Arends writes in her column, "Our Divine Distortion." Arends continues: "In my teens, I clipped a poem out of a youth magazine in which the poet asks-and answers-a pressing question: 'How can a righteous God look at me, a sinner, and see a precious child? Simple: The Son gets in his eyes.'" This is good theology, but incomplete. We need to also get a good dose of biblical anthropology so that we may grasp how sin warps our perceptions, not just of ourselves, but of God himself?
Total number of pages - 56 pages