What We Know about God
Chapter 29 - God and Our Knowledge
Calvin began his Institutes talking of our knowledge of God. We turn there now, remembering that "any human attempt to know" (698) ought to be done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
To maintain the Creator-creature distinction, we must affirm that God's knowledge is different than ours. Ours is derivative from His, limited, reliant on Him, a process of acquisition, and a reinterpretation of facts. God's knowledge is none of these things. Our mode of thought is totally different, but we can know the same propositions.
We cannot master God the way we master other fields of knowledge. But His transcendence doesn't mean He is unknowable. He accommodates His speech to us, but isn't lying or misleading us.
The reality of God's Lordship affects our knowledge. So does our ethics. Obedience yields a certain kind of knowledge of God, while rebellion yields another kind.
Knowing God is given by His grace and involves all Three Persons (control).
It is subject to God's authority in our obedience. Knowing God produces obedience, and obedience leads to knowing God. To obey, we must know God (Reformed thinkers are good at this part), but it's also true that to know God, we must obey Him. Obedience and knowledge of God are near synonyms: to obey Him is to know Him. So obedience is a prerequisite to know Him. If you want to know if you know God, examine your life as much as your thoughts. Are you acting like He is there?
Knowing God also involves His presence. We know facts, skills and people, and this applies to knowing God. We can know facts about Him, and ought not to disparage that (Exodus 19:1-20:1). But having skills of relating (prayer, service, etc.), and knowing Him personally are definitive. Even the demons know Him, and tremble. We are personally involved as a friend. The bible even uses the word "know" as a euphemism for sex, that's how closely the idea of knowing is tied to the personal in the bible. We are ever before Him and have to deal with Him.
Rebels and demons know God, too, but suppress that truth (Romans 1). The demons tremble, so their knowledge of Him is also personal. But they have an irrational outlook, trying to stand on their own thoughts apart from God: irrational rationalism!