Column: The nobility of knowability


“Knowing God is not just analogous to knowing what infinity is, since we can have some idea of that. No, the infinite God must be infinitely unknowable.” – from a First Things article by Steven H. Webb, “Is God Really Infinite?”

Perhaps in honor of “Super Pi Day” a couple weeks ago on the math-nerd high holy day of March 14, 2015 (3-14-15, Get it? No? How about 3.1415? No? OK, I’ll explain in a minute) my beloved theological and cultural journal First Things posted an online article about God, math and infinity.

I admit to being one of the worst math students ever, but I remember from high school geometry that the value of “pi” – 3.14, the ratio of a circle’s diameter to its circumference – is advertised as an infinitely non-repeating number. Get the exact distance around a circle, divide it by the exact distance across the circle, and the ratio is 3.141592653… non-repeating on out to infinity. The most intense math nerds memorize “Pi” to hundreds of places, to show off, I guess. Basic “pi” is a practical calculation despite being what math uber-nerds know to be an irrational number.

And, according to this article, there are numbers even weirder than “pi.” “Graham’s Number” is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “largest number” (something about points and hypercubes; feel free to look it up) and helps humanity understand divine infinity. Uh huh.

Anyway, author Webb discusses mathematicians and theologians cross-pollinating the notion of an unknowable God (refer back to the introductory quote above). That made me laugh, and sparked the entire idea for this column.

Here is something every Christian knows: God absolutely is knowable. That’s the whole point of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Savior and King who is entirely, perfectly God and entirely, perfectly human; who indwells us with the Holy Spirit making God not an exercise in infinity, unknowability, irrationality or “otherness,” but an exciting exercise in loving, real, infinitely intimate though splendidly mysterious relationship.

If the Bible is true – and I’m here to tell you it is – then the only real point of Christianity is God’s glorious relationship with His Creation, and that which He created in His own image, mankind. No relationship would be possible with an infinitely unknowable God. Thankfully, the article ended in a better place:

“It is not quite accurate to say that God is infinite, but it would make some sense to say that our potential knowledge of God most certainly is.”

John 21:25, the last verse of the last Gospel, bears that out.

You can look it up.

Walters ( reminds all that Palm Sunday and Easter are mere days away. Consider: How do you know God?