Knowing v.s. Knowing About
John D. Telgren

Some things are hard to understand, and even more hard to explain. For those things that are hard to understand, we often simplify them or reduce them to the lowest common denominator, so to speak. For instance, when talking about germs fighting a disease, we sometimes use the analogy of a battle to help our children understand what is going on inside of us and why they need to take medication. Or we use the analogy of water running through canals to teach about electricity and how it works. These sorts of things are often oversimplifications, but they get the job done.

I used to say that Christianity is so simple. After 25 years of being a Christian, I have come to realize that this is both a true statement, and a gross oversimplification. In my earlier years, my faith was focused on the book. I didn’t differentiate the difference between knowing Jesus and knowing about Jesus. I didn’t see “knowing” as a relational activity, but as an information gathering exercise. My goal was to know scripture, and this nearly became an end in itself, rather than being the means to know Christ. I am struck by how little the New Testament speaks of knowing scripture, yet speaks so much about knowing our Lord. Knowing scripture and knowing our Lord are related intimately, but they are not the same thing.

This oversimplification led me to be suspicious of a doctrine that was too difficult to understand. I was often suspicious of those who talked about theology too hard to understand. I even ridiculed those who spoke of theology as hard to understand. If I couldn’t understand it, then it must not be true. How wrong I was. At best, this was the result of my immaturity. On the other hand, it may have been a result of a latent arrogance that is so prevalent in the western way of thinking. Maybe this is why some of us do not spend much time with the doctrine of God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit.

“If you can comprehend it, it is not God.” - Augustine of Hippo

I don’t remember how long ago I read this, but I had to chew on it awhile. I realize now that it is arrogant to think that the finite can truly grasp the infinite.

The Psalmist has truly said, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it (Ps 139:6).”

Once we get a handle on the fact that knowing scripture is a tool to help us to know our Lord, we can begin to understand the vastness of his glory and regain the sense of awe so appropriate to worship. I’m not sure that we can worship in the fullest sense of the word without a sense of “mystery.” By mystery, I am not talking about something impossible to understand. God has revealed himself, but not all of himself. A full disclosure would overload our mother board. A sense of mystery is to admit the limitations of our human strength and understanding.