God and Questions
Does Appealing to God’s Infinite Knowledge Equate to “Don’t Ask Questions”?
The wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of God are infinite and beyond our ability to fully comprehend (Rom 11:33; Eph 3:20; Psa 147:5; Isa 40:12-13). There is no one greater than God (Heb 6:13). God is not amenable to a higher standard than Himself and He is not obligated to answer to human beings, creatures that He created with life that He owns. If we are talking about the God in the Scriptures, these matters are indisputable.
There is another issue that many struggle to see as being consistent with the above. How can we, on the one hand, affirm these features about God, but on the other hand say that we encourage questions and want people to search for truth? When someone asks hard questions about God, don’t we shut them down by appealing to the infinite knowledge and power of God? Does that not discourage questions? For example, if one asks, “How can we accept a God who committed genocide in the Old Testament?” and our answer appeals to our ignorance and God’s knowledge, are we not, in effect, saying, “Don’t ask those questions because we don’t know the answer”? How do we reconcile our appeal to God’s infinite omni-attributes and also encourage the hard questions?
We must never compromise the character of God. No matter what else we may think, God remains God. We cannot change Him in our minds just because we want something more palatable or easier to understand. That creates a false god, an idol that we control. This will never be acceptable and will always be detrimental to faith.
At the same time, we do want to encourage the tough questions. Is that contradicted by the way we appeal to God? Not at all. We must distinguish between what is actually knowable to us and what is beyond our grasp. We can provide a framework for answering tough questions and provide possibilities, but we must acknowledge what is speculative and what is actually within our ability to know.
We must distinguish between the “need to know” because it is our business and what is within divine purview. We understand this principle in human relations. For example, employees do not know everything that the employer typically knows about the business and why certain decisions must be made. Christians in a local congregation will not be privy to everything that shepherds have access to and on which they will base some judgments. Parents will know what their children do not know, and they will make decisions that the children, no matter how inquisitive, will not understand. Individuals have knowledge and reasons no one else knows that factor into the decisions they make. In these cases, it is generally understood that some matters are not “my business” and I need to respect the boundaries and the recognize various realms in which people operate. I cannot know everything, and I need to be careful about the kinds of judgments I make about others when they operate within a different circle of knowledge and responsibility, particularly since they do not answer to me.
How much greater is the knowledge and responsibility gap between us and God? If He has knowledge that we have no access to, then we need to be careful about how we critique Him. That doesn’t mean we cannot have questions; it means that some questions are asking about what lies outside our purview. Moses told Israel, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut 29:29). Will we say that God is wrong for retaining knowledge and understanding that we cannot have?
We may find dissatisfaction in this because when it comes to the hard questions, and all we can do is speculate, we may feel that we have been shortchanged. Does God not owe us answers? The book of Job delves into this very area. Job thought God owed him answers about his own situation, but in the end he had to learn to trust God even when he did not understand. “Will you even put Me in the wrong? Will you condemn Me that you may be in the right?” (Job 40:8) As a parent will sometimes tell a child, “Trust me because you wouldn’t understand if I told you,” so God, in His infinite wisdom and knowledge, may tell us, “Trust Me. I know what I’m doing.” We don’t need to know it all.
Maybe that’s part of the point. We want to have faith as long as it doesn’t require … faith (think about it). Can we learn to trust God even when we don’t understand, when the realm in which He operates is beyond our ability to fully comprehend? That does not discourage the questions, but it does encourage true faith. Parents want their children to trust that they know what is best for them. How much more does God know what is best for us? Ask the questions, but also be prepared to accept, by faith, that there are some reasons in the mind of God that, in His infinite wisdom, are best left there.