Knowing God is Unlike Mathematical Theorems

“God in his great mercy refuses to pander to our unlimited lust to be gods.  He has ensured that his own self-disclosure should be abundantly clear to those who by grace have eyes to see and ears to hear, but can never be as rigorously self-evident as a mathematical theorem where human beings control all the definitions and the rules of the relationships.”  (D.A. Carson, Collected Writings on Scripture, p. 37)

It’s a quote like the above one why I’m seeing a growing need for us to be more humble in our approach to doing theology and so forth.

—so no need to rush to conclusions, thinking we’ve got God all figured out!

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15 Responses to Knowing God is Unlike Mathematical Theorems

  1. T.C. R says:

    Yeah, I think so too!

  2. Craig Benno says:

    T.C.
    I think Carson says this from a C and C stance… thinking other non C & C are heretics. By C & C I mean Calvinistic and Complementarian.

    I think all / most theologians struggle in prayer and agony over their interpretation of the Scriptures. Perhaps where the humility is needed is in how we engage with and speak of other theologians who appear to differ from our own theological camp.

    I have to say I am impressed with how you do this.

    • Dan Reeves says:

      I have read a few of Carson’s works, listened to many of his lectures online, and because I live a hop-skip-and a jump from Chicago, have more than a few friends that have studied at Trinity and know Carson personally. I have never come across anything that might even suggest he thinks non C&C’s are heretics. Are you confusing him with John MacArthur? I have found him to be incredibly charitable to other points of view. Do you have any evidence of this?

      If not, it appears you may be uncharitably calling him uncharitable.

  3. T.C. R says:

    Craig,

    Carson makes no reference to his Calvinistic or Complementarian leanings when he wrote this.

    Thanks.

    • Craig Benno says:

      I realise this. My comment is in regard to his overall ministry. I have had a couple of his books given to me by various people who wanted to disprove my own theological leanings as being wrong… 😉

      Though my comment could be provokative; I have found Carson to be more gracious then others.

      • T.C. R says:

        Yes, Carson is more gracious than others. I’ve personally been sitting at his feet for a few years now, mostly in the way of commentaries and a few general biblical studies – not the heavy stuff.

  4. Bill says:

    Hey, TC. Long time no see.

    Ahem.

    Nothing against Carson or his central point, but his analogy is terrible. Mathematicians do not control the rules OR the relationships. We _follow_ formalized rules in argumentation (“proofs”) just as others do in many fields of study, but those rules are dictated by an epistemology particular to the area, just the same as with any other field of study. In Geometry, for example, there are diagrams which appear to be perpendicular, but which may not be declared so with certainty until valid arguments are first built up from some “given” point of information.

    Now, when people try to “prove” God, their arguments may even be fine, but somewhere in there is usually at least one assumption that will be unprovable to the hearer. In most cases, God speaks to us individually.

    I think what Carson was meaning to say is that God cannot be proven like one would prove a math problem. Good grief, though. What a terrible misunderstanding (or at least a terrible misstatement) of what Math IS.

    Here endeth the rant. 😉

  5. ScottL says:

    Too many times we mark out truth as propositional knowledge (as in a static sense). But, though I do not negate propositional truth, the knowledge of God is dynamic, living, breathing, real and, lo and behold, experienced.

  6. Craig Benno says:

    I have one book of Carson that I really liked. That is his book on prayer and he works through the prayers of Paul. I don’t have the volume at hand at the moment so not sure of its name.
    One of the things I like about him is that he is not a radical cessationist and would place him in the same reformed camp as J.A Packer and Stott; who are as accessible as Fee is.

    One thing that turned me off reading more of him was my experience of people thrusting his books under my nose to read and that would answer all of my theological questions; while at the same time dismissing my theological beliefs because of what Carson said…Perhaps its time to re-look at more of what he says.

    • Dan Reeves says:

      Yeah, that is a lousy situation to endure for sure. I would feel the same way if I were you. I am really sorry you had to experience that.

    • T.C. R says:

      Yeah, I’ve heard things about that title. I don’t have that one. Perhaps if I ever decide the zero in on the prayers of Paul I’ll be sure to add it.

      Rethinking one’s theology is always the way to go, for it’s becoming of us finite creatures. 😉

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