Knowing God … knowing Jesus

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This is a kind of footnote to my article that looked at what we can say about The Trinity and what we can learn from the Trinity.

In response to that article, Daniel Blanche made these provocative remarks.

Was his comment fair? Well, yes, I think there is a fair challenge to be answered here.  You see, this is what Scripture tells us about The Son.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.[e] 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God,[f] who is at the Father’s side,[g] he has made him known.[1]

Again, in John 14, Jesus himself says these words:

 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.[d] From now on you do know him and have seen him.”[2]

Then in Colossians 1 Paul writes about Christ:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.[3]

The point is clear here.  If we want to know what God is like, then we need to come to Jesus as the one who is fully God and therefore who reveals God to us.  This means that it is exactly because Jesus is The Son that we know that we can approach God as Father. It is as we look to the relationship between the Father and the Son that we know what the words “father” and “son” truly mean.

As I said in the previous article, we need to remember that we do not have exhaustive knowledge about God and must not forget his otherness when talking about him. This means that we distinguish the economic trinity from the imminent trinity and we ensure that we use analogical language to describe him. 

However, it is also worth recalling three other things. First of all we need to remember that The Triune God is a someone not a something. He is the one we worship not the concept we philosophise about. So, when we talk about the economic trinity and the imminent trinity, Karl Rahner’s dictum is correct “The economic Trinity is the imminent Trinity” because we are talking about one God and not two.  This means it is so important that we don’t think in terms of the true God as hiding behind the revelation in Scripture and the incarnation as a kind of cosmic puppet master. God is knowable because he has made himself known.

This also means that the language we use analogically is possible because it is God himself who has accommodated language about himself to our finite minds. Calvin compared this to a parent lisping to their child.  It also means that the direction of travel in the language is from God to us and not vice versa. It’s not that God is a father or that God loves a bit like human fathers, rather, human fathers love their kids a bit like God does. 

Thirdly, it means that God sets the agenda about how we are to think about him and speak about him in Scripture. So, when I find language in Scripture that describes God, I know that this does not give me exhaustive knowledge about him but I also know that it gives me sufficient knowledge about him. One of the things I know from this is how to speak about him. I think God’s thoughts after him, I say God’s words after him and so I use the language to talk about God and to talk to God that he gives me.


[1] John 1:14-18.

[2] John 14:6-7.

[3] Colossians 1:15-20.