Mystery is the Lifeblood of Worship

July 08, 2016

by Scott Oliphint

When I was a fairly new Christian, someone told me that the primary problem with Calvinism is that it puts God in a logical box. But the more I was exposed to the central teachings of the Reformation, the more I became convinced that in Calvinism the glory and majesty of God is anything but boxed up.

Rather, within the Reformed understanding, God’s majesty shines brightest, bursting all boundaries and exceeding all expectations. When a biblical understanding of God takes root in our hearts and minds, it inevitably and everywhere points to the infinitely majestic mystery of his character.

Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck writes, “Mystery is the lifeblood of dogmatics” (29). This is a perfectly apt metaphor. Any thinking about God, any theology, that does not have the lifeblood of mystery flowing through its veins will be, by definition, dead. Far from attempting to contain God in a logical box, true and lively thoughts of God will always, happily, and majestically, bump up against his mysterious incomprehensibility. It is that very incomprehensibility, the glorious and magnificent mystery of God’s character, that should motivate the praise and worship of every Christian.

There are three central truths attached to the majestic mystery of God’s character.

1. Mystery Is Infused with Knowledge

A biblical view of mystery is the polar opposite of mysticism. Mysticism focuses on experience; it demeans and depreciates knowledge. Mysticism at times has knocked on the door of Christianity, but it can never find its home there—because knowledge is central to biblical Christianity.

The essence of eternal life, Jesus says, is that we would know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3). God has spoken words, throughout history. In these last days, he has spoken through his Son (Hebrews 1:1–2). One of the reasons God speaks is so that his people might know what he says about himself and thus know him.

As Christians affirm and confess the glorious truths about God and his character, the light that shines forth is the incomprehensible mystery of God’s majesty. For this God is:

  • infinite in being and perfection (Job 11:7–9; Job 26:14)
  • a most pure spirit (John 4:24)
  • invisible (1 Timothy 1:17)
  • unchanging (James 1:17; Malachi 3:6)
  • immense (1 Kings 8:27; Jeremiah 23:23–24)
  • eternal (Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17)
  • incomprehensible (Psalm 145:3)
  • almighty (Genesis 17:1; Revelation 4:8)
  • most wise (Romans 16:27)
  • most holy (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8)
  • most free (Psalm 115:3)
  • most absolute (Exodus 3:14)
  • working all things according to the counsel of his own unchanging and righteous will (Ephesians 1:11)

So the biblical pattern is this: in affirming the majesty of the mystery of God’s character, we confess that we cannot comprehend what we must acknowledge. . . 

. . . continue reading at Desiring God. 

Scott Oliphint

Dr. Oliphint (PhD, Westminster) is professor of apologetics and systematic theology at WTS.

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