I Don’t Know

Toward the end of Paul’s famous chapter on love in 1 Corinthians 13, he comments that:

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:9-12)”

Paul explains that our understanding and knowledge of God is incomplete. We only see a dim reflection in a mirror, or, as the old King James put it, we see through “a glass darkly.”

This is why we call our webcast that we do each Saturday afternoon at 4 PM “A Mirror Darkly” with the secondary title “unbridled inquiry.” We have to accept a very hard truth: we don’t have the answers to everything, and we will never know everything. Our understanding of God and his purposes is very limited; it can never be anything but. All we can really do is ask a lot of questions.

Socrates was told that he was the wisest of men because he admitted that he “knew nothing.” It may seem paradoxical, but you are fully educated only when you can agree with Socrates. The reason is quite simple: the more you learn, the more you become aware of all that there is to learn, the more you realize that you can barely learn anything at all, compared to the vast amount of information that is available.

Every two days humanity creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003. There is no way to absorb all of that. We cannot assimilate more than a tiny fraction of what human beings know and do in the brief span of a single human life. How then can we imagine we can understand God or give but a very fuzzy outline of who he is, what he wants, and what he does?

As Solomon said:

“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27)

And our heads are much smaller than Solomon’s temple. We really are able only to “see through a mirror darkly.” We will always have more questions than we have answers. Let’s not be afraid to ask questions. And let’s not be afraid to acknowledge, “I don’t know.”

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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