“In Jesus Christ God has given us a Revelation which is identical with himself. Jesus Christ is the Revelation of God.” -Thomas F. Torrance
I had a professor in Seminary who used to say that the work of theology (that is, the work of thinking about God) is “naming the mystery” of the divine and human encounter.
Over the years I have sorta latched on to that definition. Sometimes I will begin my morning just by sitting and meditating on that little phrase—“naming the mystery.”
As human beings, I think we shy away from mystery…..
Now, I do need to clarify that by mystery, I don’t mean something like a Sherlock Holmes story or an episode of CSI. In fact, we like that sort of “mystery,” don’t we? We like to be the detective, discover the evidence, and solve the riddle. But theology is really nothing like that. Theology isn’t a riddle or a puzzle that can be solved. We don’t discover God through detection or discovery, we can only encounter God through disclosure and relationship.
In a genuine relationship, it doesn’t really help to try to play detective…. ask my wife how well it goes over when my primary objective is just to “figure her out”… A relationship is not a Rubik's cube that you can solve and set aside. You can’t solve a relationship, you can only participate in it!
So when I say that I think we shy away from mystery, I am saying that we prefer to deal with things that can be measured, verified, replicated, and deciphered.
But a person cannot be contained in a riddle and neither can the God of the universe. A person is a mystery…. they can never be solved but they can be seen, heard, and named. To know a person is different from knowing a math problem. You can only know a person by being in relationship with them.
So because it is about knowing the God revealed in Jesus Christ, theology isn’t about “figuring it out.” It’s not about discovery. It’s about participating in the mystery of the person who loves, saves, and sustains us.
So the question is, how should we go about this relationship? How should we name the mystery? Well, if the biblical confession is true—that Jesus Christ is Lord, that “Jesus Christ is the Revelation of God”—then the way to name the mystery of God is through relationship with Jesus and participation in his ministry.
So when Jesus calls us to follow him and when God invites us to pray, it is not just some intellectual exercise or religious obligation. It is the way we draw closer to God.
Try this: spend a few minutes in prayer… like right now, if you can. And just speak to God as a person, as a friend you’re getting to know. Ask God, “what do you want to do today?” ….And be ready to join in.