Throughout life, I’ve often encountered ideas in theology which, to our finite human understanding, seems to be contradictory in some way. Yet, the Bible affirms both things as true. Here are two examples:
- The Trinity – 1 God, 3 Persons
- The Hypostatic Union – Jesus is both fully human and fully divine
Of course, each of these topics involves a level of complexity far beyond what I can describe or flesh out here. As such, Christians can (rightly) feel a certain level of angst trying to explain and understand them. Because we are created in God’s image, we seek to understand and learn about truth. This often involves making statements of an “either/or” nature, meaning “it can either be this or that, but not both.” This allows us to make logical deductions and conclusions.
Yet, the truth about these conundrums involves a “both/and” kind of response, meaning that “it is both this and that.” God is both 1 God and 3 Persons; Jesus was both fully human and fully divine.
Throughout church history, many heresies have arisen from these two topics because we try to make sense of these truths in a way that our finite minds can understand. For example, many analogies have been concocted to try and explain the Trinity. For a humorous video on this, see below.
The same thing is true of the doctrine of the hypostatic union of Jesus. People have tried to explain it in an understandable manner only to commit a heresy which either denies Jesus’ full humanity or divinity.
Embracing the Tension
What’s my point in all this? This post is just one way of trying to explore the limitations of our own finitude and learning to embrace the fact that we cannot fully comprehend the nature of an infinite God. In our finitude, we can only give finite answers, and we often try and force a finite analogy or explanation onto an infinite God. We do this because we feel a certain tension in trying to hold up both ends of these truths. Tension makes us uncomfortable. So, we search for an explanation which can make the tension go away.
While I am completely in favor of exploring these ideas to their fullest extent, I’m convinced that we will never arrive at a point in this earthly life where our finite minds will fully comprehend the divine mysteries of an infinite God. In other words, we won’t get to a point where the tension will completely go away.
This is a good thing, and we should embrace this tension, uncomfortable as it might be because a God who can be fully comprehended by our finite minds would be finite himself, and therefore not worthy of worship.
We worship an infinite God beyond our comprehension, yet has revealed truths concerning himself to us in his Word. (This is another both/and tension that exists. God is both beyond our comprehension and yet has made himself comprehensible to us to some extent.)
By the way, I’m not saying we should embrace a both/and mindset for everything and abandon either/or thinking. Certain things like “God does exist” vs. “God does not exist” require an either/or response. Both cannot be true without running into a logical contradiction. But there is a difference between an outright contradiction such as this and tension created by the finite trying to grasp the infinite. It takes wisdom to recognize the difference. Lord, I pray that you would grant us this wisdom (James 1:5).
When you develop and allow room for this both/and type of mindset, you will start seeing it all over the place. What often seems like an either/or in the finite becomes a both/and in the infinite, and what is impossible with man is possible with God. If we can learn to accept that, then I believe we can learn to embrace a peace in God which comes from resting and trusting in his infinitude.