God's Incomprehensibility and Public Worship
Updated: Feb 19, 2020
In this chapter, Sproul comments that there is nothing particularly distinctive about the Reformed view of God in comparison to other churches, whether Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, or what have you. Paradoxically, though, what sets Reformed theology apart from other theologies is its doctrine of God. Sproul explains, “This is so because Reformed theology, more than any other theology, consistently applies its understanding of God to every other doctrine in its theological system, making it altogether theocentric (‘God-centered’) from start to finish.” I’m especially interested, in this post, in considering how our understanding of God should shape our worship.
In chapter 2, among the truths about God the Confession affirms, is His incomprehensibility. Sproul does a nice job of explaining that the doctrine does not mean that we can know nothing of significance about God. We end up with skepticism if we believe that God is completely unknowable, and of course, that’s where many have ended up in our current epistemological climate. God’s incomprehensibility, rather, means that as creatures we are dependent upon God’s self-revelation because the finite cannot grasp the infinite. To whatever degree it is possible for us to apprehend God, He has made Himself known. Nevertheless, it remains that whatever light of understanding we have pales in comparison to the fullness of His light.
In what way, then, do our convictions about the incomprehensibility of God impact our doctrine of worship? Perhaps better stated, how should our convictions about God’s incomprehensibility shape our worship? Sproul writes:
We live in an egalitarian culture in which everyone is to be equally accessible to, and approachable by, everyone else. To be aloof is to commit a social sin. We are casual and familiar, not formal. We then project that onto God, as if we can come into his presence in a cavalier spirit of familiarity, the kind of familiarity that breeds contempt. It is true that we are given access to God by virtue of the work that Christ has accomplished for us, but our justification does not change God’s character. The fact that he has saved us and adopted us into his family does not mean that he has stopped being holy or eternal, or that he has stopped dwelling in light inapproachable. If anyone should understand the glorious majesty of God, it is the believer. We should not be cavalier or casual when we come to him. When we see the inapproachable light, we should act as Isaiah did.”
Does our public worship accurately reflect the incomprehensibility of God? Is there a sense when we enter worship that God dwells in light inapproachable? Or is the distinct impression rather that God is just like one of us? Reading Sproul has only further strengthened my conviction that form does matter in worship. Because of God’s character, every form that can be found in worship is not equally good. We must consider whether the forms worshipers encounter in public worship accurately convey the God whom they are called in Christ to worship in Spirit and in truth. In one sense that is not such an easy job. But thankfully, God has given us His word to determine what forms are appropriate for corporate worship.