Who Knows?

In the post-dissertation-defense festivities, my doctoral advisor challenged me on my unintentional Calvinism. I had consistently written of the God who is revealed to us in Jesus. While this may not sound like much, the challenge to move away from language of revelation sparked my imagination. This post is some rumination on this challenge.

The Revealed Challenge

There is a central question in my advisor's challenge that most Christians wrestle with and then stop thinking about: how do we find out who God is? This is a good question. Calvin's answer was that God reveals himself to us through scripture. God comes to us and opens us to the good news. 

While this may not sound like much to be challenged over, there are assumptions and implications that should make Lutherans (and several other denominations and faiths) uncomfortable. Add to this my relational understanding of vocation, and the issue of revelation becomes even greater.

So what language is there to talk about how we find out who God is that is not based on revelation?

I've been playing around with language of knowing. We find out who God is because God knows us in Jesus--and in two distinct ways.

The God Who Knows Us

First, God know us because of the ubiquity of Christ. As we learn in John 1:3, everything was created through Jesus. God, therefore, knows everything that is as a creator knows what she has created.

Second, God know us because of the incarnation. Because God became human in Jesus (Matthew 1:20-23), and Jesus joined us in the full depths of human suffering (Matthew 27:46) and the heights of human celebration (John 2:1-2), therefore the existential crisis, the perceived absence of the presence of God, and the exhilaration of joy are part of who God is.

We find out who God is because God has found out who we are and will be. This includes both epistemological and experiential knowing, and more than that. It includes a physical knowing that is more intimate than sex and an emotional knowing that is more empathetic than fear. The God who knows us in Jesus know us better than we can know ourselves.


We wonder where God is in tragedy. We fear that God is absent from our lives. We look for some direction from God. In our joys and mountain-top experiences, we feel God present, close, and active even if we sometimes get confused about which god it is. 

In all of this life, the God who know us in Jesus continues to provide for us, continues to call us through the Holy Spirit, and continues to love us. Not because we are worthy, but because--first and foremost--we belong to God and God loves us, especially when we challenge God's love, existence, or attention.

This God who knows us in Jesus is the same God who made hundreds of gallons of water into wine so a wedding feast could continue. This God who knows us in Jesus is the same God who cried out, "My God, why have you forsaken me?" This God who know us in Jesus is the same God who created us and all things.

We find out about this God through God's own work of sending others into our lives who get to know us in all of life's joys and challenges. We find out about this God through encounters with scripture and moments of discovery, but only because God know us in Jesus and so gives us other people who help us into scripture and discovery. We find out about this God because God and bothered to find out about us--our model for faithful relationships.

An Invitation

I'm playing around with this language, so if you have any insights or input, please comment below.