The hidden God

Si comprehendis, non est Deus. Whatever can be grasped as an object of comprehension cannot be God. The danger is that humans stop with the self, conflating and replacing God with the self. Coming to terms with God’s incomprehensibility is learning to accept – following the Son’s example (Philippians 2:6-8) – God’s will to be humanity’s absolute and proper fulfilment.

Karl Rahner argues that humans can only come to know about God not by trying to peer ahead into the mystery but rather by letting themselves experience the constant process of self-transcendence. From this point of view there can be no proofs for the existence of God but only indications that man moves endlessly into mystery without ever abandoning the world.

This mystery “presents itself to us in the mode of withdrawal, of silence, of distance,” Rahner writes, “so that speaking about it, if that is to make sense, always requires listening to its silence.”

Silence, therefore, is both the precondition and the mark of God’s incomprehensibility

Silence, therefore, is both the precondition and the mark of God’s incomprehensibility. God is known through that which is left unsaid, as we humans try to get a glimpse of God and to make sense of the existential silence that engulfs us. This brings to mind Kant’s “making room for faith” and Wittgenstein’s famous “whereof one cannot speak, thereof must one be silent.”

This silence can be ignored in the face of immediate phenomena which are noisier though not as resounding, but this does not alter the underlying reality that this one truth animates the human restlessness, possibility and capacity for truth. Humans always stand before the hidden God, even when they try to look away and refuse to accept the truth that determines their identity.

In other words, getting to know God is unlike getting to know about anything else. We are not unveiling something which was previously hidden but we are experiencing, ever more intensely and exclusively, the hidden God as radically present in the abiding and enduring mystery of creation and salvation around us and within us.

Jean Claude graduated with an MSc in Anthropology in 2014 from the University of Aberdeen and is currently reading a Bachelor’s Degree in Sacred Theology at the University of Malta.

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