The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is God a Mystery?
“What is a mystery? Generally speaking, a mystery is a truth that is naturally impossible to understand or prove. . . . What is a religious mystery? It is one of God’s truths that we are obliged to believe, although we can neither understand it nor prove it. What are the main religious mysteries? These are the mysteries of the most Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Redemption.”—Abrégé de l’exposition de la doctrine chrétienne, 1901 (Abridged Explanation of Christian Doctrine)
THE above is how a book written at the beginning of the 20th century summarized the view of the Roman Catholic Church regarding mysteries. Furthermore, the recently published Guide des difficultés de la foi catholique (Guide to Difficulties of the Catholic Faith, 1989) shows that such doctrinal points still are of interest by stating: “It is not just through a personal attraction for obscure realities that a Christian admits the existence of a certain number of mysteries in his religious Creed. If he believes in them, it is purely on the basis of God’s Word.” But what does “God’s Word” say? Is God a mystery?
Can We Know Everything About God?
The Bible does give us many details about God as a Person, about his qualities and about how he deals with mankind. But it also explains that his wisdom and intelligence are beyond human understanding. Thus, the prophet Isaiah says that God’s ways and thoughts are much higher than those of man.—Isaiah 55:8, 9.
The impossibility of knowing every single thing about God should not surprise us. For example, even though our knowledge of the universe is constantly increasing, scientists admit that they will probably never truly get to the bottom of the mysteries of the infinitely small or the infinitely large. So how could any creature know completely the depth of God’s wisdom, he who is the Creator? Job confessed to Jehovah: “I was not understanding things too wonderful for me, which I do not know.” (Job 42:3; compare Romans 11:33.) Thus, full knowledge of God is, in some respects, beyond our limited understanding. However, the doctrines of many churches go beyond the limits of these simple observations.
More Mysterious Than Necessary?
The recently published Catholic encyclopedia Théo says: “In church teachings, the term mystery can also be applied to what God reveals about himself, for example, concerning his trinitarian existence.” As in many other theological books, the concept here implicitly developed is that ‘since knowledge of God is inevitably mysterious, it should not surprise us that God is a Trinity and that this Trinity is a mystery.’ Is such reasoning well-founded?
First, many books acknowledge, as does The New Encyclopædia Britannica, that “neither the word Trinity, nor the explicit doctrine as such, appears in the New Testament.” Moreover, the history of this doctrine shows that it has combined many ideas taken from pagan philosophies that were incorporated into the creeds of the church several decades after the death of the apostles. Therefore, there is no solid proof that the mystery of the Trinity is founded on the Bible.a
Think of this: Since it is impossible to know everything about God, would it make sense for Jehovah to obscure his own identity? No, he desires all humans to know him. (John 17:3; compare Hebrews 8:11.) And would it make sense for those who truly want to please him to obscure his identity? To illustrate: If the only opportunity one has to view some beautiful country scenery is through a window, would it be wise to steam up the window, saying: ‘It might as well be steamed up because we can’t see the details anyway?’ Of course not! The Bible and good sense show that our knowledge of God is necessarily limited. But these limits do not at all justify converting our knowledge of God into a mysterious doctrine, such as the Trinity, that only serves to confuse our understanding of him.
Mysteries—Pagan and Christian
Moreover, when the term “mystery” appears in the Scriptures, it does not have the meaning of “hidden knowledge,” as it is usually understood. As Théo rightly reminds us: “The term mystery does not have the same sense here. For Christians it denotes something that is normally hidden or inaccessible, but that God wants to say to them . . . and have them experience.”
The Greek word my·steʹri·on (“mystery,” or “sacred secret”) was employed 20 times by the apostle Paul in a particular sense. He used it in reference to a sacred secret that had long been hidden but that God revealed when He sent Jesus to earth. Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, was the principal element of the promised “seed” that God would use to ransom mankind, the One ‘through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed’ and who would have joint heirs in the heavens. (Genesis 3:15; 22:18; Romans 8:17) These concealed, or mysterious, elements were hidden to God’s pre-Christian servants but were revealed by Jehovah at the proper time. (Ephesians 1:9; Colossians 1:26) Happily, this knowledge is not reserved for just a chosen few—as is the case with religious mysteries in certain religions—but is to be proclaimed to as many people as possible without distinction.—Ephesians 6:19, 20.
Worshiping God in Truth
The Bible contains enough information for us to worship God in the way acceptable to him. Far from teaching a Trinity, it very clearly reveals the supremacy of Jehovah and the subordinate position of Jesus. For example, Jesus said: “The Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28; 1 Corinthians 15:28) The Bible also indicates that the holy spirit is God’s active force, which directs his faithful servants.—Acts 2:1-4.
When speaking with a Samaritan woman, Jesus showed that in order for someone to please God, he must worship Him “with spirit and truth.” He added that “the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him.” (John 4:21-24) It is up to each one of us to search for this accurate knowledge that will bring us blessings if we rely on God’s Word rather than accept man-made, mysterious traditions that betray it.
a See the brochure Should You Believe in the Trinity?, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1989.
[Picture Credit Line on page 26]
All rights reserved