Declaring God a mystery can create relational distance between us and our Creator. God desires a close, understanding, friendship with each of us. When a friend declares “don’t even try to understand me” this creates instant barriers and implies you are stupid. To claim God is a mystery does not invite investigation by those who may be seeking God for the first time. We aren’t really doing God a favor by declaring God a mystery because we can’t explain our theology.
Our characterizations of God must be plausible based on what a loving God should be like. God can’t be love yet torture forever those who don’t trust Him. Even humans may not torture their enemies to that extent. As it turns out Hell is not a translation but a substitution for certain Hebrew and Greek words. Hell was an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience. The Greek word Gehenna, translated as Hell, was a proper noun and the name of a real valley nearby Jerusalem with a history. Hell is no more a translation of Gehenna than Atlanta is for Chicago.
Why did God even bother to communicate to us through the Bible if we can’t possibly understand Him? The Bible doesn’t claim that God’s character or ways are a mystery and incomprehensible to the human mind. The Old Testament only declares our ways aren’t always as moral as God’s ways: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord…. so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Jesus didn’t speak in parables because God’s ways were mysterious. God’s direct message is only perplexing sometimes to one’s heart but not the mind. Sometimes, parents can speak the truth to their children until blue in the face and be looked upon as creatures from outer space. There may be a better way to speak the truth than in a straightforward manner.
Some assume God’s will for our life is hidden since believing God is mysterious. God doesn’t predetermine our future actions. A loving parent doesn’t only approve of their child if they purse a certain type of career. God only directs us morally because God’s ways are always in our best interest. Otherwise, we are free to dream and pursue the desires of our heart. We can choose the wisest path at the time based on past experiences, current circumstances, and future aspirations. God’s will is accomplished by doing all the good we can, in all the places we can, to all the people we can, as long as we can. When we stumble morally, God lifts us up.
The ultimate mystery for many is how evil or suffering and God’s goodness can co-exist. The biblical writers’ silence on this matter may suggest such coexistence was self-explanatory. Much of suffering – wars, crimes, and injustices – results from evil choices. Suffering is actualized when we abuse freedom to the detriment of ourselves and others. Authenticity, the highest good in relationships, is impossible without freedom. Without freedom we could accuse God of not creating the “best” world. God interference may prevent a superior world from developing as a result of the moral improvement of free creatures. Martin Luther King’s suffering moved the scales from the eyes of many how they tolerated bigotry. God apparently values forgiveness over instant justice, hoping many will change of their own free will.
God surely came in the flesh so that we might better understand Him. Questions dismissed as unanswerable may be answerable. Some may argue it is defiant to think we have a right to question the Creator of the Universe, and we must simply trust God. I suspect God does not mind being questioned. It is reasonable to expect God’s ways to feel rational to the human emotions and make logical sense to the human mind, since we are made in His image. God’s ways surely are more comprehensible than incomprehensible. This viewpoint enables us to relate to our Creator more personally and to explain our God to others.