You could say that knowing God is the primary pursuit of the Christian life, because without knowing him, it’s virtually impossible to know his love or love him back. Of course, we never know him completely, only to the extent which he permits—according to what he’s revealed of himself—but usually we struggle to even understand that. Our limitations in knowledge are due to our finiteness and to the Fall. Because of sin, our ability to reason is impaired, and because of our creatureliness, reason has limits.
Some of these limitations in knowledge are purposeful and the trinity serves as a great example. In scripture, various passages provide evidence of the three persons of the godhead. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. One God (Deut 6:4), yet three persons. And of course, this makes perfect sense, right? Well, not really. It’s a mystery how it all works, but it’s a mystery that God has decided to leave us with, a mystery we’re expected to embrace about a God we’re called to adore even when we don’t fully understand.
Unfortunately we have a habit of trying to resolve these mysteries. Modalists try to resolve the mystery of the trinity with a slight of hand: the three persons become three manifestations of one person. Isn’t that better? Even though it makes a mockery of scripture (was Jesus talking to himself at his baptism? Luke 3:22) at least now the trinity makes some sense. While a rationalized approach to reading scripture always makes us feel better, unfortunately this approach reduces the meaning of scripture to the human limitation of “sense.” In the end, it doesn’t make God more knowable and it risks his nature, his character, and his will. It may make “sense,” but it negates the authority of scripture as it is superseded by reason, limited as it is.
Often, the same thing is done with what scripture teaches about salvation. Acts 16:31 states, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” In Romans 10:9, Paul writes, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Yet we often ask, what about the people who have never heard? What about those with geographical disadvantage? Weren’t they just not as lucky as we were, to be born in a culture where Christianity is an accepted part of society?
We just don’t stop—it goes a few steps further. Some reason from a presumption of innocence, that it’s not only unlucky for some to be born in a Muslim culture or an atheistic family, but its just not fair that God would deny “good people” salvation simply because they didn’t have the right beliefs. It’s not their fault they don’t believe, so why should they endure an eternity of separation from God?
Adherence to a soft inclusivism destroys the mission of the church and sacrifices the Gospel at the altar of reason. Soft inclusivism says that it is Jesus who ultimately saves, but it isn’t required for individuals to be able to name Jesus as their savior for them to avoid going to hell. No true follower of Jesus enjoys the truth of eternal separation from God, yet proponents of inclusivism give the impression that this is a matter of gloating.
We are called to make disciples, a task which begins with preaching the Gospel. Jesus’ words call us to act and to be urgent about it, not to make excuses for not going out into all the world, a consequence of any form of inclusivism. We aren’t to sit back and remain in awe over the narrative Jesus’ words are contained in, but to move beyond the narrative and act on what he taught. In Jesus’ words, we are called to teach “them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).
Knowing and loving God means embracing even the mysteries of who he is and how he acts. We haven’t got God all figured out because there are aspects of his nature and will that elude our sensibilities. Our motivations that result should not be to make him more knowable by changing the meaning of scripture through a rationalist approach, but to be gripped with a passion for those who do not yet know him. If we don’t like the implications for those who do not yet know God, our hearts ought to be moved to make him known. This is the task we’ve been called to, and the responsibility is on us to share the Good News. The command to share Christ is clear, no mystery there.