Scale and Capacity in the Comprehension of Divinity

This pastoral passage was originally written for LRBC for April 11th 2021.

Recently I had the pleasure (and toil) of walking the Tongariro Northern Circuit with some friends. This is a 43km, multi-day hike near Mt Ruapehu that takes hikers right around Mt Ngauruhoe and over the volcanic remnants of Mt Tongariro.

One thing that impressed me during this trip was just how huge these mountains are once approached. Most of us, most of the time, only experience these sights from a distance or in photos.

One thing that disappointed me was the inability of my camera to really capture the vastness of the landscape around me. Photography isn’t able to capture the eerie majesty of the Red Crater or the imposing bulk of the mountain slopes. It just doesn’t have the capacity.

This reminds me of the way we fail to truly grasp the characteristics of God. We might agree with them mentally, but not really comprehend the scale.

The wonder expressed where it is written, “see what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1), is merely acknowledged more often than it is actually experienced.

Highlighting the Lord’s power, Nahum directs our sights to the sky to shift our sense of scale where he says: “the billowing clouds are the dust beneath his feet” (Nahum 1:3). All of us have seen great airliners dwarfed by such clouds – to liken enormous clouds to dust particles should help us rightly consider the might of the God who is Judge and Avenger.

In light of this it is wise to acknowledge we do not know God as He truly is. We do not comprehend him. Our spiritual faculties are like feeble telescopes that are poorly focused. Adjustments are needed. Sung worship that combines truth with zeal will help. The Spirit grants greater comprehension (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9-12), hence asking him is wise spirituality. And in lieu of these helps, it is good to recall that much of the Christian life requires walking by faith, not by sight or sense (2 Cor. 5:7).

Doing this means we will make choices that reflect what we know to be true – even if the majesty eludes us.