As I do the math, there are five great mysteries in theology:

1. Creation out of nothing (ex nihilo): How did God create being out of non-being? Being transcendent in relation to the universe (above all time, space, and matter), the reason for God’s being is necessary (hence why we often call him the “necessary being”), so his existence does not require a cause-and-effect answer. Yet where did he get the “stuff” to create all that there is? It could not have come from himself, as that would place him in our universe of time, space, and matter. Then we would just be looking for the really real God. The same is true if the “stuff” was outside himself. All that there is must have come from nothing as a rational and philosophical necessity. All other options are formally absurd. While creation out of nothing is not formally absurd, it is a great mystery or paradox.

2. Trinity: We believe in one God who eternally exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This would only be a formal contradiction if we said we believed that God was three Gods and one God or if we said we believed he was three persons and one person. But to say that the Trinity is one God in three persons is not a formal contradiction, but a mystery.

3. Hypostatic Union: We believe that the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, is fully God and fully man (at least since the time that he became man). We don’t believe that he is fifty percent God and fifty percent man, or even ninety/ten. Christ is everything that God is and has eternally, even in the incarnation, shared in the full divinity of the one God, yet he is everything that man is forevermore. Whereas the Trinity is one nature with three persons, Christ is one person with two natures. This is indeed a mystery, but has no earmarks of a formal contradiction.

4. Scripture: We believe the Bible is fully inspired of God, yet fully written by man. God did not put the writers of Scripture in a trance and direct their hand in the writing of Scripture (often referred to as “mechanical dictation”), but he fully utilized their personality, circumstances, writing style, and mood in producing the Scriptures. Another way to put it is that the Scriptures are the product of the will of God and the will of man. Mystery? Yes. Contradiction? No.

5. Human Responsibility and Divine Sovereignty: God is sovereign over the entire world, bringing about his will in everything. He does as he pleases in heaven and on earth. There is not a maverick molecule in all the universe. He even sovereignly predestined people to salvation before they were born, while passing over all others. Yet man is fully responsible for all his actions. There will be a judgment of the unrighteous one day in which God will hold people responsible for their rejection of Christ. How could there be a judgment if people were doing only what they were predestined to do? I don’t know. But I do know that they are truly responsible for their actions and rejection of God.  This is a mystery beyond any human ability to solve, yet not a contradiction.

Are there more than these? Most certainly. But in theology, these are the biggies. These are the big pieces of our puzzle that are missing. Why are they missing? I don’t know. I just know they are. God chose not to tell us. I will ask him when I get there. Maybe he will tell us why. Maybe not. But I will try to trust him until then. I can’t really judge him for not giving me enough intel about the happenings here on earth or how he does things. Nor can I cross my arms and pout, expressing that I have no obligation to believe him about these things until he explains them.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with trying to solve these, and I think everyone needs to get into the ring and wrestle with these issues until they are beaten, bloody, and bruised. But church history has seen that whenever these are “solved,” heresy or serious aberration is always the result. Unfortunately, many continue to opt not to let these mysteries remain. Often with good intentions, Christians have found “solutions.” But these “solutions” normally have to distort God’s revelation to do so. Preferring a settled logical system, many find pieces of another puzzle and force it to fit. The result is an obscured and inaccurate, sometimes even damnable, view of God.

Where God has left the puzzle pieces out, so should we. He knows what he is doing. Let’s just thank him for the pieces we do have and worship, for now, in the white mysterious area. Hand firmly over mouth is a good theological posture sometimes.

Let’s see if I can get you a verse here . . . Got it!

Deut. 29:29
“The secret things [missing puzzle pieces] belong to the Lord, but the things revealed [present puzzle pieces] belong to us and our children forever.”

Oh, and one more (my default NT go-to verse in these matters):

1 Cor. 13:12
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

If you are not comfortable with some mystery, you are in the wrong faith.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    6 replies to "The Five Great Mysteries in the Christian Faith that We Can’t Solve"

    • Dianne Patti

      “Matter is frozen energy,” Einstein said. He created everything by the word of His Power. (after He created 3-D space plus time, that is)
      The Trinity: since He is not a 3 dimensional being like us, this helps us to accept His Triune nature.
      The Hypostatic union – it’s necessary in order to satisfy the blood covenant as illustrated in Genesis 15, the Self Maledictory Oath. Man had to be slain, and only God the Son could satisfy God the Father.
      The Scriptures – penned by men as God directed them.
      His Sovereignty and our responsibility – Well, if we had free will, we wouldn’t have such a problem with obesity! : He gave us free moral agency for His glory.

    • Jeff Crosby

      And Prov. 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
      to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”

    • Edwardtbabinski

      By definition “nothing” cannot be something. So, does “creation out of nothing” mean anything?

      Given God, then everything had to have been created directly and solely out of God’s power, wisdom, will, and complete goodness.

      But in that case how did “evil” find enough room to slip into creation?

      How does a God in whom there is no evil at all even know about “evil” and know it was going to result from His creation?

    • Ahmed

      You missed one: the existence of evil.

    • John Brien

      We are dealing with words and concepts which are the product of minds of fallible men!
      The Early Church Fathers have a lot to answer for!

    • Ben Cornish

      God is, God spoke, God acted, God is, the Bible told me so. If we are to know then He will tell us, that is faith, and faith is a gift from God. Grace for faith and faith from God’s grace. Some times it is better to just leave it for another time.

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