In our quest for certainty, we need to be careful not to find ourselves attempting to look God eye to eye. This is a problem I had and didn’t realize at the time. It broke me in many ways. It was my Tower of Babel. It was my time in the garden, being tempted to eat the forbidden fruit and become like God.

The Quest for Indubitability

When I was searching for certainty, it wasn’t just about seeking assurance or confidence in my beliefs. I wanted to ensure I was indubitably right, similar to René Descartes’ quest for undeniable truth. Indubitability is not just about being right; it’s about being so certain that it’s impossible to be wrong. This pursuit of indubitable knowledge, inherited from the Enlightenment, reflects the Western tendency to seek absolute certainty in all things.

The Enlightenment brought with it a confidence that human reason could solve all problems and achieve ultimate knowledge. This mindset has deeply influenced the Western Church, leading many to believe that faith, too, should be grounded in this kind of certainty. It’s a form of fideistic utopia, a utopia of faith where we believe we can understand everything about God perfectly and without doubt. However, this relentless pursuit often leads us to elevate ourselves to God’s level, trying to look Him eye to eye. While Descartes contributed significantly to Western philosophy, his expectation of achieving indubitable knowledge was also his greatest flaw—an attempt to see God eye to eye.

This was the problem I had, and it’s the problem that the majority of the doubters I deal with have.

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Understanding the Doctrine of Ineffability

The doctrine of ineffability is a critical yet often overlooked aspect of theology. Ineffability refers to the idea that God’s essence and nature are beyond human comprehension and description. In simpler terms, it means that God is so wholly other, so completely transcendent, that our finite minds cannot fully grasp or articulate His being. This doctrine is intrinsically linked to His holiness, emphasizing that God is set apart, distinct, and incomprehensibly greater than His creation.

As A.W. Tozer puts it in “The Knowledge of the Holy”:

“We must hide our unholiness in the wounds of Christ as Moses hid himself in the cleft of the rock while the glory of God passed by. We must take refuge from God in God.”

Recognizing God’s ineffability is crucial. It preserves the transcendence and holiness of God, reminding us that He is not just a greater version of ourselves but is wholly other, infinitely above and beyond our capacities.

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The Danger of Elevating Ourselves

When we try to raise ourselves to God’s level, we end up bringing Him and our concept of Him down to our level. This tendency reflects a deep-seated arrogance, an echo of the original sin where humanity sought to be like God, knowing good and evil. satan would be happy if we would just keep standing on our tippy toes for the rest of our lives, thinking we have accomplished something.

Satan’s Tactics and God’s Grace

Why would Satan change his tactics? They have always worked. They will always work. One of his primary tactics is to keep us standing on our self-constructed ladder of pride, continually trying to bring God down to our level. However, in His grace, God pushes us off this ladder. This fall is painful, but it is a necessary break.

The Beautiful Limp

Between continuing to stand on the ladder and falling off it, the latter is the much preferred option. It hurts very badly, but it is a necessary break. We walk with a limp the rest of our lives, but it is a good limp. It is a limp that defines so many Christians. This beautiful limp is a constant reminder of our need for God’s grace and our dependence on His strength. It signifies a life transformed by humility and the realization of our own limitations. Embracing this limp means accepting the painful but redemptive process of being broken and remade by God’s love and wisdom.

From Certainty to Trust

In the end, our quest for certainty must be replaced with a simple trust in God that relies upon the warrant He has given us. This warrant is significant. It is not a mere flip of a coin; we have every obligation and right to believe in God. Just as I believe the sun will rise each morning, even though I don’t have indubitable certainty that it will, I believe it. I have warrant for it. We have warrant for our belief in God and essential Christian doctrine.

There will always be a gradation of warrant in our beliefs, varying in degrees of certainty. The most important doctrines will always be those for which we have the most warrant. However, even in these, we do not have indubitable certainty. We do not look God eye to eye. There will always be a mystery, a massive chasm between our understanding of Him and who He really is. As my professor at Dallas Seminary, John Hannah, used to say, “While we will not know God fully, we can know Him truly.”


In sum, our journey toward understanding God should be marked by humility. Acknowledging His ineffability allows us to grow in faith, recognizing that while we may never fully understand Him, we can fully trust in His goodness and sovereignty. The doctrine of ineffability reminds us of the vastness of God’s holiness and our own limitations, encouraging a posture of reverence and awe. And if in this process we end up walking with a limp, let it be a beautiful limp that draws us closer to Him, serving as a constant reminder of our dependence on His grace and the transformative power of His love.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon 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. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

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