All theology ends in mystery. This is due to a number of factors: our own sinfulness, our inherent finiteness, God’s inherent incomprehensibility and his hiddenness.
But if we were to stop there – with this accent on God’s hiddenness and unknowableness, a God who is “wholly other”, deus absconditus – then we would be stopping far short of the truth and we would not have allowed the gospel to shape our thinking on the issue.
Barth’s insight that God is “wholly other” must also have room next to it for another of Barth’s insights, that in Jesus God enjoys an absolute “togetherness with man”. In the incarnation, where God himself takes on human flesh we have a real Immanuel, God really is with us. God has made himself known in an extraordinary way by entering deeply and profoundly into our human existence.
Calvin understood this idea of God’s incomprehensibility when he speaks of God stooping down to talk baby talk to us so that we can know him. (Institutes I.13.1) God has broken the silence, bent down in love and pure grace and has made himself known. We didn’t find him; we didn’t ascend to him; we didn’t work it out. God overcame the “infinite qualitative distinction”, humbled himself and for our sake talked baby talk so that we could know him.
God really has revealed himself. All this talk of mystery and incomprehensibility doesn’t at all mean that we can’t say anything truly about god. What God has revealed he has truly made known. It simply means that we can’t know everything. But the parts that we do know we do know truly. Just because our talk about God is finite doesn’t have to mean that it’s inadequate. It simply means that God hasn’t revealed all there is to know, but what he has revealed does correspond to who he is.
The God who hides himself is also the God who reveals himself, and he reveals himself most fully in the person of Jesus. One of the most amazing parts of the gospel is that God – the only true God, hidden, incomprehensible, invisible, infinite – has freely chosen to make himself known even when he didn’t have to.
The God who is Deus absconditus has chosen in Christ to become Deus revelatus.