So clearly there are a ton of biblical texts, the most famous being the second commandment against Idols. So given what we know about the nature of our brains today, I have a serious question:

Is belief in God an idol carved out of neurons in between your ears? John Calvin has a famous definition of faith. It starts off:

Faith is ultimately a firm and certain knowledge..

If we have a "firm and certain" belief in God, this constitutes a series of connection in our brain and cannot possibly capture the totality of the infinite divine mystery. If we carve out boundaries between what is and is not God, are we essentially carving out an idol in our brain? Is it hubris to think that we can find certainty on such a topic?

I frequently think of Psalm 139:17-18

How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you.

(interesting side, that "you" at the end is a feminine second person pronoun in the Hebrew... pointing at God while in the previous verse it is masculine. I often think if these kind of moves in the text are the author trying to break your conception of God by switching up the gender used to refer to God).

So if any belief we can form and articulate is an idol crafted in neurons between our ears, then isn't it appropriate to always refrain from maintaining or expressing belief in God? I mean, never allowing yourself to believe. This is not a call to anti-theism or anti-christian atheism.

This does not mean, to me, to stop being Christian, but to transform what that means from something based in idolatrous belief. Should we stop "worshiping God" (which is always our conception of God)? Since our bible translations ignore the tetragrammaton, we miss out on the action of non-idolatry that Jewish readers achieve when they say "adonai" (Lord) whenever reading the name of God. By just replacing this with LORD in all our translations, we miss the ACT of non-formation of the concept.

It seems to me that we have a ton of denominations running around with their own set of beliefs about God that constitute an array of idols.

It seems that the statement "God exists" is somehow broken. Isn't God the source for existence? But that statement seems broken too... Isn't God the source of the concept of source? God is not the source. God does not exist. But this in no way refutes Gods. Isn't God the basis in which refutations can occur? Or is God just some thing within and defined by all these concepts? If so, then doesn't source/exist/refute all pre-exist or co-exist with God? If God is founded upon these concepts, then what are those things founded upon?

I'm getting that feeling about the grains of sand from Psalm 139. There is something righteously Christian in non-belief as I see it.

I know this could seem inflammatory, but I think this is a very important question and I'd like to work through some serious thoughts on it. I hope I have made clear my care for the topic and that responses will be framed in that care.

  • 2
    So, you express your own, personal, unbelief. But I can see no logical and intelligent question here that could involve the minds of other people.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 22:18
  • 2
    As disciples of Jesus Christ, our goal is to imitate Jesus. He certainly believed in God and taught others about God. He did not commit idolatry, nor was he tempting others to sin.
    – user32540
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 13:14

1 Answer 1


To paraphrase your question, it seems like you're asking if the transcendence of God precludes true knowledge of God.

The answer is no.

The transcendence of God means that God is beyond our full comprehension. We cannot "master" God like someone can master arithmetic, or a foreign language, or how to ride a bike. Our brains can't contain everything there is to know about God, we can't fit him into any boxes. We are finite beings, who cannot comprehend the infinite, and we cannot know God as God knows himself.

But this does not mean that we can't have true knowledge of God. God created human beings, including our brains and our minds. He gave us powerful intellects. He also gave us a powerful tool: language. He designed our brains, our minds, and our languages so that we can know many things, including many things about himself. He made us with the intention of having relationships with us, so we would be faulty creations if we were incapable of that. He designed our languages so that he could give us texts that communicate truths about himself. Yes there are limits to our languages, but those limits do not mean the scriptures are useless at revealing God, far from it! He gave us the mental capacity to fulfil our purpose: to know him.

Every thought of ours is not idolatrous. Every one of our conceptions of God was not crafted from our neurons. Only those that do not come from reflection on God's self-revelation to us in the scriptures he inspired. When we read that "God is good", that is true, even though we can only know a small portion of his goodness. When we read that "God is just", that is true even if there are occasions when we can't understand the logic of his just actions. When we read that "God is uncreated and eternal" that is true, even though we can't understand what it means to exist outside of the creation and outside of time.

Let me give an analogy to finish up: our knowledge of God is sometimes like the knowledge that someone who was born completely blind has of colours. They may be able to understand the physics of light waves of various frequencies. They may be able to understand that light can be beautiful because they understand the beauty of music. But their knowledge and understanding lacks the personal experience of someone who can see. But they can still say true and false things, that trees have green leaves, that the sky and sea are blue. They can tell the truth that an apple is red or they can lie and say it is blue. When we say that God exists outside the universe he created, our knowledge of that existence is like the knowledge of green apples and green trees for someone who has never seen the colour green. Transcendent, but still absolutely true.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .