Book quotes: The Majesty of Mystery

by | May 4, 2021

I really enjoy reading books (actual books I can smell and touch and hold in my hands), and I love reading books with others. My reading of a book is often more thorough and thoughtful when going through it with others. And at times, I want to share with you quotes from a book I am reading so that you might be drawn to worship by those quotes or that you go out and read the book for yourself. So, consider this post the first in a series called “Book Quotes”. They are not book reviews, though I will probably recommend you read it or make comments on it, but the posts in this series will largely be quotes from a book that I want to share.

There is a group of men here at Calvary who are willing to gather really early on Thursday mornings to discuss the books we are reading together. Our goal is not just to read books for the purpose of building a library (though that is a fine endeavor) but to read together so that we might worship and grow in Christ. I have to say that we have read some really great books together, but I wanted to share some quotes from the most recent book we just finished reading.

The book is The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God by K. Scott Oliphint. Oliphint teaches apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. This book is really good and well worth your time investment in it. It may take re-reading paragraphs, pages, or chapters as it is not a children’s book with pictures. Anything worth doing takes effort. Right?

Oliphint starts with the premise that “Christian worship, as well as Christian theology, begins with mystery.” He continues in chapter 1, “Things that we understand, that we can wrap our minds around, are rarely objects of our worship. We may seek to control them. We may try to manipulate them. We may want to change them. But we will not worship them, not really. If what we are seeking is true worship, it is the riches of the mystery of God and His ways in the world that will produce and motivate worship in us and to Him…We begin with the happy recognition that God and His activities are ultimately incomprehensible to us.”

Here are a few more quotes for you to enjoy:

Could it be, we might ask, that some who move from church to church have become lax for disinterested in knowing the depths of God, in loving Him with their minds? Our experience of worship is vitally important for our Christian lives. But the motivation for our worship must not be the experience itself. For a Christian, it must run much deeper than that. Worship is supposed to be the natural product of our knowledge and love of God. But if we become lax or disinterested in knowing God better, then we might begin to think that all we need is to change our location of worship.” (p 22)

So also, even as Isaiah turns our attention to the majesty of God, even as he points us to God’s utter transcendence, he reminds us that God’s transcendence is what it is in the context of His determination to be with us to save. That is to say, the majestic God, while always transcendent, while able to measure the dust and weigh the mountains, is also able to be our Shepherd; He is able gently to lead the lambs and carry them in His bosom.” (p 29)

Our confession of God as triune is the fullest expression-this side of heaven-of the glory of the incomprehensible God. We simply cannot understand how it can be that God is one and three, but we affirm it with all of the vigor and certainty that Scripture requires of us.” (p 47)

I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find their heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a piper in their teeth and pencil in their hands.” – C.S. Lewis (p 56)

Because God freely (i.e., contingently) determined to create and to redeem, creation and redemption are themselves contingent. To be ‘contingent’ means something might exist or it might not. Thus, creation and redemption are realities that are not necessary; they are what they are because God freely decided they would be. He could just as well have decided they would not be. Your existence is contingent; so is mine. Everything that is, except God, is contingent. There is nothing that has to be except God; everything else did not have to be at all.” (p 161)

We are not meant simply to accept everything that comes our way, as if we had no recourse to our Father. The Christian life is not characterized by a stoic attitude that just takes everything that comes. Much that comes our way is a result of sin and evil in the world, and it is not sinful to ask our Father to override those sinful effects. In one sense, that’s what Jesus was doing. The cross itself was a result of sin; it was the epitome of evil. The death that it would bring would be the only undeserved death in all of history. And Jesus didn’t want it, if there was any other way.” (p 181)

I shall only say, that those who are inconversant with these objects of faith-whose minds are not delighted in the admiration of, and acquiescency, things incomprehensible…who would reduce all things to the measure of their own understandings, or else willfully live in the neglect of what they cannot comprehend-do not much prepare themselves for that vision of these things in glory, wherein our blessedness doth consist.” – John Owen (p 204)

Thanks for reading, and if you would like to hear the author, K. Scott Oliphint, discuss his book check out this link. And, if you would really like to read this book yourself, come see me, I got one extra copy for someone.