I have just discovered that the word ‘to search’ comes from a C14th old French word cerchier and from a Latin word, circare, which means ‘to go about, wander, traverse.’ It’s also the word from which we get our word for circus. It led me to think of how search engines serve (at least) 2 purposes: (i) help us to find something we are looking for, and (ii) send us on endless timewasting circare.

Relieved that God’s seeking of humanity is of the former sort, i.e. that he is the God who hunts us down, pounces on us, and clasps us to his breast, transforming us and setting us free in the process, I am equally revlieved to know that there is no epistemological bridge built by humanity to God. Using Luther’s image, the ladder of revelation only works in one direction – downwards. For Forsyth, the question is never one of whether we can know God, but rather whether we realise that our knowledge of him is not only personal, he captures us, but reciprocal – a function of his knowledge of us. Christianity is not about knowing God so much as it is about being known by him. Indeed, ‘revelation takes effect in us, not as an act of insight, but only as an experience of being redeemed.’

As Barth would put it, ‘God is known by God and by God alone.’ Or in Forsyth’s words, the main thing, the unique thing, in religion is not a God Whom we know but a God Who knows us. Religion turns not on knowing but on being known. The knowledge in religion is not absolute knowledge but the knowledge that we are absolutely known, in the sense of being both destined, sought, and searched.’ It was Tom Torrance who reminded us that we can only know God in his self-objectification for us, not by seeking non-objective knowledge of him.

As Forsyth put it: ‘Herein is thought, not that we think God, but that He thought us.’

There is something better than seeking. It is being found … and that by the great search engine himself.


  1. Anthropological ‘points of contact’ begone! (Unless they are conceived christologically…)


  2. Preach it brother! Donald Bloesch once put it like this: ‘Natural theology can only result in the manufacture of idols, since the true God cannot be identified with the constructs of man’s vain imagination.’ Forsyth’s understanding of a natural theology is, at times, confusing. In passing, he concedes that the ‘visible world is full of divine suggestion’, whilst simultaneously arguing that to look for a revelation of God in nature, ‘to seek it in the Kosmos rather than in the Ethos, is the very genius of Paganism’. For although all truth is from God, it does not follow that all truth will lead us back to God. Forsyth asserted that a problem with natural theology is that is leaves God’s character too much at the mercy of history, and of our engagement with history, ending ultimately in ‘nature-worship and idealized atheism.’ And yet, he would still want to say that there remains a God-given point of contact in the human conscience. Following Luther, Forsyth argues that the conscience functions as the subjective condition that makes the hearing of God’s word in the Law possible. However, the shift comes when Luther simultaneously affirms that God must enable the conscience to acknowledge the truth of that revelation. If the conscience alone were a sufficient point of contact, then humanity could accept and acknowledge the truth of the gospel.


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