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