Can we comprehend God?

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. -Isaiah 55:9 

Dear members and friends, 

道可道 非常道

These are the first six words in the first chapter of Dao De Ching. The translation of these simple ancient Chinese characters has been a very challenging task for tens of thousands of people for the past 2,500 years. When translated into English, I am amazed at the new difficulties from not only understanding the philosophy, but also interpreting the ancient philosophy for a new audience to whom Daoism is unfamiliar. One of the direct translations is, “Dao that can be Dao is not eternal Dao.” What does it mean? In principle, Dao is eternal, meaning it exists beyond human comprehension. Therefore, whatever it is, when Dao is articulated, explained, and conceptualized by a human mind, it automatically becomes a subjective and personalized interpretation. Thus, my suggested translation for these six words is, “Dao that is articulated and conceptualized by a human being is never true Dao.”

The reason why I started with Dao De Ching is because as a Christian minister, I am often deeply puzzled whenever I encounter a person or a Christian institution that claims to not only know, but also represent the true will of God, the Creator. How on earth can a human being or a group of humans perceive, understand, and represent the true will of the Creator? To make such a bold claim, one of the two conditions should be met: 1. The entirety of God is indeed comprehensible to a human mind, which makes God the same or even less than a human being; 2. A human mind is indeed capable of comprehending the divinity of God completely, which makes humans, again, equal, or better than God. Either way, such a claim principally raises humans to be equal to God. However, if we were to apply the teaching from Dao De Ching to the Bible, whatever it is, when it is articulated and conceptualized by a human mind, it is just an understanding of God, and never the truth. 

My brothers and sisters in God, let us reflect on the teaching of Jesus, “I am gentle and humble in heart.”    

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee