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Knowing God

“Perhaps the most salient aspect of the sacramental life is something that has almost been forgotten within contemporary Christianity: noetic experience. The fact that I will now be required to explain the very meaning of noetic experience for my readers makes my point. In the writings of the Church fathers, it is assumed that this is the true character of the saving knowledge of God. “Noetic” refers to that knowledge that is acquired by the “nous,” an aspect of the soul that is uniquely the place where we encounter God. It is not the place of the passions and emotions, nor is it the place of discursive reasoning. Rather, it is that place in which we “know” by a participatory knowledge that is sometimes described as “perception.” We lack a good vocabulary for speaking about noetic experience precisely because our culture has abandoned this once-essential mode of perception.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“The Fathers rejected the idea that one could acquire knowledge of God by discursive reasoning (dianoia). True knowledge of God is gained through purification of the intellect (nous), and this comes about only with prayer…the nous is not a “thing” that exists within you but the capacity to know God, to have a relationship with God…We do not acquire true knowledge of God intellectually or through mental concepts but by direct experience, which occurs through participation in divine grace.” (Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou)

“The nous is the highest faculty in man and the faculty that gives him the power to command and to direct…The nous represents the contemplative possibilities of the human being. For the Fathers it is fundamentally that which links man with God, that leads him towards and unites him with God. By means of the nous, man is objectively and in a definite manner linked to God from the moment of his creation: the nous is in effect the image of God in man. This image can be masked or soiled by sin, but it cannot be destroyed.” (Jean-Claude Larchet)

“To hear the voice of God accurately, one must discern the Lord’s presence, recognize His hand in events, and thus receive great blessings….Through struggle, aided by grace from God, men and women can attain the state of the Fathers of the Church and live with God face to face. Although we are created for relationship with God, such intimacy is uncommon. Discernment is a lost capacity, for our lives are corrupted by sin and pride. Our noetic faculties are darkened and a direct encounter with God remains beyond our experience…In truth, discernment comes from God as we struggle to purify our nous [heart/mind/soul]. Only then, according to Saint Maximos the Confessor, is the nous “divorced from ignorance and illumined by divine light.” As we act with the Lord for cleansing, our noetic faculty may be restored to its natural state.” (Dynamis 6/23/2022)

“The greatest obstacle which prevents us from coming to knowledge of God is precisely this: that we’re trying to become acquainted with Him in the wrong way, using erroneous methods. We’ve replaced the nous (the heart) with reason (logic) and we therefore end up with rationalism and the inability to know God truly. From the above, it’s obvious that retreating from my reason doesn’t mean that I become irrational. Faith isn’t irrational, it’s supra-rational. It can’t be understood, only experienced. Faith doesn’t mean understanding, but trust. It doesn’t conflict with rational discourse, but transcends it, overtakes it.” (Archimandrite Athanasios Anastasiou)

“In the disintegration of human understanding that marks our present age, reason has been reduced to discursive reasoning, i.e. logic. Popularly, it refers to what can be proven by demonstration (and often less than that). At the same time, there has been a groundswell of sentimentality, in which how we “feel” about something has been elevated to a position above rational argument. It is in this context that faith is easily misunderstood. Faith is not a leap beyond the provable, nor is it a motion based on strong sentiment. Faith is a mode of perception, a means by which we may know. But it belongs to a much larger understanding of human cognition that is unknown to our culture.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“The term “know” in Greek refers to coming to know, recognizing, or understanding. But we attain that realization in and through a relationship with what is known. Knowing, in essence, is established in a relationship. We know God to the extent that we enter into this rapport. Paul put it, “If anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing, yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him” (1 Cor. 8:2-3). This kind of knowledge is a mutual relationship of love, an abiding in Christ and He in us (John 15:4). This loving relationship is based on faith, the complete trust in Christ, the free and total dedication of ourselves to Christ that is inspired by the Holy Spirit.” (Fr. Basil)

“Saying something about God is not the same as encountering Him. Speaking of God requires that you pronounce words, and perhaps that you have some skill with them, if you are not just to have knowledge but to make use of it and pass it on. It also requires all sorts of logical reasoning, compelling arguments and worldly examples, all or most of which are gathered by seeing and hearing, and are the prerogative of people who spend their lives in this world. They may be acquired by the wise men of this present age, even though their lives and souls may not be completely pure. It is absolutely impossible, however, to truly encounter God unless, in addition to being cleansed, we go outside, or rather, beyond ourselves, leaving behind everything perceptible to our sense, together with our ability to perceive, and being lifted up above thoughts, reason and every kind of knowledge, above even the mind itself, and wholly given over to the energy of spiritual perception.” (Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou)

“This is eternal life [John 17:3]…it is not just unending life in the sense of prolonged duration. Rather it is a quality of life, with its quality derived from a relationship with God. Having eternal life is here defined as being in relationship with the Father, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom the Father sent…(abundant) eternal life is defined as knowing (being in relationship with) the Father and the Son. The only way to gain this eternal life, that is, to obtain this knowledge of the Father, is through the Son (John 14:6). …. knowledge is not intellectual, but relational. It involves being in relationship.” (NET Bible, John 17:3)

“In today’s world of books, podcasts, videos, blogs, live streaming and other media, it is very easy to get caught up in the general excitement of learning and acquiring new information. If we are not careful and don’t stay grounded in the ascetics, what can happen is a subtle shift where we leave our hearts, the place of longing, and go into our minds too much. The excitement of learning and new information can replace the sense of longing that drove us to learn in the first place, because we felt something missing inside us and correctly identified that longing as the desire for Him.” (Sacramental Living Ministries)

“No amount of thinking will ever yield knowledge of God. That is a straightforward conclusion of the claim that the knowledge of God is “noetic.” Second, the knowledge of God is not a psychological experience, per se. I have stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon and felt that terrible vertigo in the bottom of my feet, and the overwhelming sense of its vast and dangerous depth. The knowledge of God is not like that, though it can indeed carry an element of overwhelming otherness. It is not the weepy excitement often associated with forms of ecstatic worship… I’ve been there. Done that. It’s not the same thing at all. It is not a “feeling,” nor even an intuition.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“Grace is nothing less than God Himself coming to us by His divine energies or workings. The sun makes an excellent metaphor of this reality. We actually experience the sun itself when we experience it’s warmth and light—for the heat and light of the sun is nothing else but the sun itself as it radiates outward. However, although we do truly experience the sun itself, we do not experience the sun in its essence, in its inner reality. All we know about the inner reality of the sun is based on scientific speculation, not actual experience. We both experience and don’t experience the sun. Similarly, we both know and do not know God…You cannot know God – but you have to know Him to know that.” (Fr. Michael Gillis, Fr. Thomas Hopko)

“The term “know” in Greek refers to coming to know, recognizing, or understanding. But we attain that realization in and through a relationship with what is known. Knowing, in essence, is established in a relationship. We know God to the extent that we enter into this rapport. Paul put it, “If anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing, yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him (OSB 1 Cor. 8:2-3). This kind of knowledge is a mutual relationship of love, an abiding in Christ and He in us (John 15:4). This loving relationship is based on faith, the complete trust in Christ, the free and total dedication of ourselves to Christ that is inspired by the Holy Spirit.” (Fr. Basil)

“…we can speak of knowing God without thinking that our thoughts and words actually grasp God. These are different forms of knowing, different forms of awareness…We do not know the mind of God, but we do know His heart. We know it most of all in the suffering of the Crucified Christ for us. God is wholly unknowable in His essence, but His heart is revealed in the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Whatever may come, we have faith in Christ, who has shown us that “God is love” (1 John 4:7). That is our hope, our comfort, and our peace in the struggles of this age.” (Martin Laird, Fr. Basil)

“The gifts of reason, thought, emotion, and feeling are indeed gifts from God. But they are also a limitation when it comes to knowing God because we are reductionists due to fear. We like to be in control. We like things to be manageable so we reduce our experience and understanding of God to rational thinking and subjective feeling. Real knowledge comes through relationship. Relationships grow out of love. Love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). As we participate in the life of the Church and in prayer, we come to have an ever deeper relationship with God. Fear gradually dissipates and we learn to control and manage what we can and leave the rest to Him. We thus gain the sweet peace of trust within the paradox of knowing and not knowing Him.” (Sacramental Living Ministries)

“Today we have a “Christian” society, but to most people, God is still unknown… ” (Life Application Study Bible, Acts 17:23)

“Somewhere in every one of us is a deep longing to make contact with the unknown, with some “higher power”—something greater or wiser or more powerful than ourselves.” (Derek Prince)

“It is easier to measure the entire sea with a tiny cup than to grasp the ineffable greatness of God with the human mind…No matter what kind of language is used, it will be unable to speak of God as He is and what He is. The perfection of learning is to know God in such a manner that, although you realize He is not unknown, you perceive that He cannot be described.” (St. Basil the Great, St. Hilary of Poitiers)

“God exists outside of creation, for nothing can contain Him; rather, He contains all things in Himself, and is present everywhere…and fills all things… “God is the source of all activity throughout creation. He cannot be seen or described in his own nature and in all His greatness by any of his creatures. Yet He is certainly not unknown. Through his Word the whole creation learns that there is one God the Father, who holds all things together and gives them their being. As it is written in the Gospel, “No man has ever seen God, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; He has revealed Him.” (Orthodox Study Bible, Deuteronomy 4:39, St. Irenaeus of Lyons)

“God did not remain in His invisible nature . . . and leave Himself utterly unknown to humankind. He structured creation so that, although He is invisible by nature, He may nonetheless be known by His works.” (St. Athanasius)

God is a spiritual Being from Whom everything has received its existence, and without Whom nothing can be imagined; in Whom everything has its origin, continuation, life, and preservation; Who is infinitely greater than any time and space; Who never had either beginning nor ending; before Whom everything is as though it did not exist, Who is wholly everywhere; Who is not restricted either by any space or any atom, nor mountain, nor heavenly body, nor sea, nor air, nor fire, nor earth; Who Himself eternally fills all space, and Who Himself by His Power keeps in existence everything that exists, Who is in every place, in every unimaginable point of space, and Himself unlimitedly contains every space - in a word, God is that Which Is, that is to say, as it were, alone existing, the One Who Is.” (St. John of Krondstadt)

“Human nature is dynamically charged or magnetized toward God. We are hardwired that way. We have a natural inclination and movement toward our Maker. It is a powerful energy and orienting force that can be misdirected but never completely suppressed or erased. In its ideal state, it is rooted in the present moment and moves freely toward Him without hesitation or reasoning.” (Kevin Scherer)

"It is heresy to suggest that God is entirely beyond human understanding or utterly inaccessible, the Fathers refuted this by teaching that there is a degree of knowledge of God which is both possible and necessary for us. However, they also recognise that our mental processes are capable of dwelling on the Divine attributes but not the very essence of God. This does not contradict the belief that God is ultimately simple, but since each attribute of God is really an aspect of another the confusion comes from our own singleness of vision. Divine love and infinite being cannot be known except through mystical union with God." (Father Spyridon Baily)

“The gospel says that eternal life is “to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent” (Jn. 17:3). It does not say that eternal life is to think or believe certain things about Christ, but to actually know Him.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

"Human beings must be encountered because they are by nature personal. God is infinitely personal, and the only way to know God is to be in relationship with Him. We do not know about God, we grow to know Him." (Father Spyridon Baily) “You cannot know God – but you have to know Him to know that.” (Father Thomas Hopko)

“Knowing God goes beyond what we think, see or feel. It is an inner knowledge of God that cannot be taken from us. When we have this inner knowledge, nothing outward can sway us from our belief in God.” (Daily Word Devotions)

“I have often used the example of riding a bicycle as an image of knowing God. There’s no difficulty learning how to ride if you don’t mind falling off for a while. But no matter how many years you have ridden, you cannot describe for someone else how you know what you know. But you know it…we cannot describe the knowledge that we have, because the knowledge itself is not something in addition to us. We ourselves become the knowledge of riding. We become riders in that act of knowing, and no one can know unless they themselves become a rider.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“Not every man who comes into this world is necessarily enlightened by the Logos (cf. John 1:9), for many remain unenlightened and have no share in the light of knowledge. But every man who comes into the real world of the virtues by his own free will, and so through a voluntary birth, is unquestionably enlightened by the Logos, receiving an immutable state of virtue and an infallible understanding of true knowledge...When a man has not received knowledge by grace, even though he calls a particular thing spiritual, he does not know its true character from experience. For mere learning does not produce a state of spiritual knowledge.” (St. Maximos the Confessor)

“Man’s chief aim should be to find God. In finding God, he finds true happiness.… We can never thank God sufficiently for revealing Himself to us. We can never even thank Him enough for the other goods He bestows upon us. God need not have created man: He had hosts of angels. Yet He created man and countless marvelous things for him." (Elder Joseph the Hesychast)

“Many people believe God exists, but they do not know Him. It is one thing to believe in God, but quite another to have a personal relationship with Him…To know Christ should be our ultimate goal.” (Abbot Tryphon, Life Application Study Bible, Philippians 3:8)

“To know God is also to know my self. All things take on their proper meaning in their proper light in the presence of the knowledge of God. If the knowledge of God does not have this effect, then it surely is knowledge of something else. For in the presence of God, everything else must become relative, and relative only to Him. Everything takes its true form and shape in the light of the Light.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“No matter how much we may study, it is not possible to come to know God unless we live according to His commandments, for God is not known by science, but by the Holy Spirit. Many philosophers and learned men came to the belief that God exists, but they did not know God. It is one thing to believe that God exists and another to know Him. If someone has come to know God by the Holy Spirit, his soul will burn with love for God day and night, and his soul cannot be bound to any earthly thing.” (St. Silouan the Athonite)

“In order to know God, you first have to admit that you don’t know Him.” (Father Stephen Freeman)“God is knowable and wants to be known—but we have to want to know Him. Acts of service and worship must be accompanied by sincere devotion of the heart.” (Life Application Study Bible, Deuteronomy 4:29)

"The more we come to know God, the more we trust in Him and the more we dedicate ourselves to Him." (Archimandrite Vassilios Papavassiliou)

"As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you." (C. S. Lewis)

"Jesus reveals God. Jesus comes to reveal the Father’s Love for us. He embraces everything human. He takes upon Himself our weakness, our stubbornness, our willfulness, our brokenness, our sinfulness.” (Father John Zeyack)

“Before Christ came, people could know God partially. After Christ came, people could know

God fully because He became visible and tangible in Christ. Christ is the perfect expression of God in human form... As we get to know Christ better, our understanding of God will increase.” (Life Application Study Bible, John 1:14, 17)

“This is what our faith offers us – not empty relationships, or unfaithful loves, but the very love of God Himself. And to know God’s love is to know our own goodness and fully become ourselves.” (Father John Zeyack)

“God designed us to worship Him for our own good. When we simply seek to know God out of love, He gives us real joy.” (Sacramental Living)

"The purpose for which we were created is that we might know God and through this knowledge (which denotes communion) become eternal, sharing in God’s very life." (Archimandrite Sergius)

“Enlightened by baptism, people believe in God. But there are some who even know Him. To believe in God is good but it is more blessed to know God. Nevertheless, those who believe are blessed, too, as the Lord said to Thomas, one of the twelve: ‘Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.’”(St. Silouan the Athonite)

“Unfortunately, one can really enjoy all the religious ritual without really wanting to know God. God can always tell the difference between the heart that is turned toward Him and the heart that is devoted to religious form.” (Foundation Study Bible, Isaiah 58:2)

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