Devotional Epistemology Life Theology
How (Not) to Know God
February 17, 2016
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I occupy a weird space in church world.

One foot is firmly planted in the historic, Reformed world. This is a world of exquisite theology, great exegesis, brilliant theologians, and more good doctrine than you can shake a stick at.

The other foot is firmly planted in the powerful, charismatic world. This is the world of signs, wonders, and miracles, plus the occasional oddity, as Spiritual fire is released at the cutting edge of the Kingdom of God.

My weird space — somewhere in but out of both these worlds — makes it awkward for me at theological cocktail parties (which don’t really exist, but as I’m writing this, they sound like a great idea…). But I love my weird space, because the tension of these two worlds keeps me on the narrow road of knowing God.

One way not to know God is to drift into the extreme of my first foot — that of academic theology — which offers knowledge of God mostly on the basis of doctrines. Is doctrine therefore bad? Obviously not. Knowing great doctrines about God is akin to knowing great facts about your spouse. But in my experience I observe many of my fellow thinkers fall so madly in love with the doctrines that love for God is sublimated. Knowing God is about more than knowing truth about God, just like knowing my wife is about more than memorizing fact about her.

Another way not to know God is to overcorrect from the previous extreme into the other — the extreme of experiential knowledge. This extreme offers knowledge of God on the basis of an experience with him, usually at the exclusion of rigorous study, thought, or examination of the Scripture. It’s the Christian equivalent of “if it feels good, it must be right.” Because obviously all good vibes are from the Holy Spirit. Right? Knowing God is about more than having experiences with Him, just like knowing my wife is about more than having experiences with her.

It seems to me that knowledge about God and experience with God fuel our pursuit of God. Let’s go back to my weird space.

I love thinking hard about God. The intellectual rigor of theology is fun to me. But as soon as I feel myself ascending the high tower of knowledge which excludes me from my less theologically inclined brethren, the Holy Spirit pulls me to Himself in experience. Some prayer, worship, or moment with God calls me out of the library and onto the mission. But, on the field of battle, I realize that I need more than faith and fire. I need to understand God more deeply. So my experience drives me back to the text. And I can’t stay in the text long before I am compelled from the text into the world. And on the cycle goes.

The narrow road of knowing God features knowledge and experience — life and doctrine. So get out there and learn something about Him you didn’t know. Then, like fresh logs on a fire, let your knowledge fuel your worship and work for the God you’re knowing better.

 

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