Knowing About God vs. Experiencing God
When I was growing up, we went to church all the time, so we were constantly getting instructions on how to live like a "real Christian."
Seriously, we were at church for Sunday school and then "church" (we didn't call it worship) after that, all of which was a four-hour commitment, including at least a half-hour for our weekly "altar call."
Then we went to Wednesday night "prayer meeting," which was also when my youth group would meet, and my youth director would preach straight up sermons to us every week.
Also, I went to Christian schools from the time I entered kindergarten until I graduated high school, and had to attend mandatory "Bible class" every single grade level.
Like a lot of Christian communities, the one within which I was raised emphasized biblical literacy, understanding the basics of Christian doctrine, and of course, being able to argue and defend your faith to "non-believers" through something called "apologetics."
I realize that I am using a lot of quotation marks in this Devo. I'm just trying to indicate that these words and phrases were part of our lingo, and I'm not making them up.
In case you were wondering, "apologetics" comes from a Greek root word that means "in defense." Here's the official definition: the religious discipline of defending religious doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse.
In the end, it all comes down to having enough information to be able to argue well, about the information, in hopes of winning the argument.
Just to be clear, no one has ever come to faith in Jesus because they lost an argument, yet that seems to be the way that far too many of us Christians "share" our faith---by arguing about it.
It seems to me as though most Christians today are sadly prioritizing information about God over any experience they might have with God. Let me explain...
Rather than feel God's presence, and possibly be turned upside down by an encounter with the Spirit, far too many of us prefer to keep things professional with God. So we learn the "right" ways to interpret the Bible. We internalize "right" doctrines that we are told will govern our life.
And then we domesticate God, or worse---we reduce God to a set of axioms or manageable systems of belief that are easier to defend, and which do not leave us vulnerable.
I recently read an amazing quote from Fr. Richard Rohr on this topic, and his words are super instructive to me today:
Unfortunately, the notion of faith that emerged in the West was much more a rational assent to the truth of certain mental beliefs rather than a calm and hopeful trust that God is inherent in all things, and that this whole thing is going somewhere good.
What if we learned to rely more on what Rohr defines as a "calm and hopeful trust" that God is God and we are not? What if we sought to experience God rather than to understand God? What if we became less enamored with information about God and more enamored with feeling the presence of God all around us?
This kind of radical shift away from systemic forms of belief toward a more experiential and grounded experience of God is what is needed in our lives right now. It will initiate a change in us that will have ripple effects on the world around us.
May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.