As a Christian, is it possible to have a faith that is rationally sound and experientially meaningful? Can we really “have this cake and eat it too?” While such a faith is eagerly sought by many, there’s often an unspoken skepticism against the quest for a more experiential faith. Clearly, cases of unhealthy and unorthodox emotional practices have given reason for such caution. Yet, I think more is going on than just the concern of an unhealthy emotionalism. Why is this?
Knowing versus Experience
Today, in the global north and west, we tend to view knowledge largely as a rational function of the brain separate from emotions, feelings, and experience. Knowledge is objective and, therefore, reliable; experience is subjective and, hence, undependable. Despite the fact that brain science has actually discredited such notions, these societies continue to minimize the role of emotions and experience in the process of knowing.
Altogether these ideas have led to tragic consequences in how we think about and experience God. With a focus on acquiring proper knowledge of God, coupled with ingrained suspicions against the possibility of personally experiencing God, a frustrating disconnect between the head and the heart becomes common for many in the Church.
Experience and Knowing
Is there a way to bridge this depressing chasm? Yes. But it begins with revisiting our most fundamental belief about God and how it directly relates to knowing him better. The New Testament unequivocally links knowing God and loving God as inseparable realities (Eph 3:18-19; I John 4:7-21). This same holistic awareness is seen throughout the entire Bible. Therefore, since the biblical authors never thought of knowing God separately from experiencing God, neither should we. Likewise, it’s interesting that Scripture not only says that God is good but that we should taste and see that he is good (Psalm 34:8). Clearly, Scripture supports and encourages an experiential understanding of God.
So how do we “eat this cake”? How do we allow God’s love to touch our hearts and inform our minds? We just ask him to fill us with the Holy Spirit. When he does, the love of Christ will overwhelm our hearts (John 16:13-14, Rom 8:10-11). As we learn to surrender to this love we’ll discover a peace and hope we never before thought possible. Yes, amidst the myriad storms of life, with a faith now informed by both head and heart, we’ll simply smile and whisper back to the wind, “You alone . . . yes, You . . . You are my Home.” Next week we introduce our twelfth devotional poem, He is all I Need.
What Do You Think?
Do you struggle with knowing God more personally? Are you afraid to experience God in a deeper way? What would it take for you to surrender this fear today?
♦ To see the poem this post is based on, click here.