“Stop it or I’ll bury you alive in a box!”
Today’s word of the day, from dictionary.com, is taphephobia, “an abnormal fear of being buried alive.” Which, of course, reminds me of this:
Today is Howl At the Moon Day.
We’re still getting adjusted to having church on Sundays again. All afternoon, Saturday, I kept feeling like I needed to hurry to get somewhere. But yesterday, I believe, went very well. After our worship gathering, which we were able to move up to 10:15, we had a rather lengthy PAT meeting (Pastoral Assist Team), where we discussed a lot of things that need attention between now and November 29, which we are considering to be our sort or “re-launch” at the new location. In my opinion, it was a very productive meeting (you won’t hear me say THAT very often!), and everyone seemed to contribute both positive feedback and constructive criticism.
Back to work today, and this is my week for working Saturday. At this point, the manager is still asking us to come in on Monday, which is fine. I didn’t have anything I wanted to do today, and that way, I’ll get my 40 plus a few hours of overtime.
(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)
Yesterday, we looked at the dangers of emphasizing doctrine too much while neglecting prayer and meditation. Today, Keller examines the dangers from the other direction, still drawing from the work of John Owen, the Puritan writer. When the affections outrun the light, this can lead to “‘superstition, doting on images and pictures or the like.'” Owen speaks largely on the “elements of the medieval church’s mystical tradition.” There is a danger of allowing meditation and imagination to take us to places that are not “tied at all to the reality of who God is.”
Let’s take, for example, the concept of imagining that Jesus walks into the room and begins speaking words of assurance to you. Or perhaps, you have imagined him sitting in the passenger seat of your car, while you drive to work (I have done this many times). It would be very easy to put words in hims mouth, during these imaginary times, that “directly contradict his teachings in the Bible.”
Unlike the experience of contemplative prayer, sometimes our prayers can be almost violent, vehement cries. In the medieval concept of contemplation, the idea is to extinguish desire. However, in our experience, God does not “extinguish desire but fulfills it. Owen argues that wordless prayer, while sometimes occurring is never prescribed or seen as an ideal.” When Jesus instructed his disciples on how to pray, there were always words involved.
There is also a danger, in mystical prayer, to circumvent the work of Christ in our lives, a “loss of orientation to the centrality of Christ’s mediation between us and the Father.” There is a danger of setting aside the entire gospel in this process, which, to Owen is deadly. “It means the experiences people are having are psychological.” We have to remember that, as we communicate with the Father, we are going through Jesus, through whom God has revealed himself to us.
All of this being said, Owen would still rather that we err on the side of affections rather than doctrine. In other words, he would rather see us be “doctrinally weak and have a vital prayer life and a real sense of God on the heart than that we get all our doctrine straight and be cold and spiritually hard.”
I have grown to a point, personally, where I tend to agree with Owen on this. As a Baptist, I have prided myself on Biblical knowledge and sound doctrine, always striving to improve in that area, questioning things that I have been taught as to their accuracy and truth. However, in past years, I have found myself leaning more toward the mystical, but not to the neglect of the Word. I believe that all Christians should strive to find themselves in the middle, between doctrine and affections. However, as Owen, I believe it would be better to fall short on doctrine (as long as the basics are in place, mind you) and heavy on prayer and experiencing God in a real way.
Father, again I pray that you would help me find the balance between Word and Worship, between light and affections. May my experience of you line up with the truth of the Word, but do let me be experiencing you through your Spirit.
Come, Lord Jesus!
Grace and peace, friends.