Facts or Feelings?
Seeking truth and the one true god
Have you ever wondered if your faith was too emotional and not based enough on a knowledge of the truth, or have you found yourself in a dry intellectualism that seemed devoid of the presence of God? Depending on your temperament and upbringing you probably lean one way or the other in these experiences. The Christian Faith has so many different expressions that it can be very confusing when trying to figure out the “right way” of faith and/or practice. Yet, there is a right way of belief and practice. At least on the foundational level. We heard a bit about this in yesterday’s sermon from the book of Jude. Jude’s answer to the experiential vs. intellectual question is that a healthy faith expression includes both. He writes:
Jude points to the necessity of building one another up in the “most holy faith”. This harkens back to the beginning of his book when he exhorts his readers to “contend for the faith”. Christianity is not merely a mystical experience. It’s based on historical events like the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It’s also based on truths that have been given to us by God through people and eventually God’s own Son Jesus. The writer of Hebrews states:
God tells us stuff and we believe it because it comes from God. This first came through sinful humans like you and me (while being superintended by the Holy Spirit) and eventually through the one who is both God and human, Jesus. This has to be the bedrock of one’s faith. If it’s not, then the waxing and waning of our experiences will determine our faith which has the staying power of a middle school crush.
That said, Jude doesn’t stop there. These truth claims are a doorway into a real relationship with a real God. He says in Jude 20 that we should not only build one another up in the most holy faith, but that we should also “pray in the Holy Spirit”. See yesterday’s sermon for more on what that means, but the short version is that being a Christian really is a personal relationship with a personal God. God is a person and we his image bearers are persons and we were meant to relate with one another.
This is a life transforming truth and one we should lean into if we haven’t already. Jesus died on the cross not just to forgive our sins and be done with us. He was dealing with the sin problem because he wanted to open a doorway to relationship and that could never happen if we were left in our sins.
Jesus puts it this way in the Gospel of John:
Notice that he does include “keeping his word”. Also notice that he doesn’t stop there but goes on to say that he and the father want to express love to human beings by making a home with them. This is the true end of all of our scripture and doctrine study - to enjoy a loving fellowship with God that was blood bought by Jesus.
A few years ago I was given a book about C.S. Lewis called the Romantic Rationalist. The authors used this term to describe Lewis and it fits him well. He, unlike most writers, could write fiction and non-fiction. More than that he could write Christian fiction and non-fiction. In his books, he addresses both the life of the mind and the heart.
In a way, we all need to become Romantic Rationalists. We may not be authors, but we do want to engage our minds in a quest for truth and engage our hearts in the experience of the one true God. There is no other way to give our whole selves (mind, will, emotions) to Jesus and truly follow him and no other.
So where do you need to go deeper? Is it the life of the mind (rationalist) or the experience of an ongoing relationship with God (romantic). Honestly, it’s always going to be both. While these two concepts can be separated for the purpose of discussion, a healthy Christian’s study of truth (light in the mind) and experience of God (heat in the heart) will always be inseparable.
Check out these resources that will address both in different but helpful ways: