The attention to answered prayer and unanswered prayer is always so focused on "getting stuff" I have said this several times in the three previous sections. I stated last time I wanted to use this last one to talk about the other aspects of prayer, which is really backwards. The major point of prayer is not getting stuff and the petition type of prayer is a small segment of the whole phenomena of prayer which is complex and immense.This top still, even though not about answered prayer or "getting stuff" still runs up against the concepts and problems of faiht and other faiths because we have the problem of having faith to believe that prayer is doing something, even if it is just being near God, and we have the point about other faiths because those other guys are getting up close and personal with their concepts of God too.
One other issue must be addressed as well, that is the link between prayer and mystical expedience. Prayer is the major aspect of knowing God. Prayer is the Major way to know God! Prayer is the key to faith. Time spent in prayer is gold in the religious life becuase the exent to which one will be able to hand fast in the crisis and to hold to that which we know is true even when things look totally hopeless and we think God has abandoned us, it's all related to the time we spend in prayer. Shallow prayer life equals shallow faith. It's not related to getting things. The extent to which one is a staring lion fighting Christians is not about the number of answers one got to prayer, but the time spend feeling God's presence, and expressing love for God and receiving voe form God. These are the true maturity and faith building aspects.The key to all of that is not number of answers, but time spent on your knees in the private prayer life. That is what does it, that's what make nurture spiritual life, period.What about the other guys, the guys in other faiths who spend their time with their concept of God?
I see religious tradition as vehicle for loading the experience of God into cultural constructs and giving meaning to that which is beyond words. Certainly I embrace the Nicene creed, and I do believe that Jesus is the incarnate logos. I also believe what Paul said about God working in all cultures (Acts 17:21-29), and God placing the moral law upon the heart of all people…”their may excuse them…” (Romans 2:15). In my view the purpose of apologetics is to demonstrate the human need to know God. The basis of exclusivity in Christian tradition is not the sort of exclusivity that derides other traditions. I realize it has been so construed in the past but it need not be. It is merely the sort of exclusivity that focuses upon the efficacy of Christ in redeeption and the value that offers to the world. I am not arguing that the following is the only way to reconcile the seemingly universal nature of mystical consciousness with Christianity. It’s the way I do it. It has to do with my own theological understanding. I am not saying it’s the only possible understanding.
The Phenomenological aspects of mystical consciousness are found in the Christian tradition. The idea of “knowing Christ” the personal relationship with God all contains the elements that James incorporates into the “knowledge about” and “knowledge-by-acquaintance.” In the New Testament this is expressed in the use of different Greek words for knowledge. The words that are used when the author speaks of “knowing Christ” invariably refer to personal knowledge, personal experience, first hand knowledge of something one experiences for one’s self. One example of such as term is epiginosko. There are other Greek words that pertain to book learning and knowledge about a subject that one leanrs second hand. These words are never used to describe the relationship between believers and God or Christ.
Anotehr such word is the term first used in Pauline literature, referring to proto Gnostic groups, and it was the Orthodox Church’s term, Glnosko (1097 Strong’s) for example means: Definition
- to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel
- to become known
- to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of
- to understand
- to know
- Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman
- to become acquainted with, to know [i]
Used in Hebrews:
Heb 3:10 "Therefore I was angry with this generation, And said, 'They always go astray in their heart; And they did not know My ways'; Heb 8:11 "And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, And everyone his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' For ALL SHALL KNOW Me, From the least to the greatest of them.” In that passage we see clearly the idea of first hand knowledge through personal experience. One does not have to be taught what one experiences first hand. It’s. “They will all know me,” means they will all first hand personal knowledge of me. This means being a Christian turns upon personal experience of God at some level. That doesn’t mean having mystical experiences saves one. We all experience God at the subliminal level but being “saved” is a matter of recognition of what we have experienced already, the thing that draws us to Christ.
- Like the similar and related word epiginosko. (1921 Strong’s). to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly
- to know accurately, know well
- to know
- to recognise
- by sight, hearing, of certain signs, to perceive who a person is
- to know i.e. to perceive
- to know i.e. to find out, ascertain
- to know i.e. to understand
Used 1Co 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. 1Co 14:37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. 1Co 16:18 For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men. [ii]
The idea that we know “in part” might possibly include the understanding that we experience God at a subliminal level beyond words and have to encode that into cultural constructs.
The term for the knowledge used of Gnostics, Gnosis is contrasted in that even though it bears the notion of perfection knowledge, it deals more with the understanding of rules and facts, of knowing ideas and doesn’t seem to bear the idea of the personal face to face knowledge.
- knowledge signifies in general intelligence, understanding
- the general knowledge of Christian religion
- the deeper more perfect and enlarged knowledge of this religion, such as belongs to the more advanced
- esp. of things lawful and unlawful for Christians
- moral wisdom, such as is seen in right living [iii]
Another word for Knowledge that could be used for knowing Christ, but is not, a word that carries the implication of factual knowledge is isemi, which means generally just “to know.”
eb 12:17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
Another factually based word for knowing is suneidon:
- to see (have seen) together with others
- to see (have seen) in one's mind with one's self
- to understand, perceive, comprehend,
- to know with another
- to know in one's mind or with one's self, to be conscience of
1Co 4:4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
Used: Eph 3:19 “and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” That seems to contrast the kind of knowledge known from the heart and from experiencing God with general knowledge, including book learning.
The terms used in the NT that deal with knowing Christ are terms that relate to first hand personal knowledge, knowledge-by-acquaintance. The term Ginosko, used throughout 1 John, implies an intimate experiential level of personal knowledge.
1Jo 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 1Jo 2:4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 1Jo 2:5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 1Jo 2:13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 1Jo 2:14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. 1Jo 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. 1Jo 2:29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. 1Jo 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 1Jo 3:6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 1Jo 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1Jo 3:19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 1Jo 3:20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 1Jo 3:24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. 1Jo 4:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 1Jo 4:6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. 1Jo 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 1Jo 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 1Jo 4:13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 1Jo 4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 1Jo 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 1Jo 5:20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
The nature of what it means to “know God” or “know Christ” in the Christian religion is this personal level of experiential knowledge.[iv]
Mystical experience is inter-subjective (subjective but experiences in very similar ways by more than one mind). As has been documented by several researchers, the same commonalities come up over and over again. All mystical experiences have characteristics of undifferentiated unity, sense of presence, feeling of bliss, noetic aspects, ineffable nature, and so forth.
The Voyle stud is one of the studies on mystical experience that talk about and use in my soon to be released book, The Trace of God. The study demonstrates that the mature end of Christianity is found in those who have mystical experiences.
From the Voyle Study:
The contemporary interest in the empirical research of mysticism can be traced to Stace’s (Stace, 1960) demarcation of the phenomenological characteristics of mystical experiences (Hood, 1975). In Stace’s conceptualization, mystical experiences had five characteristics (Hood, 1985, p.176):
1. The mystical experience is noetic. The person having the experience perceives it as a valid source of knowledge and not just a subjective experience.
2. The mystical experience is ineffable, it cannot simply be described in words.
3. The mystical experience is holy. While this is the religious aspect of the experience it is not necessarily expressed in any particular theological terms.
4. The mystical experience is profound yet enjoyable and characterized by positive affect.
5. The mystical experience is paradoxical. It defies logic. Further analysis of reported mystical experiences suggest that the one essential feature of mysticism is an experience of unity (Hood, 1985). The experience of unity involves a process of ego loss and is generally expressed in one of three ways (Hood, 1 976a). The ego is absorbed into that which transcends it, or an inward process by which the ego gains pure awareness of self, or a combination of the two.[v]
Voyle demonstrates that the mystical end of the church is the mature end. That is to say, those who experience mystical consciousness represent a much more mature form of Christianity than do those who do not. He basis this upon his study in which he compares the two groups for depth of understanding and commitment.
Does the universality of religious experience invalidate religious truth?
Atheists often argue this point. They will say “they can’t all be right because they are all so different. So how can you establish that one is right and all the others wrong? I say, sarcastically, “you mean aside from the fact that God manifested as Jesus and rose from the dead? I don’t know.” I say that sarcastically because I know it wont meaning a thing to them. They do have a good point. We can be parochial and say, “well of course my tradition is the true one and all the others are damned.” But that has some obvious drawbacks.
Religious traditions are communities of discourse, their function is to create vocabularies in which one can receive guidance form those who have gone before, and make one’s own contribution to the conversation. Thus the experiences of God are filtered through cultural constructs and the meaningful nature of those constructs is relative to the various communities in which they take place. It is perfectly plausible that there is one truth behind all religious traditions. It is possible to maintain this position as a Christian, and to remain a Bible believing evangelical who seeks to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.. In fact, the Bible teaches that very thing. Paul comes up on Mars Hill he tells the Greek philosophers “you are worshipping the right God, ‘the unknown god’ you just don’t know enough about him.” He did not tell them “O you pagans are going to hell.” Other Christians, more conservative in their understanding, have told me that he was just using that as a trick. I can’t believe that Paul was just a con man who tried to trick people. If he said it had to believe it. This is just my personal way of rationalizing this problem. I’m not saying this is the only valid Christian outlook, but I think it is a valid Christian outlook. "All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God." From a human perspective, relatively speaking from one human to another there are, of course, well meaning people. There are good people all around us, from a human perspective. Relative to the Divine however, no one is good, no one is capable of meriting salvation. We all have our sins; we all have our human frailties. We are all caught up in "height" (our ability through the image of God in which we were created to move beyond our human finitude and seek the good) and "depth" (our nature burdened in the sinful wickedness to human deceit). These are Augustinian terms and they basically mean that we are, good and bad, saint and sinner. God knows the heart, He Knows what we truly seek. God is merciful and is able to forgive our trespasses. But, if we are really well meaning toward God we will seek the truth. If we are seeking the truth than God will make it plan to us.
abide in me
This is one of those passages that atheist get up set about and start saying "he will not! He will not! just shut your eyes real tight and ask for a candy bar and he wont give you one." They start blathering about amputees. They can only think in terms of a big man in the sky and getting material things because that's surface level they can only relate to the surface level. When we look at the context of this passage, we see that it begins with a discussion about the vine and branches. Christ is the vine and we are branches. Any branch that doesn't bear fruit is pruned(1-3). this probalby doesn't mean kicked out of the Kingdom but chastised, disciplined, pruning is not destruction but cutting back to help the growth process. The tells that we must abide in him for us to bear fruit. So he's not cutting immature Christians out, he's disciplining us so we grow better, we grow better the more rooted in him we are.
John 15: 5-17
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
A fine book in the vast body of mystical writigns in the Christian tradition is a short nice little text called The Practice of the Presence of God. by Brother Lawrence (1614-1691). He was just a monk,in France. That's really all he did other than writing this one simple little book. Yet the book has become a spiritual classic. Basically he gave his life to dish washing sense he was undercoated. that's about all he did. That is to say, all the did other than prayer. He developed a reputation by the end of his life as someone what an expert, a mystic and whose prayers were answered. That's another aspect that atheists are always overlooking. The passage above does not say "just ask and there it is, boda bing, boda boom." It says "abide in me." It's a way of life. Even getting answers to prayers is the result of abiding, it's not some automatic thing. It's an outgrowth of process of living by faith. This little monk was known for feeling God's presence. he was extremely happy washing dishes because the prayed while he washed dishes. He felts the ceiling open and heaven descend and the kitchen became the thrown room of God.
Yet despite, or perhaps because of, his somewhat lowly position, his character attracted many to him. He was known for his profound peace and many came to seek spiritual guidance from him. The wisdom that he passed on to them, in conversations and in letters, would later become the basis for the book, The Practice of the Presence of God. This work was compiled after Brother Lawrence died by one of those whom he inspired, Father Joseph de Beaufort, later vicar general to the Archbishop of Paris. It became popular among Catholics and Protestants alike, with John Wesley and A. W. Tozer being among those who recommended it.
A lot of the imagery is squeamish, weepy, and doesn't communicate in this age. Yet the overall effect and tone of the book is hopeful and loving, not fearful or condemning at all. His God was love, and he uses the concept of being born again and born again imagery of nature even 500 years before it was popular to do so.
In the deep of winter, Herman looked at a barren tree, stripped of leaves and fruit, waiting silently and patiently for the sure hope of summer abundance. Gazing at the tree, Herman grasped for the first time the extravagance of God's grace and the unfailing sovereignty of divine providence. Like the tree, he himself was seemingly dead, but God had life waiting for him, and the turn of seasons would bring fullness. At that moment, he said, that leafless tree "first flashed in upon my soul the fact of God," and a love for God that never after ceased to burn. Sometime later, an injury forced his retirement from the army, and after a stint as a footman, he sought a place where he could suffer for his failures. He thus entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Paris as Brother Lawrence.(Ibid)
print your own copy (20 pages) here.
[i] from on line resource “crosswalk” Greek Lexicons. that means basically Strong's concordance.
[iv] all the material relating to Greek terms unless otherwise noted is from Cross walk
[v] Robert J. Voyle. “The Impact of Mystical Experiences on Christian Maturity.” originally published in pdf format: http://www.voyle.com/impact.pdf.
google html version here: http://126.96.36.199/search?q=cache:avred7zleAEJ