Copyright 2010 by Shea Oakley
All rights reserved
We perhaps cannot approach God rightly without a consciousness of mystery. All the systematic theology in the world cannot completely remove the veil from a Being Who is infinitely beyond us by His very nature. This is not to say that He cannot be known by us but, as one pastor I knew once said, there is a vast difference between apprehending Him and comprehending Him.
Some will say that the Incarnation removed the veil of unknowing for those of us who have put our faith in Jesus Christ. In one sense this is no doubt true. Through the Son of God we who call ourselves by His name have been given the opportunity to know the Creator of the Universe in a profoundly new and personal way. But even the presence of the Spirit of Christ living within us does not eliminate the mysteriousness of the divine. The true believer today may know far more of God, the Father, than even the most pious Israelite did in the time prior to the Advent. Yet today’s Christian must still grapple with and accept the sublimity of his Lord. So many of our experiences with spiritual things remain beyond our ability to fully describe, much less completely understand. We sometimes enter the realm of the inexpressible when we are authentically touched by the Holy Spirit.
That this is true need not be a troubling thing. It is possible to revel in the manifold mysteries of God. What are needed to experience this are a meek heart and a humble mind. Those who must have some kind of mathematical calculus in their knowledge of God are individuals who know even less of Him than those who embrace the limits of their earthly knowledge of Him. Only the one who recognizes her creaturely limits is in a position to touch that mystery and be touched by it, by Him, in blessing.
The history of the faith is full of what we might call “orthodox Christian mystics”, men and women who knew their Bible but who also came to know their Lord in deeply sublime and ineffable ways. These are human beings who accepted the propositional certainties of sound doctrine, but who also met with God in ways that either partially or completely resist description. Such brethren have been given a great gift in being allowed these experiences with the “Lover of their souls” and those of us who have not had them ourselves should not enviously question what they have experienced. It might be much better for us to ask the Holy Spirit of Christ to similarly touch us.
The Christian life is, among other things, a journey of experience. Experience may need to sometimes be put under the theological microscope of propositional, cognitive biblical interpretation. It can not be blindly assumed that every mystical experience is of God. But to abandon all mystical experience as somehow misleading us into error is to impoverish ourselves spiritually and perhaps miss out on profound blessings our Lord intends to give us.
We dare not and, in fact, cannot exclude mystery from our faith because the object of that faith is, as stated earlier, mysterious by nature. This is especially the case with His finite and fallen creation. How could an infinite and eternal Being be anything less than mysterious to even we who know Him in salvation? Even the deepest Christian is still, on this side of Heaven, looking at God “as through a glass darkly”.
Thanks be to God that it will not always be that way.