“Knowing the Bible is one thing. Knowing the author is another.” This simple statement is rich with profound truth. How many people come to learn many truths about the Bible, and never become intimate with its author? Far too many, I fear.
We have built an entire “Christian education” system around learning facts and principles about our God. We have publishing houses churning out video series, study guides, curricula, books and booklets, podcasts, and more (all at a nice profit). These all rely on learning the facts and principles regarding our God, with the implied or stated promise that his product or experience will in some way bring you closer to your God. Yet for all this learning, we are no closer, no more intimate in our relationship with our God. We know about Him, but few really know Him.
In the late 1970’s while in a theology class at Biola University, the professor challenged the class to pursue knowing our God intimately, to pursue intimacy ahead of knowledge. That was a challenge that stood out starkly in a university academic environment. We read JI Packer’s “Knowing God,” and AW Tozer’s “The Knowledge of the Holy.” The professor would often stop in the lecture and wax pastoral in his efforts to help us apply what we were learning to our growing intimacy with our God. Yes, I left that class having taken tests and written papers on theological facts. More importantly, I left that class with a hunger for more of my God on a personal and intimate level. I also left that class dismayed at how I could grow up in an evangelical church culture, yet it was not until I was 21 years old that I was finally challenged to pursue intimacy and communion with my God.
The prophet Hosea said this: “Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him. So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hosea 6:1-3). “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.” With this call echoing in my ears, I have followed this pursuit over the many years. Often, I felt alone on this quest to know my God deeply, yet increasingly connected to my God by the Holy Spirit who lives in each of us.
As a “ministry professional” it was disturbing to come to grips with how much of the work expected of me did not bring people closer to their God in intimate communion. The entire system is oriented toward the Greek model of learning facts, and the audiences have their expectations tuned to that model. Talk of intimate communion left most staring blankly with little comprehension. Conversations about knowing God intimately, about living a great commandment love for Him, got little traction. Sadly, we are a generation of Christian adherents that knows its Bible well, and knows its God hardly at all.
At some point, I realized that my role as a ministry professional came with acculturated expectations related to “the Christian educational process.” It was most difficult to challenge the expectations and change the conversation from facts to familiarity, from information to intimacy, and from committee work to communion with the Holy Spirit. I left the professional ministry, oddly enough, to pursue my God and help others join in that pursuit. It has been a splendid change, one in which my God moves to meet me with revelation, intimacy, and fellowship.
“While it is good that we seek to know the Holy One, it is probably not so good to presume that we ever complete the task,” said Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And so, the adventure continues.
More on knowing our God intimately in the next Adventure Blog post.