Monday, July 5, 2010

A. W. Tozer and a Question

Here's an excerpt from an A.W. Tozer devotional book called Mornings with Tozer. This is the August 13 entry:

I know whom I have believed. 2 Timothy 1:12

I must ask this question in the context of today's modern Christianity: "Is it not true that for most of us who call ourselves Christians there is no real experience?"

We have substituted theological ideas for an arresting encounter; we are full of
religious notions, but our great weakness is that for our hearts there is no one

Whatever else it embraces, true Christian experience must always include a genuine encounter with God. Without this, religion is but a shadow, a reflection of reality, a cheap copy of an original once enjoyed by someone else of whom we have heard.

It cannot but be a major tragedy in the life of any man or woman to live in a
church from childhood to old age and know nothing more real than some synthetic
god compounded of theology and logic, but having no eyes to see, no ears to hear
-- and no heart to love!

Well, for one thing, this eloquently expresses my frustration with big church functions. It's the real encounter with God that's missing. And I believe that all the social activities of church in the name of fellowship, all the service opportunities, all the accolades for those who pour their time into the busy-ness of church -- all this works to discourage any real encounter with God. It explains more clearly than I could why I get depressed at the thought of throwing myself into church service.

But I didn't begin this post with that in mind. I began this post to ask a question that I do not have the answer to:

Is there any hope for a believer who has spent decades in church, but seems to have lost that "knowing" of God that Tozer talks about -- is there any hope he could encounter God anew?

Well, I have the answers in Hebrews 4 and 6. I just don't like those answers.
What I want is a real-life experience of someone who appeared to fall away from his walk with God for a time, but came back stronger than ever before with deeper understanding and renewed love for God.
I wonder if a person can appear to fit the descriptions in Hebrews 4 and 6, but doesn't really. Only God knows his heart; we can't really know what's going on in the depths of his being, can we?

A completely different scenario from this is the person who grew up in a church and happily adopted his church's culture as his own, very compliantly followed all (or at least most of) the precepts laid out in the Bible (and many which are not but are proclaimed by his sect as the only righteous way). Either he never understood the concept of a personal walk with God, or never wanted to bother with it very much. But he was not one who had "once been enlightened" or had "tasted of the heavenly gift" or been made a "partaker of the Holy Spirit." (Hebrews 6:4)

This is the person Tozer is talking about in this passage I think, the person who can easily miss the idea of a personal encounter with God.

I did meet a woman once who fell into this category and came to know the Lord in her middle age. In her testimony she says she always thought she was a Christian. She grew up in the church and her entire social life had always been in church; she had always agreed with everything the Bible taught. She didn't describe what brought her to the place of "encountering" God personally, but somehow she came to understand that all those years she really hadn't been a believer. Maybe just a very compliant unbeliever?

I also know someone who would scoff at this honest woman's claim. He would point to Romans 10:9 and say if she had confessed with her mouth Jesus as Lord and believed in her heart God raised Him from the dead, then she was saved whether she knew it or not, whether she had some mystical experience later on or not. Personally, I'm not so quick to dismiss her experience. But I do see his point and have to admit that these are thorny questions.

We can't deny Romans 10:9, or add to it. Yet if we continue down that path too far we completely eradicate the personal experience of knowing our Creator at all. Christianity becomes a religion of head-knowledge.

A better educated person than I would have lots to say about this. It wouldn't even take a theologian probably -- just someone who knew the Word better than I do. Anyway, I'm not interested in a lengthy discussion. Intuition tells me that the truth is somewhere in the middle, and I'm walking on dangerous ground to make judgments about the salvation of other people -- that's God's business.

So I don't want Biblical defenses for one position or another. I'm just sad tonight and want to know if there is hope for my friend whose seed appears to have fallen either in rocky places or among thorns.

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