Intellect and Experience?

(picture originally uploaded to Flickr by Stuck in Customs)

A few days ago, I began a conversation about how sometimes we love the experiencing of God more than loving God himself and referenced a post by Scot McKnight in the Out of Ur blog.

A couple of days later, I ran across this post on Jim Palmer’s blog, which serves as a contrast to McKnight’s post. Jim “thinks out loud” concerning the pursuit to know and comprehend God.

“What would it look like to let go of the need to understand and comprehend God, and instead to simply be present in the experience of God’s kingdom with no further need to comprehend or explain it? Like, what if that was enough and that was the way it was meant to be? No need to formulate concepts about it, no need to locate some place within a coherent belief system to authenticate or justify it, no need to judge it, understand it, or analyze it.”

How do we balance the pursuit to know God and how to best follow God with experience his love for us as well as being a part of his redemptive work in the world?

Is that even the right question to ask? Is it a matter of balancing? Or is it more an issue of managing seemingly polar opposites? Is it possible to experience God AND pursue a better understanding of who God is?

How do we teach kids to do both?


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2 thoughts on “Intellect and Experience?

  1. Andy Johnson says:

    This is really an anthropological question/topic at its very core. The issue at hand, is in what capacities did God create us to experience Him. Anthropologically, (and there are some different versions of this) we are body and spirit/soul. Whether you see that as a dichotomy or a unified whole, those two components are what God created at our conception. You can not pursue God (and please Him) solely on emotion/experience. God has given humans a mind to pursue Him intellectually and in the human make-up he has inextricably unified the role of the mind and the heart. This is why we can "feel bad" about doing sin. We know it to be wrong, however we do what "feels" good. That should create dissonance in our relationship with ourselves and God.

    What I'm saying is that God has given us a mind and a spirit. We should pursue Him with both. I fully believe, however, that this whole process starts in the mind. You can do nothing (eat, swim, marry, trust in Christ) outside of the foundational activity of the mind. Do not take this as an "intellect-only" approach to God, it is not. It is the first piece of a two piece puzzle. However, if we don't need our minds, why did God provide us with His written word? Why does He speak to the battlefield of our minds over 60 times in the N.T.? (I understand the whole "Greek Culture" thing here).

    Merely relating to God on a mental level produces hypocrisy. (Can anyone say "Pharisee?") What God develops in your mind should move to your heart and become something that "dwells richly within you" if I could quote Paul.

    Now to kids. Children, developmentally have to be content driven. They are soaking so much up. They have to have the right information before they can do anything in terms of a relationship with God. But, like I said above, that is merely the first piece. You have to show them that what they know must connect with what they do and experience. I'm fully convinced that this is done through expository Bible teaching with children and role modeling of those who work with them. Expository Bible teaching explains the content and then successfully shows the application to one's life. Effective role models will show both a drive to KNOW and comprehend God more as well as to live their life out in a way that glorifies the Name of God in the highest way possible. Finally, this is why we as Children's Ministry leaders are so minutely important compared to parents. Parents are these role models and when a parent loves God with all their HEART, soul, MIND and strength, then children are likely to as well!

    Okay, so now show me the errors of my ways!

    • Henry Zonio says:

      Great thoughts. I agree that it is a both/and situation. We need to know God as well as experience him. The trick is not overdoing it on either end. What that looks like? Good question. I'll ask God when I see him.

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