Foundational Premise: Every human person has the capacity to know God
“Natural Theology.” his eternal power and divinity, have been plainly discernible The truth about God has been made quite plain to all people. For since the beginning of the world the invisible attributes of God, e.g. his eternal power and divinity, have been plainly discernible through things which he has made and which are commonly seen and known. Romans 1:19-20
“Dogmatic Theology” God, who gave our forefathers many different glimpses of the truth in the words of the prophets, has now, at the end of the present age, given us the truth in the Son… This Son, a radiance of the glory of God, is the flawless expression of the nature of God.” Hebrews 1:1-2
“Mystical Theology” A direct experience with God
immediate directintimate Mysticism places emphasis on immediate awareness of God, on direct and intimate experience of the Divine Presence. (Studies in Mystical Religion) Rufus Jones, 1920s
What Christian Mystics Know knowing 1. A Christian mystic has moved from knowing about God to knowing God first-hand 2. God and Christ are not merely objects of belief, icons, or ethical principles, but living persons whom are known on a first-hand basis heart-deep 3. A Christian mystic has moved from brain-deep knowledge of God to heart-deep knowledge of God
Jones on Experiencing God He is first of all a real presence God does not begin in our consciousness as an abstract idea: He is first of all a real presence, not an inference. groundbasics He is an experience, the ground and basics of all our other knowledge and of all the values which attract us. from The Testimony of the Soul, 1937
Job, ancient Jewish text Then Job replied to the Lord: ‘I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me…I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
Moses, 1800 BC “It was Moses’ practice to take the Tent of Meeting and set it up some distance from the camp…Whenever Moses went out to the Tent of Meeting, all the people would get up and stand in the entrances of their own tents. As he went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and hover at its entrance while the Lord spoke with Moses. the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” When the people saw the cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, they would stand and bow down in front of their own tents. Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” Exodus 33:7-11 Arrest that man for mocking my glorious beard!
Isaiah, 700 BC I saw the Lord It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! Isaiah 6:1-8
Jesus, circa 30 AD When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. John 15:4-7
Paul, circa 35-40 A.D. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “[Paul], why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” [Paul] asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” The men traveling with Paul stood there speechless. Acts 9:3-7
John, circa 90 A.D. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said, “Write on a scroll what you see…” I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw someone ‘like a son of man.’ When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Revelation 1:9-17
Augustine, 4 th century I knew Theeyou took hold of me When first I knew Thee, you took hold of me, so that I could see that there was something to be seen, though I was not yet fit to see it. dazzling me with Thy splendor And you beat back my weak sight, dazzling me with Thy splendor, and I was thrilled with love. The Confessions
Thomas Aquinas, 13 th century I have seen that which made the writing of books a small and insignificant thing.”
Sister Teresa of Avila, 16 th century Just as God has a private place in heaven, so does he have a dwelling place in the soul. It is here that a kind of spiritual marriage takes place between God and his spouse, the soul. In this union, God removes the blinding scales from our spiritual eyes and we see God. first- hand recognition In the deepest interior place there is first- hand recognition. Interior Castle
Brother Lawrence, 17th century the actual Presence I have a friend who these forty years past has been practicing the Presence of God. It is what he calls the actual Presence…Then it is he feels that only God and he are in the world, with Him he holds unbroken converse, asking from Him the supply of all his needs, and finding in His Presence fullness of joy… heart to heart In the depth of his being is where the soul speaks to God, heart to heart, and over the soul there steals a great and profound peace. The Practice of the Presence of God
George Fox, 1647 I heard a Voice Then I heard a Voice which said, ‘There is one Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition’; and when I heard it my heart leapt for joy. And this I knew experimentally… And [it] did let me see his Love And [it] did let me see his Love, which was endless and eternal and surpasseth all the knowledge that people have. The Journal of George Fox
Marmaduke Stevenson, 1655 as I walked after the plough, I was filled with the love and presence of the Living God, which did ravish my heart when I felt it. I was at the plough in the east parts of Yorkshire in Old England, near the place where by outward being was, and as I walked after the plough, I was filled with the love and presence of the Living God, which did ravish my heart when I felt it. It did increase and abound in me like a living stream, so did the love and life of God run through me like precious ointment, giving a pleasant smell, which made me to stand still.
John Rowntree, 1880s Just as he was entering young manhood and was beginning to feel the dawning sense of a great mission before him, he discovered that he was slowly losing his sight and hearing. He was told that before middle life he would become totally blind. Suddenly he felt the love of God wrap him about as though a visible presence enfolded him Dazed and overwhelmed he staggered from the doctor’s office into the streets and stood there in silence. Suddenly he felt the love of God wrap him about as though a visible presence enfolded him, and a joy filled him, such as he had never known before. From that time until this joy was deepened into the new life of to-day, he was a gloriously joyous and happy man. Eulogy for John Rowntree in The American Friend
Rufus Jones, 1920s In the same way, when the inward weather is just right; when selfish ambition is hushed; when the clouds and shadows, which sin makes, are swept away and genuine love makes the whole inner atmosphere pure and free from haze, then I know that I find a beyond which before was nowhere in sight and might easily not have been suspected. now, I commune with God I cannot decide whether this extended range of sight is due to alterations in myself, or whether it is due to some sudden increase of spiritual visibility in the great reality itself. I only know the fact. Before, I was occupied with things; now, I commune with God and am as sure of him as I am of the mountains beyond my lake.” Spiritual Energies in Daily Life
Thomas Kelly, 1940s Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time- worn lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home unto Itself. It is the Presence in the midst. It is the Presence in the midst. Here is the Slumbering Christ, stirring to be awakened, to become the soul we clothe in earthly form and action. A Testament of Devotion
Howard Thurman, 1940s personal communion. There would come a moment when there was a Sense of Presence which seemed always to speak to me. My response to this Sense of Presence always had the quality of personal communion. There was no vision.There was God There was no voice.There was no image.There was no vision.There was God.
Important sources The Bible Studies in Mystical Religion, Rufus Jones A Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence The Trustworthiness of Religious Experience, Elton Trueblood
Validating Process Are there many reports of first-hand experience of God by many people of many types in all ages of history? Are those who report first-hand experience generally trustworthy on other matters? Is there substantial agreement in what is told us about God? Are the lives of those who experience God changed?