Today, over on TeamPyro, Dan Phillips has written an interesting post entitled, “Worship Feelings and What If?
” For me the whole post brought to my mind an illustration. Imagine that two teams are climbing a mountain on opposite sides. If they are near the bottom, they could be miles apart. They will have a very clear view of the side of the mountain they are on, but no clue whatsoever what the team on the other side is facing. As they climb the mountain they will need to focus on their side, but the closer to the top of the mountain they get, the closer together they become.
I feel that on this issue of the experience of Christian life it is a bit like that for us – especially now since the excesses of the charismatic have caused a reaction that has created the excesses of extreme cessationism. I fear that we are so far away from a true biblical experience of God that, like the climbers on that mountain, we have no real clue of what those on the opposite side are facing.
This comes across even in Dan’s brilliant humor – you got to love a guy who can say something like this –
“This is a crucial point where some of the emphases of Adrian Warnock and John Piper just lose me. Whenever I say that I think emotion in the Christian life can be a fine thing, my brother Adrian gets all giddy and surprised, and seems to think I’m ready to start babbling incoherently, dancing, and turning expectantly to the blank pages at the back of my Bible.”
Dan asks, “What do we do if we don’t feel emotion?” almost as though this is an issue us paid-up charismatics don’t wrestle with. Actually I can say amen to Dan’s post almost in its entirety. We have to learn to wrestle through what the Puritans used to call the “dark night of the soul” when God feels distant. The psalms are full of this. My difference with Dan is probably simply this – if emotions are absent, we should still continue to trust, worship, and pray – we should also be fighting and yearning for appropriate emotions to return. Many Psalms describe this process well.
To use his illustration, it would be a strange marriage indeed that did not seek for happiness and romantic feelings to be present in it. The Christian husband or wife does not, however, have a right to divorce their spouse simply because the warm feelings are absent. Instead, they act as though they loved – making the CHOICE of love – and pray and hope for the feelings to return. What Christian pastor would hold up an emotionless marriage as an ideal example of a Christian marriage for others to emulate?
All I am really calling for is that we would have a higher expectation of what the “normal Christian life” can look like, even if that is not our experience, rather than being content to do our duty without any hope of a passionate experience of God.