Friday, March 25, 2011

In Pursuit of Heat: We Worship What We Know

Thus far in our series we have battled against an understanding that is critical of theology in general, an ideology that is an ignorant, anti-intellectual emotionalism. However, there is another contemporary enemy of the opposite extreme. More popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, yet prevalent today especially as a reaction against feelings-driven theology, this ideology stops theology short of its goal by conceiving of it as a merely intellectual exercise.

We must return to our previously stated, working definition of theology, especially the second half: it is “the comprehensive, holistic interpretation of Scripture for the purpose of intimately knowing and rightly worshiping God.” To stop short of this purpose clause is to abort the God-given purpose for engaging in theology: to become worshipers of God in spirit and truth. If our theologizing does not affect us—if it does not change the way we think, feel, and act—we fail the task of doing theology.

No one has been a greater help to me in assimilating this truth into the depth of my soul than Jonathan Edwards. In his Miscellanies, he writes with staggering insight:
God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might be received both by the mind and the heart. He that testifies his idea of God’s glory [does not] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it. (Miscellanies, No. 448)
That is a life-shaping, worldview-shattering paragraph.

If nothing else, it certainly provides the vision of the proper goal of the theological process. We must not only endeavor to know about God, studying to tantalize our intellect and amass theoretical knowledge. Rather, our labors in theology are a means to the end of knowing God Himself—in relationship. And then, knowing such a magnificently glorious God, necessarily loving and enjoying Him for the fullness of His goodness.

And it is impossible to have one without the other. What I mean is, God is not the kind of Being who can be known to a greater degree without being enjoyed to that same degree. To know God is to enjoy Him. Biographer George Marsden summarizes Edwards’s thinking in this regard:
“Beauty”…is not just an object of passive contemplation, but rather a transforming power. If one sees a beautiful person, said Edwards, one cannot help but be drawn to that person. One’s heart is drawn to that beauty, and one’s actions will follow one’s heart. So it is with the surpassing beauty of God as revealed in Christ.…If one glimpses the perfect beauty of such love, one cannot help but be drawn to it. (A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards, 141)
There is no room -- not even in a theology classroom, and especially not a Sunday school classroom -- for a passive contemplation of the glories of God in Christ. To study Him dispassionately, entirely unmoved by the stunning beauty that we behold in the face of Christ would be woefully dishonoring to God.

If we are to glorify God, we must not only see His glory (light), but rejoice in it (heat). We must cultivate that vision of who He is and what He has done so well that, as Vanhoozer says, "when we perceive it, it stops us in our tracks and elicits our praise."

Series Outline

Light and Heat: Introduction

1.1 - In Pursuit of Light: We Worship What We Know
1.2 - Systematics and Doctrine Matter
1.3 - Loving God with All Your Mind

2. In Pursuit of Heat: We Worship What We Know

3. Conclusion: Light and Heat, Spirit and Truth


Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

This is an awesome series, Mike. One I will make SURE my son reads.

How many times have we ALL told another person, "That is not the God of the Bible, that is an idol, a God of your own making." Far too many people worship the unknown god. That is why I love reformed theology, it goes deep into God's Word: very deep.

"Study to show yourself approved" not what most Christian's would consider to be high entertainment. Most, if not all entertainment today, becomes an idol for so many people.

I also love J. Edwards!!! Here is a similar quote by John Piper that I have on my blog. I love these kinds of statements, because I feel the same way, as I know you do, too. :)

"When the object of our delight is moral beauty, the longing to behold is inseperable from the longing to be. When the Holy Spirit awakens the heart of a person to delight in the holiness of God, an insatiable desire is born not only to behold that holiness, but also to be holy as God is holy."


Mike Riccardi said...

What a fantastic quote, Mary! A wonderful addition to the post! Thanks so much for sharing it!

As always, I'm greatly encouraged by your kindness. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

Mike Riccardi said...

A great quote from Baxter's Reformed Pastor:

"The saying of Bernard is commonly known: 'Some desire to know merely for the sake of knowing, and that is shameful curiosity.

'Some desire to know that they may sell their knowledge, and that too is shameful.

'Some desire to know for reputation's sake, and that is shameful vanity.

'But there are some who desire to know that they may edify others, and that is praiseworthy;

'and there are some who desire to know that they themselves may be edified, and that is wise.'" (112)