Updated: Aug 7
Like many, I grew up in a culture dominated by the Christian religion.
Unlike many, I didn't just grow up in church, I lived church.
When I was seven, my dad packed the whole family up and moved us to Joplin Missouri to get a ministry degree from Ozark Bible College. When I was nine, my dad packed the family up and moved us to Australia to be a missionary in Mackay, Queensland. When I was eleven, my family moved back to Plainfield Indiana where my dad continued to pastor small country churches for the next twenty years. When I was nineteen, fresh out of high school, I attended Ozark Bible College to study music ministry. When I was twenty-nine, I went to Kentucky Christian College to finish up my bachelors in Humanities.
In all that time, I've had good training and teaching in scripture and Christian truth. At one point I had the desire to be more of a biblical scholar or theologian. But at some point, I read enough to realize that learning good Christian truth wasn't the point. What was the point? Christian Contemplation.
So, what's the difference between Christian truth and Christian Contemplation? One is the means, the other the end. Christian truth helps us in our pursuit of Christian Contemplation. Christian truth is knowing about God. Christian Contemplation is knowing God Himself. Christian truth brings us to words, concepts, truth, practices, and ideas. Christian Contemplation brings us to the reality of God Himself, alive and at work in the world around us. Christian truth is contact with books and good teachers. Christian Contemplation is contact with a God who is the energy of life in all things.
Think about the wind.
Think about air.
Think about light.
All these things exist, and yet, we never see the things themselves. What we see is the effect of their energy. The energy of God is much the same way.
Thinking about God as words on a page can leave us viewing God as a set of good principles and rules. Thinking about God as the energy of life, giving life to the entire, created universe can help us get past ideas and truths to the person of God who can be known and interacted with.
God is a being, not a mental concept in our heads. If we can’t get God out of our heads, then we can get stuck in only knowing abstract ideas. But abstract ideas cannot set us free.
God is not a separate, isolated, distant being set apart from the world like Zeus on Mount Olympus, who occasionally strolls down to meddle in human affairs. Neither is God a disinterested clockmaker who simply created the world, wound it up, and left it, as Agnosticism and Deism suggests.
In the Christian context, we could say that heaven is not a separate place where God dwells, heaven is the state of being connected to a God who is the invisible energy of all life. The point of Christ was to get us back to God, not to get us into a religion with the right rules and practices. Religious rules and practices are good as a means. But as the end, they can end up creating a closed system of truth which shuts some in and other out. In the end, those in and those out of that kind of religious mentality can both miss the point.
God as the energy of all life sets us all on the same plane, because we are all already in the flow of God simply by being alive. When we understand God in this way, we begin in a space where God is available to everyone. But, if we are already living in the energy of God, then how can we also be disconnected from God, and why?
The is why religious tradition can be helpful, because it contains truths and practices which can help reconnect us to God. Even though we are all enlivened by the energy of God, we can choose to move with God or reject Him. That entails the action of surrender or resistance to God as the center of all life. Christianity is a good place to start on our journey of coming to know God. Christian scripture and tradition put before us the lives of others who have come to know God for themselves. These show us not only that God can be known, but what God is like so we can know for ourselves what we are headed towards. These also show us how others came to know God through good learning and good practices.
So, what is coming to know God like?
How do we experience God for ourselves?
We experience God through our three Knowing and Being Centers.
We experience God in our mind, heart, body, flesh, soul, and spirit.
To know about God only in our mind is a very disembodied form of truth. To experience the energy of God in every part is to experience God through our thoughts, emotions, and even physical sensations. After all, the fruits of the Spirit of God within us are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. These are a very embodies and holistic experience of the Spirit of Truth through every part of our personhood. And that, I believe, is the point of the Gospel of Jesus.
To know God is to experience God in every part of ourselves as well as every part of the world around us. That is the balance between God as energy and God as truth.