Mysticism, Awareness of God, and Postmodern Confusions
by J.P. Moreland
- Title: Mysticism, Awareness of God, and Postmodern Confusions
- Date: 2008
- Source: Conversations Journal 6:1 (Spring/Summer 2008), 18-24
- Article Type: Journal Article
- Audience: Intermediate
- Kingdom Categories: Life of the Mind, Power of the Kingdom, Spiritual Formation
Knowledge—not faith, mere true belief, or one’s tradition—is what gives people the right to act and teach responsibly and with authority. We give dentists, not accountants, the right to fix our teeth because we take them to have the relevant knowledge.
We receive the ideas of Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, and Henri Nouwen, for example, because we take them to know what they are talking about. When contributors to this journal share their spiritual experiences, we readers take them to know at least what their experiences actually were. Without such an assumption, we would have no confidence in their descriptions of their own experiences. Imagine a writer saying that he did not know what his own experience of forgiveness was like, but he was going to describe it to us anyway! Moreover, knowledge gives people confidence to act in certain ways and believe certain things.
Now postmodernists often philosophically confuse a proper concern to affirm the Bible’s inerrancy with an anxious quest for certainty, with a desire to control the Bible rather than let the Bible read us, or with a failure to acknowledge the human aspects of the Bible. Such assertions are deeply sad to me and reflect unintentional confusion and misunderstanding knowledge, truth, and related themes. Because knowledge is so important, much is at stake in this confusion.
My article attempts to do three things:
- Describe knowledge and clear up some confusions regarding it
- Show how postmodern thought makes mystical experience of God impossible, and
- Correct three postmodern confusions that undermine knowledge of God.
My direct and indirect encounters with God’s power, presence and communication are a motivation for me to think seriously and act responsibly about knowledge of God’s actions in His world.
At the end of the day, scripture, mystical experience, and the best of our literature in spiritual formation provide us with knowledge of God, the nature of love, the way the human soul can be nurtured, and a host of other topics. Given this self-understanding of what it means for us to be students and teachers about these matters, we are in a position to understand the importance, authority, and power of the relevant ideas in this area of human experience and reflection. We are also in a position to see how careful we must be in providing knowledge to those under our care.
Related Content: If this article interests you, you might also want to consider the following:
- Kingdom Triangle (book)
- Love Your God with All Your Mind (book)
- The God Question (book)
- "Christianity and Non-Empirical Knowledge" (article)
- It shows the relevance of epistemology to spirituality, spiritual formation and spiritual experiences.
- It offers a vision for how to think about how spiritual experiences can be a source of knowledge.
- It discerns and assesses the failure of "postmodern philosophy" assumptions concerning the nature of truth, knowledge and reality.