J. D. Greear on Feeling God’s Presence

Every Thursday afternoon we highlight the writing of J. D. Greear, Pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham. This week we point you to J. D.’s thoughts on feeling (or not feeling) God’s presence and what to do about it. 

Here’s an excerpt of the post:

If you think being filled by the Holy Spirit means an endless series of miracles, burning bushes, still, small voices, warm fuzzies, and sensations of peace that pass all understanding, then you are going to be disappointed.

 

The greatest (and most honest) saints have always confessed that they had to walk through many valleys with no sense of God’s presence. Sometimes they nearly went deaf from the heavenly silence. Often they stumbled helplessly in what felt like total darkness. C. S. Lewis wrote that during one of the most painful times of his life, he cried out to God and got:

 

“…a door slammed in [my] face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become.” [C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1961), 17.]

 

Somehow, these honest words seldom make it into anyone’s list of “favorite C. S. Lewis quotes.”

Read the full post here.

Recommendation: Alister McGrath’s Glossary of Theological Terms

One of the fun things about teaching church history is introducing my students to all kinds of technical theological terms that they should never (ever!!!) use in a sermon, but nevertheless probably need to know. I require students in all of my classes to purchase a copy of the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms and bring it with them to class. They are not allowed to ask me to define a term in class unless they have first consulted the Pocket Dictionary to see if it is included therein.

I recently discovered that Alister McGrath has a glossary of theological terms on his Wiley-Blackwell author’s page. For those of you who haven’t heard of McGrath, he is arguably one of the two or three best-known evangelical theologians in the English-speaking world. He has written dozens of book on systematic theology, historical theology, spirituality, the Reformation, C. S. Lewis, and the relationship between theology and science. He is a sharp cookie. If you want to learn more about McGrath’s thoughts on some of these topics, check out my colleague Jamie Dew’s book Science and Theology: An Assessment of Alister McGrath’s Critical Realist Perspective and SEBTS alum Larry McDonald’s book The Merging of Theology and Spirituality: An Examination of the Life and Work of Alister E. McGrath.

Even if you don’t want to learn more about McGrath’s thought, avail yourself of his super-helpful glossary of theological terms. Your friends will be impressed when you tell them that Hesychasm is “A tradition, especially associated with the eastern church, which places considerable emphasis upon the idea of “inner quietness” (Greek: hesychia) as a means of achieving a vision of God. It is particularly associated with writers such as Simeon the New Theologian and Gregory Palamas.” Don’t you feel more theologically astute already?

 

Christ Is Sovereign Over All

The title for this post is drawn from a famous statement by the Dutch statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). The full statement reads: “There is not a square inch in a whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” Where did Kuyper get this idea? I suspect, at least in part, from the Great Commission text of Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” What Jesus has authority over belongs to Him. What belongs to Him He rightly claims as “Mine!” All of creation is Christ’s. As we advance the gospel across North America and to the nations we reclaim souls and territory that belong to King Jesus. This world belongs to the Son of God, not Satan.

C.S. Lewis certainly understood this to be the nature of our assignment. He said, “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.” Lewis was right. We are indeed locked in a cosmic conflict for the souls of human persons. Eternal destinies hang in the balance. We are also locked in a cultural conflict that will determine in many ways how we think and work, how we live and die.

I am in complete agreement with Francis Schaeffer, whose letters and papers are archived in our library at SEBTS. This wonderful Christian thinker, whose writings have had a profound influence on my life, put it like this: “Christianity provides a unified answer for the whole of life.” Did you catch the key word? The “whole” of life. In other words, our Christian faith is to translate into a Christian life, a way of thinking, acting, playing and living. No area is off limits. No discipline is out of bounds. Our surrender to Christ’s Lordship will impact the totality of our lives. It will shape and determine what we call our “worldview.”

Southeastern Seminary houses “The Center for Faith and Culture.” It is named after my former teacher and colleague L. Rush Bush, who served as the Dean of SEBTS for right at 20 years. The Center reflects well the heart and perspective of its founding director who believed all of life should be permeated by a Christian worldview. Bush said, “A worldview is that basic set of assumptions that gives meaning to ones thoughts. A worldview is that set of assumptions that someone has about the way things are, about what things are, about why things are.” Complementing this excellent statement, I often say a worldview is a comprehensive and all-encompassing view of life by which we think, understand, judge and act. It guides and determines our approach to life and how we will live.

Because the seminary I serve is committed to cultivating a comprehensive Christian worldview, we allow these ideas– axioms if you like–to inform how we teach in the classroom. It is also why we hold conferences that address issues like creation, abortion, sexual identity, adoption, marriage and family, government, economics, politics, law, philosophy, ethics, the environment, poverty and more. Faith and culture meet at the intersection of real life, and SEBTS is committed to being in the center of all of it!

Schaeffer says, “Christianity is the greatest intellectual system the mind of man has ever touched.” I believe that. And Kuyper adds, “When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at any price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” We at Southeastern believe this too, and we indeed accept the call to battle, laying our convictions bare for friend and foe alike!