Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Truth and Experience in Keller's book on prayer

The eleventh chapter in Keller's book on prayer is entitled As Encounter: Seeking his Face. In the opening paragraphs of this chapter Keller reminds the reader that prayer "is a conversation that leads to encounter with God" (165). He also refers back to the tenth chapter by recounting John Owen's contention that meditation "anticipates a character-forming experience of God's presence" (165).

The chapter goes on to discuss how Christians can fail to experience God in the heart. The Christian can understand intellectually truths about God and the gospel and yet fail to "grasp" them with the heart. Keller proceeds to explain and elaborate on what it means to experience God with the "inner being."

This is followed by the author persuading the necessity keeping truth and experience together. Keller returns to Owen to make this point. He suggests that "Owen promotes what could be called a radically biblical mysticism. It comes through meditation on Scripture, on theological truth, on the gospel-but it must break through to real experience with God" (179)."

a little farther on in the chapter I was startled by an unexpected conclusion of Owen's. forgive the longish quote but it is worth it:
Nevertheless, despite his deep concerns, in the end Owen concludes: "It is better that our affections exceed our light from the defect of our understandings, than that our light exceeds our affections from the corruption of our wills." That's a remarkable thing for a Puritan to say. If we are going to be imbalanced, better that we be doctrinally weak and have a vital prayer life and a real sense of God on the heart than that we get all our doctrine straight and be cold and spiritually hard.
This indeed was unexpected. I certainly am no expert on Owen, but I would not have anticipated him saying this. Interesting.

The chapter finishes with some thoughts on being cautious in excessively pursuing experience but also in admiration of those who truly seek God in the inner being.

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