I’m a curmudgeon. No, it’s true. I don’t mean to be; I just am. Case in point: I got up this morning and found that after a month’s absence from the blogosphere, and acquaintance of mine had posted an update of her experience in Australia:
Touching Heaven Night was last night. It was a worship night held at the Hillsong City campus and was preparation for the Live Album Recording when all the campuses throughout Sydney all come together for a night of worship. God’s presence was so evident last night that it took my breath away. I heard several stories today about people who accepted Christ into their lives. Praise God that He is moving in such an obvious way!
If you’re as much of a curmudgeon as I am, you’ll immediately notice what I did, and be appalled. If not, allow me to enlighten you. First of all “Touching Heaven Night”? Really? Not that we should boycott all events with corny names. After all, I went to the “Revolution of Love,” and found it to be quite good, and not nearly so silly as it’s name implied. But on the other hand… who on earth names these things???
I don’t know what to think of the Live Album Recording. My inclination is to say that to the extent that the main purpose of an event is to issue a recording, I’m not sure how the main purpose can also be to worship God. And I’m likewise unsure how worshiping God can be a secondary purpose. So the only charitable conclusion I can form is that the main purpose is worship, that they’re planning to record, and someone just happened to get things switched when naming the event.
And then… I just don’t understand. I admire Megan’s sincerity. I admire her delight. But I simply don’t understand what she means. “God’s presence was so evident last night that it took my breath away.” I’m temperamentally disinclined to be caught up in emotions without at least a very obvious input on the part of Reason saying: that’s nice you feel that way. But it doesn’t mean anything in particular about whether God’s moving or not. Mostly it just means you’re focusing very hard on inwardness and feelings. This reaction may or may not be correct. It may just be cynicism and lack of faith. But then I remember some puzzling things that the saints have said on the matter. Like when St Theophan says that prayer will fill us with warmth – and that’s fine, but nothing to be elated over. Indeed it can become a distraction to knowing God if we rely on it. It’s simply a physical reaction to the name of Jesus and to concentrated inwardness. Those are my words, though, not his. Do you want to know the presence of God? Pray, fast, love, keep the commandments, and listen to the silence. You got a warm glowing feeling in your heart? Lovely. Take it for what it is, with gratitude, and don’t mistake it for God. He is something else entirely. I’m cautious. Perhaps too cautious. Evangelicals, on the whole, are not cautious enough. And not descriptive enough, either. What does she mean? What have my other friends meant when they “experienced God in a powerful way” during worship? No actual description could be worse than the only answer I can think of for myself. Because the only thing I can imagine it meaning in this context is “I had a delightful emotional response, rather like falling love, and attributed this to some special closeness on the part of God.”
I want to ask someone now, and am not sure who. *ponders*