Still Singing to the Lord-but in the Key of Metaphysical Distress

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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
I almost put this in the Prayer forum but decoded on Spiritual Warfare instead. (In case you didn't get it, I am hoping for some prayer too)

Greetings beloved,

The modern mutualists have got me confused. Don't worry; I'm not in the least buying their God-in-process bull. But they (or maybe Satan) have caused me to wonder who or what it is that I've been fellowshipping with these past years. I delight in God; I sing Psalms to, pray to, and worship the God who loves me. But is it all one-sided? I don't think so, but my emotions tell a different story.

What does it mean when I am filled with the Spirit and with that joy unspeakable which is full of Glory? How can an unchanging God interact with mutable man? Driving in the car this morning, I cried out at the top of my lungs, "Oh Lord, I miss you, and I just can't seem to understand you at this time. Forgive me, I pray."

Don't get me wrong. I don't talk to God and get verbal answers. He doesn't speak to me like that. But He energizes the Word of God stored in my heart and fills me with praise and wonder at the One who Is what He Is.

I've been around the Bible and Reformed theology for quite some time. And I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the high-level achiever that many of you are. But given the divine aseity, immutability, impassibility, simplicity, and eternity of this magnificent, totally Other Being, how can He interact with man? I know that all things are possible with God, but can anyone explain how He communes with us?

Of course, Jesus comes to mind. He was everything and more than we could ever hope or imagine as a friend and Savior. A mighty God--and a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He prayed with strong crying, experienced incredible joy, anguish, temptation, and rejection by men, and endured the cursed death of the cross for us. But I don't understand how that could be the God of classical dogmatism.

I'm sure some will offer me theological and doctrinal statements of the case. And perhaps that is all I need. But I'm just not getting it right now, and it's driving me crazy. This perplexity of mind has been going on for nearly a week.

Thanks in advance for your help.
 

Scottish Presbyterian

Puritan Board Freshman
But given the divine aseity, immutability, impassibility, simplicity, and eternity of this magnificent, totally Other Being, how can He interact with man? I know that all things are possible with God, but can anyone explain how He communes with us?

Of course, Jesus comes to mind. He was everything and more than we could ever hope or imagine as a friend and Savior. A mighty God--and a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He prayed with strong crying, experienced incredible joy, anguish, temptation, and rejection by men, and endured the cursed death of the cross for us. But I don't understand how that could be the God of classical dogmatism.

Dear friend, I don't think anything I can say will be helpful, so I'll just leave a couple of verses of Scripture that spring to mind, which are sure to be more helpful than any of my thoughts could be:

2 Corinthians 8:9
Philippians 2:5-11
Hebrews 2:14-17
Hebrews 4:14-16
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
But given the divine aseity, immutability, impassibility, simplicity, and eternity of this magnificent, totally Other Being, how can He interact with man? I know that all things are possible with God, but can anyone explain how He communes with us?
Friend, you have mentioned some important doctrine. Let me give an awesome quote by Bavinck that might help:

"Because God is the creator, man a creature; ... an infinite distance between the two is a given. No fellowship, no religion between the two seems possible; there is only difference, distance, endless distinctiveness. If God remains evated above humanity in His sovereign exaltedness and majesty, then no religion is possible, at least no religion in the sense of fellowship. Then the relation between the two is exhaustively described in the terms of "master" and "servant". ... Accordingly, if there is truly to be religion, if there is to be fellowship between God and man ... then religion must be the character of a covenant. For then God has to come down from His lofty position, condescend to is creatures, impart, reveal, and give Himself away to human beings; then He who inhabits eternity and dwells in a high and holy place must also dwell with those who are of a humble spirit (Isa 57:15). But this set of conditions is nothing other than the description of a covenant. If religion is called a covenant, it is thereby described as the true and genuine religion.This is what no other religion has ever understood; all peoples either pantheistically pull God down into what is creaturely, or deistically elevate Him endlessly above it. In neither case does one arrive at true fellowship, at covenant, at genuine religion. But scripture insists on both: God is infinitely great and condescendingly good; He is sovereign but also Father; He is creator but also Prototype. In a word, He is the God of the covenant."
Reformed Dogmatics 2:568 ff.
[Emphasis added]

These are important passages. Meditate much on them.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
But given the divine aseity, immutability, impassibility, simplicity, and eternity of this magnificent, totally Other Being, how can He interact with man? I know that all things are possible with God, but can anyone explain how He communes with us?

Ed, you should consult Westminster Confession 7.1 on this matter.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
To: @BayouHuguenot @Reformed Covenanter @Stephen L Smith @Scottish Presbyterian @Jeri Tanner

I had to work about 12 hours yesterday and had zero time to write.
So thanks to all for offering some advice and reminders. (and a heart/like)

Ed

Edit: I just finished my devotions. I think I'm going to be OK. And if you knew me, 'OK' means fantastic, exuberant, often filled with joy inexpressible that's full of glory. Thanks to any of you who may have prayed for me. I don't know what got me into this trouble, but my friends and especially my God have restored me. The crisis is over. Now on to the next trial. Stay not thy hand, O Lord.

Thanks
 
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Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
Hello friend. Please excuse all the grammatical issues because I am using voice to text. I think of myself as a man of reason, so I have often wondered what you are wondering. I have pursued God very passionately and have always longed for a deep and meaningful relationship with him, that is two-sided and real. A few years ago I even tried to experience God in the way some of my charismatic friends were, in hopes that I would find some answers and more satisfaction. But I found that all Christians alike regardless of denomination experience the same reality, whether or not they are willing to admit it.

What I have found after all these years is that everything must be done on God's terms, and our satisfaction in him cannot be based upon our own terms. I have complained to God many times about feeling like my relationship with him was mostly one-sided. Did my crying out to him in this way change anything? No. Did me pursuing God in more charismatic ways solve the problem? No. Did me examining all the Bible to make sure my life is without sin and that I am doing all I can to better experience God solve the problem? No.

No matter how hard I try otherwise, I always come back to knowing that my experience of God is ordinary, it is in holiness, In living an upright life, in observing creation, in experiencing loving relationships, the enjoyment of life, etc. I cannot claim to experience God in any supernatural way, no matter how much I have devoted myself to doing so. For me, the supernatural way is the ordinary way, and it is all done on God's own terms. For whatever reasons, he has chosen not to relate to me in the way that I would seem more satisfied, and nothing I can do can change that.

This is where I have to trust and obey, knowing that God knows what's best, and will always do what's best. I'm sorry my response to you is probably not satisfying. I really wish I could have more to give you.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
I almost put this in the Prayer forum but decoded on Spiritual Warfare instead. (In case you didn't get it, I am hoping for some prayer too)

Greetings beloved,

The modern mutualists have got me confused. Don't worry; I'm not in the least buying their God-in-process bull. But they (or maybe Satan) have caused me to wonder who or what it is that I've been fellowshipping with these past years. I delight in God; I sing Psalms to, pray to, and worship the God who loves me. But is it all one-sided? I don't think so, but my emotions tell a different story.

What does it mean when I am filled with the Spirit and with that joy unspeakable which is full of Glory? How can an unchanging God interact with mutable man? Driving in the car this morning, I cried out at the top of my lungs, "Oh Lord, I miss you, and I just can't seem to understand you at this time. Forgive me, I pray."

Don't get me wrong. I don't talk to God and get verbal answers. He doesn't speak to me like that. But He energizes the Word of God stored in my heart and fills me with praise and wonder at the One who Is what He Is.

I've been around the Bible and Reformed theology for quite some time. And I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the high-level achiever that many of you are. But given the divine aseity, immutability, impassibility, simplicity, and eternity of this magnificent, totally Other Being, how can He interact with man? I know that all things are possible with God, but can anyone explain how He communes with us?

Of course, Jesus comes to mind. He was everything and more than we could ever hope or imagine as a friend and Savior. A mighty God--and a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He prayed with strong crying, experienced incredible joy, anguish, temptation, and rejection by men, and endured the cursed death of the cross for us. But I don't understand how that could be the God of classical dogmatism.

I'm sure some will offer me theological and doctrinal statements of the case. And perhaps that is all I need. But I'm just not getting it right now, and it's driving me crazy. This perplexity of mind has been going on for nearly a week.

Thanks in advance for your help.

I am having the same struggle. Here's where I have it worked out so far.

I do know one person godlier than me who is able to find the glory in the doctrine of divine simplicity, and I'm still working on getting it. I believe it, but the practical impact is yet to hit me. He mentioned that it means we have all of God. If I take that thought farther, I feel like one may faint realizing how rich they really are.

For the first part boldened, my question isn't so much "how" as "why". He doesn't need us. Try to comprehend the scale of the universe, then man's smallness, then two things will shock you:
- We don't benefit Him at all, but He still fellowships us
- This immense God united Himself with a near-infinitisimally small body, so we may fellowship with Him.

As for the how, I don't have an explanation. But the Spirit witnesses to our hearts and persuades us that these things are true, and we believe it without having the details worked out. If the Spirit witnesses to our hearts the truth of Scripture, it's as good as fully comprehended, and brings to our souls the full sense of persuasion that puts us at ease with it. Psalm 131.

For the second boldened part, I run into a related snag. For theological reasons we talk about God's simplicity, aseity, etc., but when we talk that way we're not talking at the level of persons. Not bad in itself in its right place. But an anatomist will think of a man's body in terms of parts, components, function, etc. It's naturally impersonal. The detailed discussion of attributes is asking WHAT is God, which is not the same as asking WHO God is.

So, my wife has all the attributes of womanhood. But I'm not married to an impersonal collection of feminine attributes. I'm married to a woman, in whom are all feminine attributes.

For Christ's sympathy, His strong cryings and tears, His undying love, we're not dealing at the level of the "anatomy of God", if you will, or the what. When it comes to these glorious things about Christ, we've come into the territory of who, expressed through His assumed human nature.

I find it a mistake on my part to think of God first in terms of attributes. We don't relate to a collection of attributes, but to persons with (or are their?) attributes. I think it's right first to think of the persons Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who are all one God, same in essence, equal in power and glory, who are all the attributes assigned to them.

If you can relate to God as persons, not an abstract concept, but know by experience the spiritual warmth and joy of these persons coming and seeking you out, accomplishing redemption so that you may come near to them in a loving union, that's the Spirit having come down and revealed Him to you. Salvation is extremely personal. So however the fellowship happens... it did!

Hope this helps in some way brother.
 
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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Ed, Ryan, Jake, and friends – this is a topic dear to my heart, having come out of great depths many decades ago, in my 20s and 30s, and remain, essentially, a spiritual desperado in need of a very present Saviour (Psa 46:1).

When I sense I am distant from God – from Jesus Christ through whom I know God – I understand this to be of the Holy Spirit, putting a hunger in me for His presence.

This business of knowing or sensing His presence – ultimately it comes down to faith, as we can have nothing from God but by faith. A remark that helps me orient myself is from Alexander Nisbet, in his Commentary on 1st & 2nd Peter (Banner of Truth), p. 25:

“. . . it being the nature of true faith to make the thing it closes with spiritually present to the soul.”

This means if I believe and trust what God has said is true – true in my experience, true in my spiritual life – the reality of what I close with (engage with) is spiritually present to my soul.

So here we come to an aspect of spiritual life in Christ, the distinction between feeling and knowing. I had written a paper on this for one of the churches I was part of, either in Cyprus or in NYC (I can’t remember which) to help the congregation in their walks. I’ll attach it below: “God’s Presence Our Portion”. Along with a companion piece, “Communion With God”, consisting of various Scriptures containing promises He has made with regard to our relationship with Him, differing aspects of it.

Even though it was some years ago I wrote God’s Presence Our Portion I still – now in Sept of 2021 – have to navigate through feeling states. In the mornings when I get up, and after I have a bite to eat and drink, in my quiet times I often need to speak to my own heart: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Psa 42:11). And this I do by rehearsing the Gospel, my being justified in particular. So I will pray, “Lord, thank You I am clothed in Christ’s righteousness as with a robe in Your sight, in Him am accepted in Your Beloved (Eph 1:6), adopted as your son in Him – holy and beloved in Your sight” (Col 3:12). Just praying like this gives my heart a buoyancy and warmth of heart toward God who has been so kind and gracious with me. I will often sing a hymn (or Psalm if you are EP) of thanksgiving or praise:

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4).

It’s sort of like “priming a pump” back in the old days of hand-pumps in the yard.

This matter of distinguishing between feeling and knowing I mentioned earlier is extremely important – feelings come and go, and may be wonderful or distressing, but there is a deeper part of our beings, where we know in our depths things that are unshakeable. Consider, if you were going about your daily life, were in a store with your family buying something, and some bad actor came in and said to you and your fellow customers, “Who here belongs to Jesus? Raise your hand if you do. And if you do I will shoot you dead on the spot. If you don’t you will be denying him in your moment of truth, and you may leave unharmed.” In this scenario you might feel scared witless, but in your deepest heart you know you love Him and He loves you, and would be willing to die for Him. In some parts of the world this happens daily.

At any rate, this knowing I speak of in the paper, we need to think about and cultivate. For in the depths is where the Spirit of Christ dwells in us. Some days, when I feel distant from Christ, I go to Him and simply tell Him, “O Lord, be gracious to me and make me more aware of You, for I hunger and thirst for Your presence.” I said this a few weeks ago when I was feeling desperately far from Him, and a few hours later, while walking down the street, this Scripture came powerfully into my mind, “I will never leave you nor forsake you!” (Heb 13:5). It came with such power and sweetness I knew it was of Him, and gave my heart to rejoice. I tell Him my need and desire, and leave it with Him. Sometimes I am distressed to the point where I will skip a meal or two and spend some of that time seeking Him in prayer, knowing He loves me (Matt 5:3,4,5,6), and will – eventually – comfort me.

We need to cultivate this sort of spiritual awareness, and bring it to our Lord when we are particularly needy, casting all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us! (1 Pet 5:7). After all, He is the Master and Teacher, and we His disciples and friends, and such deep conversations we will be having with Him all through eternity.
 

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