One Easter I went away for a short retreat. It was a time of relaxing at the beach, listening to God's voice and allowing Him to bring spiritual refreshment to me. It was much needed as prior to this I had been feeling a bit dry in my faith and I knew this would be a good opportunity to draw closer to God.
Often at these times of seeking God I find He speaks to me as I spend time being open to Him in stillness and solitude. I knew there would be opportunity for this but before I left to go away I felt that it would be good to spend some time reading about God and theology so I took some books with me.
Knowing God in doctrine
Spending some time reading writings of the early church fathers as well as some basic evangelical theology I found particularly refreshing and a great reminder of the importance of the intellectual side of faith and loving God by cultivating the mind towards Him.
Especially at Easter it was great to be refreshed in basic Christian doctrines like sanctification and justification and to think through more in depth about what it means that Jesus died for our sins.
Sometimes Christians talk so much about social action these days and striving to be like Jesus that it seems that Jesus as our saviour, redeemer and righteousness is downplayed, leading to a sense of bondage rather than freedom in Christ. Being reminded of the doctrines of grace and the benefits of resting in God's grace brought me a subtle but deep peace.
We need the intellect
Sometimes when we seek an experience of God's presence that is devoid of intellectual understanding, it can be very frustrating and doesn't give us what we are looking for. God wants to bless us with a higher spiritual thinking. He wants to give us the mind of Christ. We are wired for divine wisdom and so we find God's thoughts and truth enlightening, satisfying and empowering.
It is great to acknowledge the mystical element of the Christian experience. But living in this post-modern age where everything is becoming increasingly vague and ambiguous it is necessary sometimes to be reminded of the concrete truths of our faith as well.
Christian faith should involve the intellect, the emotions and the physical. Sometimes different streams of Christianity tend to major on one or two of these rather than getting a healthy balance.
For example conservative evangelical churches might emphasize loving God with one's mind through intellectual understanding of the faith, charismatic churches might emphasise loving God with one's spirit focusing on experience and emotions and liberal churches may focus on loving God with one's body through doing social action.
Ideally Christianity should involve all of these. The Bible instructs us to love God with all our body, mind, soul and spirit. The intellectual, emotional and physical are not separate and directly affect each other. We should have a holistic approach to these things.
A refreshing use of time
It has been good to spend a bit more time reading Christian books. It is something I used to do all the time and would find it of great spiritual encouragement and blessing. I realised not too long ago that it was something that I hadn't done much for a while and I didn't have the passion for it that I once had.
It is not that I had stopped working on developing my thinking. I am the type of person who enjoys intellectual stimulation very much but I had found myself spending a lot more of my free time on the internet reading articles and watching YouTube videos mainly studying philosophy, history and following politics and world events.
These are certainly important and worthwhile things to spend time learning about but it has been good to get the balance back and I look forward to reading more Christian books in the future.
Conor is from Adelaide, South Australia. He has a history degree from Tabor College and has a gardening business. Conor has played in Christian heavy metal band Synnove. He is involved in Operation Canaan, a ministry that prays and intercedes for the music scene. He loves God, music, reading, traveling and thinking deeply about philosophy and current events in the world.
Conor Ryan’s previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/conor-ryan.html