I felt that this didn’t fit in the pulpit because it’s didactic, more a question of fundamental philosophical approach.
Western Christianity tends to push God out into the spooky unknown. God is “knowable” only in the sense of propositional statements that are admittedly imprecise. Nonetheless, religious leadership tends to hold members accountable under a fairly precise rational orthodoxy. You end up with an impersonal God. Sure, we can stir up all kinds of emotion that makes it seem somewhat personal, but the focus remains on objective knowledge. Somehow, God remains distant in that inner space of the soul. It’s like having sex with a total stranger — you know about the other person, but don’t really get to know the person.
In clinical psychology, we call it cathexis — falling in love. The intensity of feeling is undeniable, and the world seems like a beautiful place. However, there has been none of the interpersonal negotiation that takes place over the long term, so any strong feeling of passion is frankly unjustified. There’s no substance. This is a fundamental element of our cultural mythology.
The essential nature of how Western minds work in regards to God is just like cathexis, and it’s on-again-off-again. We have a reflex to take every disappointment as a personal insult. He should know better than to treat us that way, right? Isn’t it just common sense? Except, our orthodoxy says that’s wrong, so we just push it down into the subconscious and fight it the rest of our lives. For the most part, mainstream Christianity is as phony as a three-dollar bill.
You can get to know God. However, you have to engage Him in your heart-mind. Once you start on that path, you become personally acquainted with God. Propositional orthodoxy goes out the window. You begin to see and get a feel for those things that register in the mind as personal quirks. And like any real person who manages an empire too vast for knowing, there are times He’s not granting your every wish. The intellect will not permit you to imagine that the flaw is on your end when you stumble into the middle of a storm He created. Didn’t He know you were going to be there? But your heart tells you He did know and that you were the one who missed the cues. Or maybe it’s time for you to experience something He wants you to beat by faith.
Ask Abraham how it felt to be told his only natural born son was required on the sacrificial altar. The New Testament said he had the faith to believe that God could raise Isaac back to life, or whatever else it took to keep God’s promises (Hebrews 11:8-10).
The notion of physical causality is a fundamental lie. That’s because it excludes moral causality, and moral causality trumps the physical.
Let’s pretend for a moment. Have you encountered the sort of Science Fiction notion of somehow being able to directly sense physical reality? The old term is “ESP” — extra-sensory perception. For example, maybe someone has the ability to sense on a molecular level that something is about to break under strain. That’s the materialistic explanation for people knowing things they cannot detect with their senses. Maybe you saw the movie about a guy who could sense whether an approaching storm front was powerful enough to create tornadoes. He used a lot of scientific equipment to learn about the storm itself, but no one could estimate scientifically that it was going to be nasty enough to justify the investment of resources. But the other folks competing for the research money didn’t have his talent for knowing when to use it. In our culture, it’s either some spooky thing or it’s ESP.
What seems to rational minds like some kind of ESP is actually a moral focus that understands God, and thus understands reality (His Creation). Our “ESP” is a moral insight, not some factual perception. How many times did the Apostles pass that beggar at the Temple gate (Acts 3) before something inside of them knew that today was the day for healing his legs? Why didn’t Jesus do it while He was still around? Because the timing was tied to the moral purpose of God, not some human calculus of efficiency.
In the Bible, it comes from knowing God; it’s a direct sense of moral reality, not physical reality. Again: God’s moral character is woven into Creation. And Creation is a person, too, and will talk to you about what God is doing, if you learn to listen. Of course, what Creation will tell you is consistent with your calling, not merely your intellectual curiosity. Moral truth trumps physical fact. God remakes His Creation all the time; it’s a built-in factor of Creation itself. Creation stands ready to make adjustments to itself; it’s a project that would cease to exist the moment God stops paying personal attention. Scientists will never discover the principle of what force keeps the subatomic particles together as atoms, against their mutually repelling charges, because it rests on the personal attention of God.
Jesus performed His miracles under the Law of Moses. Balaam engaged God’s prophetic message under the Law of Noah. You have to understand that those Law Covenants represent something characteristic of God and His moral essence. Their ANE culture was quite comfortable with expecting moral causality to overpower physical causality, yet I contend they didn’t ignore the latter. They still expected a rock to fall when they dropped it, but were always ready to test the moral considerations of every physical act.
God didn’t wind up Creation and let it run; He’s communing with His Creation personally.