Saturday, July 11, 2009

Experiencing God

We hold that an experimental [i.e. experiential] knowledge of Christ crucified and interceding, is the very essence of Christianity.

...

We hold that, as an inward work of the Holy Ghost is a necessary thing to a man's salvation, so also it is a thing that must be inwardly felt... there can be no real conversion to God, no new creation in Christ, no new birth of the Spirit, where there is nothing felt and experienced within.

J.C. Ryle, quoted in Faithfulness and Holiness by J.I. Packer, p.32

I find this very interesting. Of course, I agree with him. And so did George Whitefield.

But every Christian must be an Enthusiast! That is, he must be inspired by God, or have God in him. Had I mind to hinder the progress of the Gospel and to establish the kingdom of darkness, I would go about telling people they might have the Spirit of God and yet not feel it.

George Whitefield, quoted in Pollock's biography of him, p.86

But when did what is now called conservative evangelicalism stop having this stress on the importance of a personal experience of God? So often we look back to great men of God like Ryle and Whitefield and forget that in many respects they were quite a bit more charismatic (in today's terms) than many of those who now look back to them as spiritual ancestors. Was it simply an over-reaction against some of the excesses of early Pentecostalism that drove so much of contemporary evangelicalism into such an unemotional state?

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