When I was a new believer, the book many of my fellow Christian students read was J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. And I joined them. And I loved it. Packer challenged countless readers to think deeply about God, His character, His ways, and His teaching. But I look back and wonder if the book may have been tilted a bit too much toward the cerebral, needing more mention of affection. Years later, my Christian cohorts read Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God. And I joined them. And I liked it. (I realize I said “liked” not “loved.” I prefer Packer’s work. I regularly return to Knowing God for refreshers. So far, I haven’t done that with Experiencing God.) Looking back, I fear that the two books point to yet another pendulum ride within the body of Christ.
Fragmentation and compartmentalization came from nonbiblical cultures and philosophies, such as the Greeks, and got entrenched in our ways of thinking through equally bad influences, such as the so-called Enlightenment. Getting “back to the Bible” means pursuing a holistic vision for what it means to be human and what that looks like in every way. Then we will love (not just know or experience!) God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind.
And that’s why I love (not just like) Jonathan Edwards’s classic The Religious Affections (1746), one book I believe gets right the holistic image of our humanity. If I had to choose a thesis statement for the book it would be “True religion, in large part, consists of holy affections.”1 Edwards wanted his hearers and readers to know that just having an opinion about God or believing the right propositions about God doesn’t make one a Christian. Saving faith must be felt as well as understood.
Consider just a few samples from this volume:
“The religious life contains things too great for us to be lukewarm.”2
“I am bold to assert that no change of religious nature will ever take place unless the affections are moved.”3
“There is no other reason why we should express ourselves to God in verse rather than in prose and with music, except that these things have a tendency to move our affections.”4
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