Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Faith and Desire

Last year, I wrote a blog post on the Bethel School for Supernatural Ministry, a training ground for a charismatic/ecstatic version of Christian faith. Honestly, it seems harmless enough, although I was a teensy bit skeptical about know...actually supernatural it is. Since then, that post is the post that keeps on giving. It doesn't see a great deal of traffic, but it gets visited all the time, as folks seeking that school get pitched my blog post. Yay Google.

A few defenders of the school have laid into me about my admittedly playful assessment of Bethel, and the last one said something that got me to thinking. I was talking about things I had no clue about, said he. How could I? I haven't experienced them. He noted I had never been on a "treasure hunt." By that, I think he refers to the practice, taught at Bethel, of praying for flashes of precognition, and then going out and finding something that relates to that insight. Well, no. No I haven't. My practices are more ongoing and esoteric. He also noted that I'd never been ministered Sozo or Shabar. That is also true. And no, that doesn't involve being prayed over by Sozo the Clown and Shabar the Elephant. It's a set of spiritual intervention tools used by Bethel to get people into what they view as a healthy place spiritually. Hopefully, those tools don't mention Thetans. Pesky, pesky Thetans.

I don't buy the assertion that you can't make value statements about something that you haven't actively participated in. Not for a moment. That's the point and purpose of both our God-given intelligence, our imagination, and the gift of discernment.

Within that statement, though, there was a stirring of a kernel of truth about faith. Faith...the orientation of the self to that which transcends us...isn't something that can be taught the same way you teach algebra or a foreign language. It can't be hammered into someone by rote, or coerced with the threat of bad grades and no television for a week. It is not a question of internalizing and memorizing a set of data. It has little to do with intelligence.

It is a question of experiencing desire.

Without the desire for God, God cannot be perceived. That's a challenge that faces us oldliners, as we teach our faith in ways that are indistinguishable from secular scholarship, and end up with a generation turning up their noses at our plate of stale bread. That's also the challenge that faces evangelicals and fundamentalists, who mistakenly assume that quoting Scripture at people who lack any desire for God will do anything other than piss them off.

If you don't feel the yearning, you won't seek. And if you don't seek, you sure ain't gonna find. That's just not how it works.