Many men, as has already been observed, are telling us that we should not seek to know Him at all; theology, we are told, is the death of religion. We do not know God, then—such seems to be the logical implication of this view—but simply feel Him. In its consistent form such a view is mysticism; religion is reduced to a sate of the soul in which the mind and the will are in abeyance. Whatever may be thought of such a religion, I cannot see that it possesses any moral quality at all; pure feeling is non-moral, and so is religion that is not founded upon theology. What makes our love for a true friend, for example, such an ennobling thing is the recognition by our mind of the character of our friend. Human affection, so beautiful in its apparent simplicity, really depends upon a treasured host of observations of the actions of our friend. So it is also in the case of our relation to God. It is because we know certain things about Him, it is because we know that He is mighty and holy and loving, that our communion with Him obtains its peculiar quality. The devout man cannot be indifferent to doctrine, in the sense in which any modern preachers would have us be indifferent, any more than he can listen with equanimity to misrepresentations of an earthly friend. Our faith in God, despite all that is said, is indissolubly connected with what we think of Him. The devout man may indeed well do without a complete systematization of his knowledge—though if he be really devout he will desire just as complete a systematization as he can possibly obtain—but some knowledge he certainly must have.
Machen’s sentiments are a good check to the anti-intellectualism so common in current American Christianity. Experience is king. Why study about God from a “dead letter” when you can feel and experience him?
Many wish to make a God from their own imagination, and then “experience” his “presence” through emotionally laden, self-focussed “worship” music rather than doing the hard work of listening to Paul’s charge to Timothy.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
Let us fight against mysticism in all it’s subtle forms, not following in the same error as the gnostics or the thousands of other heretics since. You cannot trust him who you do not know with your mind. Let us learn and cherish the beautiful doctrines of scripture, that we might better know our God and serve him as he has commanded us.
Soli Deo gloria