April 27, 2010

Knowing John Adams' Ghost

How do we "know" God? So as not to be word-nazis, let's put this in practical terms. To illustrate:

Let's imagine John Adams was presently walking the earth as a ghost, and let's further imagine that he had the power to interact with people to some degree, but that most of those whom Adams contacted weren't able to fully receive his communication. (If you saw Patrick Swayze in Ghost, we could imagine a few people see and hear him as well as Whoopi Goldberg did but that most folks barely see or hear him at all, like Demi Moore eventually did.)

Okay. John Adams' earthly life was historical. We have records. We also have biographies and historical reconstructions which attempt to put together a more holistic picture of what Adams' life was like, the context of all his known actions, and the finer details that paint a more vivid picture of who he was. With so much material, earnest students of Adams' life might well be able to say they not only know lots of things *about* John Adams. The best students should rightly be able to say, in some sense, that they've come to KNOW John Adams.

Fair enough. Seriously. I think we can all understand what that phrase means, in said context. But what about knowing John Adams' ghost? How might knowledge of the historical Adams be of any help? Could it really be an advantage?

Despite what you might expect me to say, I say: Yeah, maybe so.

If two random people got to have an encounter with John Adams' Ghost, we might expect the one who'd learned more about the Historical Adams to have some advantage over the one who had not. Then again, that depends. If we're talking about two people who had very little ability to sense ghosts, they still might not recognize Adams at all, in any practical sense.

In that case, each novice (both the studied as well as the ignorant one) would need someone more spiritually attuned to serve as an advisor. The one with much reading could be told to apply that knowledge to their new barely-felt friend. The one without much reading would have less knowledge of the same friend... but about the same realistic grasp of (and quality of interaction with) said friend.

In that regard, J.I. Packer's strategy for "Knowing God" is somewhat reasonable, but it's still practically impotent in the spirituality department. It doesn't teach you how to take things to the next level.

Study the Gospels all you like. You still have to seek and attempt to encounter, deal with, be dealt with by, and somehow "see" and/or "hear" this silent invisible SPIRIT which is Him Who Is. Recognize Him as you may, all your studying still doesn't give you any sensible guidelines for how to distinguish real spiritual sensitivity from the subtle pretense of wishful thinking and superstition.

How do most of us "Know God", today? It usually comes about only through years of trial and error. Worthwhile gains often feel like they happened by accident. All we have is humility, openness and desperate prayer. God does like to reward those who seek Him... but how much of Him are we really asking for, usually?

Last of all - in today's illustration - let's imagine an organization of Adams' Ghost enthusiasts. A kingdom of barely-feel-Him believers is easier to manage, keep safe and control than a kingdom of those who *claim* they can see and hear Him directly. That ALONE means an institutional Adams-cult would more likely support shallow encounters with Adams. That IN TURN means the institution would have to rely more on their written records of Who He Is than they could on their ghostly apprehension of Who He Is.

Of course, I said all this to explain what I meant on Monday.

If your method for "knowing Jesus" is based almost entirely on what you're able to read, while you're just hoping the so-called 'spiritual life' gets deeper eventually (which it does, praise the Lord, but we could have it soooo much better than we typically tend to)... then you're naturally apt to feel threatened by new biographies of your Lord which might complicate the monopolized view you all understandably cling to.

However, if you and your people could actually Know Him in Spirit, then a re-told historical Saga of Him wouldn't hurt in the least.


Alan Knox said...

Well, there's always another option. You could always let someone else tell you about John Adams.


Bill Heroman said...



Recent Posts
Recent Posts Widget
"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."

-- Isaac Newton