We were called to an intelligent mysticism. That means an encounter with God that involves not only the affections of the heart but also the convictions of the mind. We are not called to choose between a Christian life based on truth and doctrine or a life filled with spiritual power and experience. They go together. (p.16-17)
Reading those sentences reminded me of my classes in Christian spirituality back in my first semester in Bible college. During that time, I felt the tension between what the class was teaching me in experiencing God through various mystical ways (e.g. lectio divina) and knowing God using the tools from my hermeneutics textbooks. I’m so glad Keller writes this:
I was not being called to leave behind my theology and launch out to look for “something more,” for experience. Rather, I was meant to ask the Holy Spirit to help me experience my theology. (p.17)
It is necessary for us to recognise that there is an intelligent mysticism in the life of faith…of living union and communion with the exalted and ever-present Redeemer…He communes with his people and his people commune with him in conscious reciprocal love …The life of true faith cannot be that of cold metallic assent. It must have the passion and warmth of love and communion because communion with God is the crown and apex of true religion. (p.16)
It was helpful to read again this interview with Keller where he answers some questions on his book. Here’s one of the questions.
You argue for a “radically biblical mysticism” a la John Owen and Jonathan Edwards—or what John Murray called an “intelligent mysticism.” How should we view the intersection between theology and experience when we’re on our knees?
Biblical meditation means, first, to think out your theology. (That means having it clearly in your mind. Know what you believe.) Second, it means to work in your theology. (That means self-communion, talking to yourself. For example, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” It is asking yourself, “How would I be different if I took this theological truth seriously? How would it change my attitudes and actions if I really believed this from the bottom of my heart?”) Third, it means to pray up your theology. (That means turning your theology into prayer, letting it trigger adoration, confession, and supplication.) Do those things, and your theology will intersect with your experience.