I have lain on the floor under the power of God . . . at least, I must say to my skeptical reader, it seemed so to me. At some points in my life, it felt as if God came and took power over every faculty and left me weak, utterly powerless, before His glory.
When praying for Pentecost, sometimes we receive it and nothing is like it. Power comes to us not through any labor we have done, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. I have wept under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and laughed with great joy in the Lord.
We are tempted to demand that God always give us His grace in this same way. We know our effort can do nothing and so hope that He will never require us to do anything. But when it is not Pentecost, Pentecost will not come however hard we seek it. We cannot manipulate God with our sincerity or our many prayers.
Revelation is a great good, but it is not a good we can produce at will.
I have also done hard intellectual work that ended in a vision of God. Sometimes at the end of working through a hard passage of Plato, I have felt a rush of God’s glory. I have, by His grace, reasoned and felt His pleasure at the end of the process. In the joy of this moment, the temptation appears to do it again . . . to seek God in reasoning.
Reason is a great good, but the good of it cannot come to us at our command.
I have learned to trust no man who does not admit that both reason and revelation are necessary in the life of any sane person. Our Father delights to give us good gifts (revelation), and also delights to see us act in His image (reason). When we use our noetic capacities we glorify Him; when we accept His revelation we glorify Him.
Reason and revelation are two ways of knowing the good, the truth, and beauty. Plato, for example, recognized the importance of both and in his Timaeus provided a mechanism for finding both. The brain would bring reason to the soul and the liver would bring divine revelation.
That we need both reason and revelation is hard to understand. We tend to prefer one to the other and then demand that God act as we wish. If we find reason hard, we ask for revelation. If we enjoy thinking, we worry that “revelation” will make our “work” less important.
Sometimes we don’t love the good, the truth, or beauty as much as we love the mechanism that allows us to find the good, the truth, or beauty. This is a serious mistake.
There is nothing new in this dilemma. In many terms it is my duty to teach the Bacchae by Euripides. This play teaches me that the tension I have felt in my own life is real. In the play, a king of a city is faced with the god of wine. The god of wine takes his followers out and makes them ecstatic. His divine power is uncontrollable and highly erotic . . . not in some filthy sense, but in the sense of high passions.
A person in the power of the god is not irrational, but in no need of reason. His devotees learn what they must by direct revelation and experience of the god. The king of the city will not accept this truth and is punished through this folly.
There is something, however, to be said for the king. He wants a city based on law, not passion, and this is surely the safer path! But safe is not joyful, so those in a safe city want more joy while those in a libertine city long for the order that comes from law.
Both the god and the king are right, in a way, but the king does not recognize the need for balance. Reason and law are not enough. Love may have “reasons” that reason cannot recognize. Euripides reminds us that to be a city, there must be law, but also love or liberty. Liberty rejoices, but law protects. This side of paradise, the law is needed, but it can never be the highest thing in the city. The law exists for love and not love for the law.
And so the god is right to provoke the city to ecstasy by his revelation, because the city would otherwise become sterile. Love is fecund . . . law checks the danger of the fecundity. In the same way, a Christian finds reason checking the excess of false revelation, and true revelation adding insight to the blindness of reason. Logic cannot produce truth and revelation does not produce sound thinking. Taken together revelation gives data to reason’s program.
I need Pentecostal power and miraculous insight in a mind trained to think well. There is no faith without Pentecostal power and no faith without thought.
I can hear the songs of my childhood reminding me to seek Pentecostal power . . . not by might, not by power, but His Spirit. This Spirit is the reasonable, divine Logos, a conversation that is sensible and can be followed. We would not know what we know without God’s ecstatic revelation of Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, but we would not be able to do anything with this knowledge without reason.
This reason itself must be purified by God and our “revelation” must be checked by His divine reason.
Euripides was right: we need both the god of passion and the god of reason in the City. The good news of the Gospel is that logic became flesh and dwelt among us and that we beheld His glory and His truth.