Tim Anderson, a professor of theology and biblical studies at Corban University, has written a book that is much needed within the church today. Sadly, the Charismatics and Mystics have hijacked the concept of Intimacy with God and created confusion on the issue of intimacy with God. As a Bible Teacher and Women’s Ministry Leader, I can testify it is in books written for women. It is bothersome at the very least and can be harmful to the believer as well.
Anderson begins by reminding us that one’s “approach must not merely be a sound exposition of the biblical theme of intimacy with God. Our knowledge must be intimate and move us toward Him.” In other words, we must apply what we learn about the subject. I appreciate this reminder, as so often we have head knowledge without heart knowledge, or we have a sincere yet misdirected (deceived) heart without head knowledge. Anderson also warns we must “be careful to examine intimacy with God within the context of biblical theology.”
Anderson relays to the reader that while intimacy is not mentioned in most Bible translations, that does not invalidate its importance. Anderson then provides the reader with a helpful working definition of intimacy with God: “the movement of God and Christians toward a place of true knowledge and close contact.” Working from that definition, he then skillfully describes movements found in Scripture promoting the process of growing closer to God: “Seeking, turning, and coming.” He shows each of these concepts in Scripture to see what it looks like played out in the book of Truth. Anderson’s book will also aid the reader in understanding how various attributes of God play into this divine intimacy.
After expressing the importance of sound theology being the source of biblical intimacy, he also rightly helps the reader understand that before we can experience intimacy, we must understand estrangement. He takes us to the Fall. Universal estrangement took place in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve did not trust in God’s word regarding the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The consequential wickedness, worldliness, and opposition and schemes of the enemy, as well as personal distractions and fear we encounter further promote the estrangement that began in the garden.
A personal highlight of the book was found in Chapters Four and Five. I thoroughly enjoyed learning of the different views of how anthropomorphisms are interpreted and viewing Scripture’s anthropomorphisms in light of God’s character and communication of intimacy.
Anderson is careful to warn against taking anthropomorphism’s too far as William Young did in The Shack. Instead, he encourages readers of Scripture to draw “timeless theological truths from anthropomorphisms…as a framework from which God who is beyond our comprehension becomes a person…one whom we can trust and love.” As he continued in detail to show Scripture’s use of anthropomorphisms in detail, I was encouraged to slow down and think specifically about God’s eyes, ears, face, hands and feet in my personal time in His Word.
Likewise, reading about God as our Father in Chapter Five was interesting as his approach at the beginning of the chapter regarding the “script theory.” He then leads us to see our need for a theocentric view of God rather than an anthropocentric or psychologized view when dealing with God as our Father, our familial privilege, and acceptance.
Anderson is also careful in his interpretation of the role of the Holy Spirit when it comes to intimacy. He wisely warns against much of what we see in churches today that has nothing to do with sound biblical interpretation of our true intimacy with the Holy Spirit. Rather, he warns against emotional, feeling-oriented, self-validating experiences. He shows the reader scripturally how the “Sent Ones” provision of koinonia is necessary for belonging in God’s family. He reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s wisdom, and guidance is a beautiful thing that actually keeps us from following “our own cravings” and looking just like the world. Likewise, he warns against those who also take our union with Christ too far in interpreting biblical images of marriage and Christ.
In Chapters Eight and Nine, Anderson gets immensely practical regarding man’s suffering and the intimacy of God. He also asks us to evaluate the songs we sing about God to God and how they should accurately portray Him and our relationship with Him. What a needed exhortation!
Just a side note, the author mentions “Martha washing Jesus’ feet” on page 52. From the context of what Anderson was writing and from what we know is written about Jesus’ feet being washed in Scripture, he clearly meant to state “Mary.” He also refers to Tozer’s writing of The Knowledge of the Holy to be written half of a decade ago rather than half of a century ago. Call me nitpicky! Also, as a warning, he does encourage the reading of Jesus Calling by Sarah Young to his students at Corban University. While he does touch on its controversy, I personally would disagree with his endorsement/encouragement to read Sarah Young’s book for the sake of gaining insight on writing meant to aid us growing closer to God.
As a biblical counselor, it was interesting to read Anderson’s book and see how he would take various psychologized views of relationships that have been embedded within much of today’s Christian thinking and turn it upside down by showing how we are to view God scripturally as He invites us to come to Him, rid us of our sin and shame through the very intimate yet far-reaching love of Jesus Christ.
Anderson’s closing encouragement to the practical influence of our personal reflections on the intimacy with the Triune God is that it should be evident within our homes and families, in our outreach, discipleship and yes, our corporate worship. Christ’s salvific work restores the Creator-creation relationship that was estranged by the Fall. What hope! He closes with this profound quote from Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy:
“Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow. “