I gave a brief overview of John Ortberg's spiritual pathways earlier. I think Ortberg does a great job of putting the various ways in which we relate to God in perspective. And, all in all, "God Is Closer Than You Think" was a great read on a variety of levels.
I think I'm set on reading an older book of his next: "If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat." For now, I thought I'd offer up a little bit of detail on one of the pathways that I obviously relate to the most. The importance in reading this section is that there's always a pitfall to overreliance on any individual pathway. And Ortberg follows them all up with an exhortation to appreciate our own uniqueness in terms of the path we walk as well as the path others walk.
People on the intellectual pathway draw closer to God as they learn more about him. You begin to vibrate when someone talks about the "life of the mind." Ideas are as alive to you as people. You love to study Scripture. The word "theology" has the same impact on you that the phrase "hot donuts now" has to the average customer of a Krispy Kreme shop. No one wants to go to a bookstore with yhou, because once you walk in, they know they're going to miss curfew.
When you go to church, you often find yourself marking time during the musical workship until the sermon starts. You get a little concerned about small groups containing a bunch of people who are just swapping ignorance with each other. When you are faced with crises or spiritual challenges, you tend to go into an analytic, problem-solving mode.
Moses said in the central command of the Law that God's people are to love him "with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." When Jesus cited that statement, he followed the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) by adding one phrase: "with all your heart and with all your sould and with all your strength and with all your mind." If you're on the intellectual pathway, you are deeply grateful for that addition. (If it;s your dominant pathway, you get a little thrill when you see the word Septuagint.)
One person who probably walked this pathway was the apostle Paul. He writes about his life as a student of Famaliel, one of the great Jewish scholars of his day. The richness of Paul's mind has occupied many of the greatest thingers in the world for the past two thousand years. Perhaps most typical of this pathway is how frequently and irresistibly Paul will move in the middle of his writing from thinking to praising. "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory ...."
If you're like Paul, the road to your heart usually runs through your head. You hear God best when you learn. You need to continually immerse yourself in great books, deep thoughts, and sound teaching. When your mind is growing, you feel fully alive. Many of your most significant moments of worship or devotion or decision or repentance came when you were in a deep learning mode. You may want to sign up for classes at a seminary or go online for distance learning or get tapes of a few great teacher. If you quit learning, you grow stagnant.
The danger of this pathway lies in becomeing al head and no heart. Dallas Willard once observed that it is extremely difficult to be right and not to hurt anybody with it. Very few people enjoy sitting next to the kid in class who's right all the time - and knows it. One of the remarkable things about Jesus is that he was always right, yet never damaged anybody with his mental superiority. "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up," wrote Paul, who was in a good position to know. So you may want to stretch by making sure your growth in knowledge always leads to a growth in worship.