To provide context, some time ago I posed the following question: Which denominations consider it commendable to pursue a profound mystical union with God?. Answers suggested that denominations aligning with this sentiment may include the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, as well as certain branches of Protestantism like Quakerism, Methodism, Pentecostalism, and the Charismatic movement.

Now, the concept of mysticism in Christianity might raise an eyebrow or two. Hence, perhaps a more readily accepted phrase that avoids immediate dismissal could be "seeking a tangible experience of God's presence". Pastor Tim Conway, affiliated with the I'll Be Honest ministry, provides profound insights in a video titled The Presence of God or Mysticism? - Ask Pastor Tim, where he eloquently defends the legitimacy of pursuing and yearning for God's presence. He cites several notable figures from recent history within the reformed movement who attest to this possibility, including Lloyd-Jones, John Owen, A.B. Simpson, Charles Simeon, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, Sarah Edwards, Duncan Campbell, and more recently, Paul Washer.

Given this understanding, I'm interested in exploring denominations that might hold differing views, opposing or hesitating to actively pursue a more tangible awareness and experience of God's presence. Which denominations might not prioritize or consider this aspect important? For example, are there denominations that contend seeking experiences could invalidate faith, arguing that authentic faith necessitates the absence of experiential encounters, as we are called to walk by 'faith alone'?

Note: For those interested in the biblical basis for Christian Mysticism, see What is the biblical basis for Christian Mysticism?


1 Answer 1


Such a tangible experience of God is known in Catholic teachings as a sensible consolation. The opposite experience, sensible desolation, is lacking such an experience. The emphasis is not on seeking them out but on accepting them from God as having a purpose in your life.

As a spiritual director put it:

God gives consolation in order to strengthen us and draw us closer to himself, just as he allows desolation in order to purify us from inordinate attachments. And so, when we experience spiritual consolation, the proper response is primarily gratitude (just enjoy it and thank God for it!). We also need to be sure to stay docile to God’s will – to use the experience of God’s goodness to reaffirm our commitment to obey whatever God asks of us.

(Fr. John Bartunek, LC "What Is Spiritual Consolation?")

There are, to be sure, warnings about desolation, which can arise from evil causes and so requires discernment:

Spiritual desolation means the feeling of abandonment by God, and of the absence of His grace. This feeling of estrangement may arise from various causes. It may be the result of natural disposition or temperament, or of external circumstances; or it may come from the attacks of the devil; or from God Himself when for our greater good He withdraws from us spiritual consolation.

(Catholic Encyclopedia.)

Nevertheless, seeking out consolation for its own sake is not the point. The purpose of desolation is important. St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote:

Let the soul thank God when she experiences his loving endearments, but let her not repine when she finds herself left in desolation. It is important to lay great stress on this point, because some souls, beginners in the spiritual life, finding themselves in spiritual aridity, think God has abandoned them, or that the spiritual life is not for them; thus they give up the practice of prayer and lose what they have previously gained.

The time of aridity is the best time to practice resignation to God’s holy will. I do not say you will feel no pain in seeing yourself deprived of the sensible presence of God; it is impossible for the soul not to feel it and lament over it, when even our Lord cried out on the cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). In her sufferings, however, the soul should always be resigned to God’s will.

The saints have all experienced desolations and abandonment of soul. “How impervious to things spiritual, my heart!” cries St. Bernard. “No savor in pious reading, no pleasure in meditation nor in prayer!” For the most part it has been the common lot of the saints to encounter aridities; sensible consolations were the exceptions. Such things are rare occurrences granted to untried souls so that they may not halt on the road to sanctity; the real delights and happiness that will constitute their reward are reserved for Heaven.

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