What is the role of contemplation in the Christian life? In our busy and distracted age, how can we find time to connect with God through both prayer and reflection? In this interview, Sean and Scott talk with theologian Kyle Strobel about his book Embracing Contemplation. Strobel clears up some confusion about the nature of contemplation and offers some biblical and practical insights for embracing contemplation as part of the Christian life today.

Episode Transcript

Sean McDowell: Welcome to the podcast, “Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith & Culture.” I'm your host Sean McDowell, professor of apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.

Scott Rae: And I'm your co-host, Scott Rae, dean of faculty and professor of Christian ethics, also at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.

Sean McDowell: Today we have a guest, one of our own faculty at Biola and Talbot, who's been a friend of mine for years. We went to Talbot School of Theology together. He is an associate professor of spiritual theology and formation, where you teach in the Institute for Spiritual Formation. Written a number of books. And today we're going to talk about a recent book you edited, or co-edited, called Embracing Contemplation. But Kyle Strobel, thanks for joining us, man.

Kyle Strobel: Hey, thanks so much for having me here, guys.

Sean McDowell: Well, before we jump into your book and the spiritual disciplines here, I'm curious, will you just share with me first a little bit about your journey to faith? Growing up in a Christian home, what was that like for you?

Kyle Strobel: Yeah. Well, you know, I grew up in a Christian home, as you said. I, in many ways, thought that my family had been Christians for generations. One of the things that's funny about my sister and I, we're about two and a half years apart, she's two and a half years older, she remembers my father's conversion. And it actually led to her conversion. She was, I think, a 4-year-old who went to mommy one day and said, “Mommy, I want Jesus to do for me what he did for Daddy,” because she saw such a radical conversion.

Sean McDowell: And for the record, in case people don't connect Strobel, Lee Strobel is your father.

Kyle Strobel: That's right.

Sean McDowell: So you remember, she remembers some of that transition in his life.

Kyle Strobel: That's right. She remembers angry atheist Dad and what happened when he met Jesus. I didn't, I was an infant. So I grew up in a Christian home, and like I said, as far as I knew, we'd always been Christians. I grew up in the megachurches at a time where things were very experiential. There was a kind of re-imagining of church. And unfortunately in that era, I think folks like me kind of got lost in that environment. No one would have thought this at the time, because I barely showed up to school. I was a horrible student. I was an athlete and I just didn't bother unless I had to make a game or something.

And it turns out, I had a very academic inclination. I had a lot of questions. I needed to wrestle through answers, right? I couldn't just take the guy from on stage's word for it. And no one really helped me do that in the church I grew up in. And when I went to college, I had to put a major down, and I was looking on the long list of majors and I saw biblical studies and I thought, why not? I'm a Christian, I don't know the Bible very well. And I just fell in love. In many ways, college was the season where my faith became my own. That's when I really came to believe deeply and understand deeply.

Sean McDowell: Now, you and I did the M.A. phil[osophy] program here at Biola University, started by my co-host, Scott Rae, and J. P. Moreland. I kind of went in the direction of apologetics, which, in the eyes of many people would naturally fit philosophy or religion. You go this route of spiritual formation. There's a connection there, but most grads probably don't go that direction. What was the route for you for that in your life?

Kyle Strobel: When I came to do the M.A. philosophy degree, it was ... You know, growing up in my household and an apologetics family, I kept hearing stories about, “I went to talk to my pastor, and he said don't ask questions.” And that became such a frustrating reality to me; I could see it in my father. And I thought, I don't know what I want to do, I don't know what the Lord has for me. I was still thinking pastoring, maybe a professor at this point. But I knew I didn't want to be afraid of questions. And so I thought, I'm going to study philosophy.

And in the program, I loved it. I knew this is going to benefit me deeply, but I also knew this is not what I want to do. So I ended up actually doing a second M.A. in the New Testament, because my background was in the Bible, that's what I fell in love with the academy in doing. And it was in the midst of that time that I kind of realized my academic interests were all kind of ... I'm not a pure academic. We have colleagues that I would say, these guys are pure academics. If it wasn't this, it would've been something else. For me, it's always been much more existential than that. I needed to know and think deeply about life with God. And all of my questions were about, what does it mean to live the Christian life? And whether that was through a lens of philosophy, whether it was through the lens of the New Testament.

And so I actually went on to do my Ph.D. in systematic theology because for me, that discipline is the discipline that forces you to do all things all the time. And if I was going to wrestle with life with God, I wanted to do it with a full set of tools. Whether that means philosophically, biblically, historically. And it turns out in the tradition, there wasn't a distinction between systematic theology and spirituality. They're the same thing. And if you read anyone before the Enlightenment, they were always doing both all the time. And so in many ways, in terms of my academic life, I'm a systematic theologian. I teach spiritual formation and I write in this area as a theologian because I think that's just what theologians do.

Scott Rae: Kyle, let me turn to your book, if I may. This Embracing Contemplation that you edited with your colleague, John Coe. It's a pretty academic work. It's taken a very deep dive into the notion of contemplation, spiritual formation. And some of our listeners, I think, might be really interested in taking that deep dive. If somebody wants to have a dive maybe into a little more of the shallow end of the pool on spiritual formation and contemplation, where would you suggest they start?

Kyle Strobel: In the Embracing Contemplation book, one of the things that people should know about it is, we actually didn't set out to give a single view. We actually wanted to show, and this is why we did the more academic side, is that there isn't a kind of set agreement among evangelicals about this issue because no one's talking about it. And so we wanted to start a conversation.

But in my chapter in there, it picks up on a more popular-level project that I also co-wrote with my dear friend, Jamin Goggin, called Beloved Dust. And that really gets into the nature of the Christian life and spiritual formation, specifically biblically. But then it also takes a turn to think about what the tradition used to call wordless prayer. Like, can we pray without words? Should we pray without words? What does that even mean? Some of those questions kind of arise in that book.

Scott Rae: Is this what you mean by the term contemplative prayer? Or is that something different?

Kyle Strobel: Well, that's a hard question. And it's a much harder question than I think people realize. One of the things that came up for me, particularly when John and I were editing Embracing Contemplation, is that, and this has come up for me before, one of the classes I teach here is a “History of Christian Spirituality.” And as I read the spiritual tradition, no one talked about contemplative prayer. And as far as I can tell, it isn't a real thing. I'm not sure who first coined the term, but in the tradition, you have prayer and you have contemplation. And then you have various kinds of prayer, and there's dozens of kinds of prayer. And everyone would agree on this. There's the prayer of me walking through the woods, just talking to God out loud about what's going on in my life. There's the set prayer at a specific time, maybe using a psalm. There's lengthier prayers. And then there's things called silent prayer or wordless prayer.

And so I think what happened is, I think people thought about silent prayer and wordless prayer. They looked at contemplation, and then they somehow merge them together and just started calling it contemplative prayer. And my worry is that it's really a confusion in my mind. It's kind of a ... What ends up happening is contemplation as a set discipline disappears, and now we're just talking about contemplative prayer, which, by and large, is just odd. I mean, it's either wordless prayer or it's something different that, that may trouble me a bit more.

Scott Rae: Okay. So in the book, when you encourage Christians to embrace contemplation, what exactly is it that you are encouraging them to embrace?

Kyle Strobel: That's a great question. And this is the one that goes back to the tradition here. When you look at the biblical material, and I'm sure we'll talk about this a bit more. But take, for example, a pretty obvious call from Paul and Colossians 3:1–3: "If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." So what does it mean to set your minds on things that are above? Whatever you say about that, that is your view of contemplation, right? This is why there's no Christians that don't have a view of contemplations that are biblical Christians. Unless they're just ignoring that passage and the numerous others that talk about setting your minds on things above. You have to have a view of contemplation.

And you know what, I think a lot of people struggle with the term, because the only place they tend to hear it is in New Age spirituality or contemplative prayer and mystical kind of writings. If you think ... There's a theologian named Andrew Louth, and the way he breaks down, which I think is exactly right, is if you think of Psalm 27:4: "One thing I have asked of the Lord that I will seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple." So notice there's a gazing on the Lord's beauty in his temple.

In a Christian sense, the word contemplation is broken up into two parts. You have the first part, con, which just means with. And templem, which means temple. You have “with God” in his temple. And so in the Christian sense, all contemplation is, is exactly what Colossians 3 said. It's setting your mind on things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God in the temple of the Lord, where we can gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. And so that is the fundamental call that, throughout the tradition, and in particular throughout our own evangelical tradition, it was seen not as a kind of elitist form of spirituality. Although in Roman Catholic spirituality, you often get that. In evangelicalism, it was always seen as the baseline of spirituality. It's being open to the Lord. It's setting your mind, in the midst of everything, on the Lord. I mean, it's the everyday form of spirituality that evangelicalism has always imbibed.

Sean McDowell: Kyle, what is the difference, if there is a relevant one, between contemplation and meditation? Because it says in Joshua 1:8, "This book of law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night." What's the difference between these two?

Kyle Strobel: I've been highly influenced by the Puritans. My Ph.D. work was in Jonathan Edwards, the great Puritan theologian. And actually, I did a book called Formed for the Glory of God on Jonathan Edwards' view of spiritual formation where we talk about this very issue. And I've found the Puritan view helpful here. The way they delineate between the two is that when you meditate, and for them, that meant you could meditate on Scripture. It also meant meditating on doctrine. Like what does it mean to be justified by faith? Can I meditate on that reality, the truth of that reality? Meditate on the truth of God's existence in these things. That when you're meditating, you're always having an eye on your soul. You're taking seriously the command from Paul to be watchful of your hearts.

Let's say I'm meditating on a passage and I notice that my heart moves in a certain way. And maybe it's against it. So let's take 1 John 3:19–20 as an example. In that passage, John says, "When you are before him," so now you're in the of God. Presumably this is a kind of prayer meditation, something going on here. When you are explicitly in the presence of God and your heart condemns you. Now, there's a whole interesting conversation of why John thinks that the Christian's heart will condemn them in God's presence. It's a state of what we call the conscience and the fallen nature of the conscience. But now I'm in God's presence, my heart's condemning me. What do I do? So when you're meditating, you turn to navigate those realities with God. And as John would say, God is greater than your heart and he knows everything. So now you're kind of re-imagining your situation in God's presence. You're saying, Lord, my heart's condemning me. I know that isn't you. You are greater than my own personal experience.

Contemplation tends to be where we're now ... So setting our mind on things above that, that whenever something comes up in our heart ... Now, even if that's something like this, our heart condemning us, more often than not, let's be honest, it's going to be just distractions. I'm not now engaging them. I'm slowly ... Maybe I'm stopping for a moment. I'm kind of reframing them, saying, you know, it's not time for me to think about tomorrow or my calendar or the busy schedule I have. I'm putting that aside and I'm just continually now turning back to what I am setting my contemplation on.

And so for them, it was actually a similar activity, right? It's a mindful focusing. And there's going to be a lengthy discussion here in the tradition, particularly among Protestants, about, it's not simply mindful, it's kind of a heartful. Right? It's not simply the intellect that's doing this, it's the affections that are doing this. And so in meditation, that means I'm paying very close attention to my affections. In contemplation, it means as I'm setting my mind on things above, there's a whole movement of my heart, and not simply my mind, to embrace the truth of who God is.

Sean McDowell: One of the things that surprised me about Embracing Contemplation is it almost felt like an apologetics book, which partly pleased me as the apologist. We've had these conversations. But I thought, gosh, there must be a whole lot of people who either object to or have problems with this idea of contemplation. Why is it that you have to write an apologia for this? And where do you think people are missing, biblically, maybe even historically, the role that contemplation can and should play in the Christian life?

Kyle Strobel: One of the things that's frustrating, and you are certainly right. I mean there's really next to no ... And I say next to no because I actually can't think of none, but there's pretty much no academic critique of what we're doing. And so a lot of this is kind of popular websites. These are well meaningly lay people who are, have heard from someone that there's dangerous New Age ideas floating out there, which, of course, there are. And the problem that they tend to fall victim to is they play a game of semantics. So now anyone who uses the word contemplation is bad, is dangerous. Or anyone who uses the term spiritual formation is New Age. I was even told recently that if you use the term spiritual discipline, that is just New Age mysticism. And it's like, well, I'm not sure how reading your Bibles is New Age mysticism.

The funny thing about it is, they turned to my book Formed for the Glory of God, and they circled the chapter and put a picture online of it. But I actually, in that chapter, reject the term. I actually don't like the term spiritual discipline for a different reason. But the fact that I even used it at all, even in rejecting it-

Sean McDowell: Oh my goodness.

Kyle Strobel: ... was proof that I shouldn't be allowed to speak at a church. You know? One problem is we wanted to make clear, you certainly can't see yourself as an evangelical and hold these views against these things. Because there's never been an evangelical thinker. One of my favorite examples when I teach spiritual formation in class, of evangelical spiritual formation, is Richard Baxter's book, A Christian Directory. That is foreworded by J. I. Packer and endorsed by Tim Keller and John MacArthur, right? I mean, we're not far off the end of the spectrum here in terms of New Age mysticism.

And so we did want to come a little bit heavy handed with, look, if you're going to try to critique us honestly, critique things we actually believe. And the sad thing is, that never happened. I've never actually seen a critique of things I believe when it comes to a critique of spiritual formation.

Sean McDowell: A fair critique.

Kyle Strobel: Well, there's been critiques, but they're just simply not things I believe. They think we all hold the same view. And so one of the things we do in this book is show, look, not all of us have the same view of contemplation. We're all at evangelical institutions, we're all Bible-believing evangelicals, and yet we have different views of how do we talk about these things? And sometimes it's just semantic. Sometimes we have different views of what is it? There's definitely different views than mine on the validity of contemplative prayer and what that means.

I'm not sure how far that goes. You know, is it just semantic? If they heard what I said, would they say, “Oh, okay. Fair enough”? But this is the term we now use. Maybe that's true. But there is definitely a pretty large constituency of people who are so afraid of something out there called New Age mysticism or something like it, or sometimes Roman Catholic spirituality, that we really wanted to show them, no, we've done our biblical work and we've done our evangelical historical work. And so if we have Calvin, Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, folks like, Keller, Packer, MacArthur on our side, I think that shores up our credentials as evangelicals, if nothing else.

Scott Rae: Kyle, I'm thinking about some of the more practical things about becoming a person who embraces contemplation. And I'm thinking about the number of people I know who are wedded to their devices. And how do you encourage people to embrace contemplation in a culture where it's really difficult to get people, myself included, to look away from our devices? I mean, I found myself just recently thinking, you know, I need my mind to be occupied with something a lot of the time. Either the TV's on or I'm in a book or I'm looking at my phone or my iPad or something. And the idea that you would just have this effect, even the term I use for is empty time. I think that's becoming a much tougher thing, basically, for our culture to see any value for. So how, in the midst of that digital landslide, how do you encourage people to embrace contemplation as a spiritual discipline?

Kyle Strobel: One of the things that I find so disconcerting is when I read the Puritans, I hear them constantly warning people at how chaotic their age was. And like, they don't even have electricity. Jonathan Edwards has this letter to his daughter saying, get away from the vain bubbles of the world. I'm not even sure what that means, but you get the sense, you know ... I don't know what vain bubbles are. But he's telling her to take a solitude retreat in the wilderness just to break free and get a chance to examine her life. I'm like, what is she getting free from?

Scott Rae: They lived in the wilderness.

Kyle Strobel: That's right. It was the wilderness. You know, it's like there's no electricity, I mean, what are you worried about? And throughout history, Christians have always been worried about this. One of the things that came up, actually, in the chapter on Calvin, which I loved, by my friend Ash Cogsworth, is he writes about how the first thing Calvin said about Sabbath is, you start Sabbath Saturday evening by gazing upon the stars. And one of the questions Ash raises in his chapter is, well, if that's true, if God actually created the beauty of the world to kind of locate us as very small and relatively insignificant things in light of it, is light pollution spiritual warfare? And we can ask the same thing about technology.

Whenever you think about contemplation as an idea in Scripture, one of the things you'll always have to go to is the beatific vision. So one of the-

Scott Rae: Which means ...

Kyle Strobel: Let me explain that, yeah. One of the clearest descriptions of the afterlife, of heaven, in Scripture is what we've always called the beatific vision, as theologians. Take, for instance, 1 Corinthians 13:12: "For now we see in a mirror dimly," this is the faith, knowledge by faith; "but then,” in eternity, “we will see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I had been fully known." Similarly, 1 John 3:2: "When he appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is."

The Scripture talks about knowing God face to face. And, of course, if you trace this, this is a major theme. Moses was meant to ... he actually met with God face to face, although we're told he didn't see him face to face, interestingly enough. We're told consistently in Scripture, no one could see God and live. And yet Jesus tells us if we see him, we have seen the Father. In 1 Corinthians 13:12, the passage I just read, what's interesting there is we see in a mirror dimly. It's interesting it's a mirror. So there's a way that we see God in the face of Christ. And if you want a closer passage, which we won't get into right now, but 2 Corinthians 3:16–4:18 really deal with this carefully. That even reading Scripture is being transformed from glory to glory as we gaze upon the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

And so the way we come to know God in a real sense is about gazing upon the face of Christ. But it's a face to face knowing. And when I think about our use of technology, it is gazing into a mirror brightly. And I'm wondering how much that dims out our ability to gaze in that mirror dimly. In the call of faith, we're told that we walk by faith, not by sight. And consistently, faith and sight are pit against each other in Scripture. And that's because faith doesn't get to heaven, right? I mean, faith dissolves upon sight. Heaven is sight. And so faith leads you to the place where you will see, but it fades away because it cannot last where there's true seeing. But in this age, we consistently see images of sight being used that's a kind of spiritual seeing.

I'm pretty sure it's what Paul was talking about in Colossians 3, to set your mind on things above. Or when you get the call to not set your mind on temporal things but eternal things, in 2 Corinthians 4:18. Well, what kind of seeing is the ... how do we see the unseen? Well, Paul's trying to get us to imagine a scenario where we're setting our mind on the unseen realities. Because the truth of the matter is, the life of a Christian is lived in the unseen realities. If we live according to the sight of this world, we will inevitably capitulate to its rules. We will capitulate to its spirituality.

I think it's interesting when you get to that Colossians 3 passage where Paul admonishes them to set their mind on things above. It follows a lengthy section in Colossians 2 where Paul is really critical of what he would call asceticism, which is a kind of spiritual discipline where people think that if I just vigorously beat my body, that is somehow spiritual. And Paul's saying, this has no hope against the flesh. Set your mind on things above.

I really want to get Christians to understand that there's no such thing as being too heavenly minded for earthly good. That the more heavenly minded you are, the more earthly good you are, because that is the only true way to live by faith. Now, if being heavenly minded means not being engaged in the world, maybe the problem is what you think heaven is. And that's a different problem. But in Scripture at least, if we set our mind on the unseen things of God, that is precisely to orient us to the world.

And to your point, Scott, I think there is an attack on our personhood with the kind of technology we currently use. And it’s winning, quite honestly. And one of the more disconcerting things I've seen is some of the statistics out right now about pornography. And the effects of pornography and technology in general on the brain chemistry. And we just begin to wonder how naive maybe we are about where we set our vision, how that forms our souls and our bodies in really significant ways.

Sean McDowell: It's interesting you mentioned pornography, because I think the problem, of course, is we are wired with sexual attractions, which are good. That alone makes pornography an issue. We also wire our brains, because of technology, to need constant just feeling good and distraction and chemicals firing, which makes it even harder, because we don't have this experience of contemplation in times away that you're talking about.

Now let me ask you this. Put the cookies on the lowest shelf possible. What would this look like for a busy person today? I got three kids, I'm running here and there. To embrace contemplation in my life, what would that actually look like? Do I schedule it in my smartphone? Do I just change my thinking? Flesh this out for me, what this discipline would be.

Kyle Strobel: Let me give you a bit of a sense of what it is, and then maybe turn to that form of wordless prayer that ... And this is argued in my chapter specifically. Again, in Beloved Dust, I do similar sorts of things. But for me, what's key about ... Because when I look at it, let's take the prayer side first and foremost. When I think of prayer, I think every Christian has prayed wordlessly. Now for most of us, it's not something we practice, it's something we're forced into. So if you imagine severe grief or mourning, and we even use the expression, there are no words. At times, elation can do that, although that tends to be less of a problem. But at times we're so elated it's like, I don't even know what to say that things are so good.

Well, as I've sat with the biblical material, here's what I think should be going on here, and here's why I think we should practice this. The problem that many of us have with prayer is we think of it in performative kind of categories. So we think we're supposed to do it well, we're supposed to be good at it, where we're kind of performing-

Sean McDowell: There’s a certain accent.

Kyle Strobel: That's right. Whatever voice it is, per voice. The thing we need to remember and kind of collect ourselves to with prayer is, prayer is something that's already going on before you uttered a word. That we are told that God has given his Spirit into the depths of your soul who's already groaning with groanings too deep for words. The Spirit intercedes for you in the truth of yourself. The truth of the darkest parts of your soul that you don't even know are there. We're told that the Son, our great High Priest before the very presence of God, lives to intercede for you. And so when you think of the second you would ... And even when you're going to pray with words, take a minute to stop and think, even if I didn't utter a word here, I am being carried along on the words of the Son and the Spirit. And maybe you can even just trust that their words are enough for you.

Now, for some of us, what we'll immediately start feeling is a sense of anxiety there. And we'll want to use words. And this is something we should be worried about. It's not bad to use words. The problem is we can become like Adam in the garden who starts wielding words at God to manage God. Rather than just trusting and being with him, trusting that he truly is enough for me.

And so for me, wordless prayer is a single word. It's amen. And I'm trusting to the words of the Son and the Spirit truly are not for me. I don't have to try to manipulate God to get them on my side. I don't have to prove to God I'm a good little boy, look at how good I am at prayer. I don't have to show God all the big words I know. I don't have to show God how diligent I am. I can be carried along by the prayers of the Son and the Spirit. And I think contemplation is the same sort of thing. It is simply turning to the fact that the Spirit has illumined Christ to me. That my heart, we're told, is now illumined. And the face of Jesus is illumined to my soul as a Christian. And I can rest in that fact and set my mind on the truth of what God has done.

And that's going to be reciprocal. And here's what I mean by that. Again, in 1 Corinthians 13:12, we're told we will know as we have been known. So as I set my mind on God, I can trust God gazes upon me. He looks upon me, that I am known and I can be known. And so whatever is true about me can be known in that place. And it's my job, again, to just hold it open to him. And some of us are going to see some things we don't like and are going to do some things we don't like. Like wake up and realize we did a lot more sleeping than contemplating. And that's okay. We need to say, God, this is all I have, have mercy on me, but this is all I have. My worry is when people do that, they tend to shift into a different gear. Oh God, I'm sorry, I'll do better. Now we're just lying.

Sean McDowell: That's the performative [inaudible] you're talking about.

Kyle Strobel: That's right. And now, notice that we're trying to keep God at bay. Now we're trying to manage God. We're trying to save ourselves. Say, God, look, this is all I have. Or this is all I have, have mercy on me here, in this place, in reality. And if we believe that Christ died for us in our sins, we can trust that he's present to us in those places as well.

Sean McDowell: One of the illustrations or examples that really stood out to me in the book ... In fact, I was going on a jog with my wife and I shared it with her. And you could remember which chapter this is, but the author talked about how sometimes as a relationship gets deeper, like a husband and wife or a friendship, you can just be together and not feel the need to fill the space with chatter, because there's a deeper connection that takes place.

Kyle Strobel: That's right.

Sean McDowell: And as I told that to my wife, I'm like, we've almost been married two decades. I get that in a way I wouldn't have a decade or so ago. Is this a part of contemplation? How does that fit into what you're talking about?

Kyle Strobel: When this becomes really important for John and I, as we kind of meditate on in our introduction and conclusion, is that for us, contemplation is more than simply a practice. And what we mean by that is that now, it is a practice that helps foster a posture of openness to God. This is Paul's language he uses in 2 Corinthians 6 and 7, where we are enlarging or opening our heart to another. That marriage is the great example. And of course, Paul uses that example. But we are more than one in body, we are one in spirit with Christ. And so as we give ourselves to contemplation, the goal is now, in everything I do, how can I be open to God? And so we can just rest in him.

And if you think of the biblical material, this is what ... God was present in Israel. They didn't expect to feel that all the time. They didn't expect to have a sign of it all the time. But they knew because God covenanted with them. I am with you. I am your God and you are my people. And so we have to kind of collect our hearts and minds around the truth of this reality, so that we can be with him no matter what we're doing. And this is what ... And I think every Christian has to wrestle with what does it mean to pray without ceasing? I mean for us, this is what that is. It is living all of life in the presence of God, who's given himself to us in Christ Jesus in the Spirit.

Sean McDowell: Kyle, this is great stuff. I have a ton more questions for you, but this will give us an excuse to follow up and get into some particulars of other spiritual disciplines, and even some other ways to approach prayer. I definitely want to commend to our audience, if you want to take a deep dive into this, some of the questions theologically, historically, spiritually, apologetically, around this issue of contemplation, check out the book that Kyle has co-edited with John Coe, Embracing Contemplation. And if you want maybe more of a practical guide, check out your book, Beloved Dust.

Thanks for coming on. I remember your father told me when you were thinking about coming over to Biola/Talbot around the time I came over, I was like, man, that would be such a blessing to the community. So just thrilled that you're here, everything you do for the community and students is wonderful.

Kyle Strobel: Oh, thanks so much, guys. So good being here.

Sean McDowell: Thanks for coming on.

This has been an episode of the podcast, “Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture.” To learn more about us and today's guest, Kyle Strobel, and to find more episodes, go to biola.edu/thinkbiblically. That's biola.edu/thinkbiblically. 

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