Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts


Your “Thin Places”?

posted by Mark D. Roberts

First of all, I want to thank those of you who commented on yesterday’s introductory post. I appreciate your honesty and insights. I also like the respectful disagreement among commentators. You’ve give us all lots to think about. (If you missed yesterday’s comments, you can find them here.)
Before I go further in this series, I’d like to hear from you about your “thin places.” Where have you encountered God in an especially powerful way? Did the place have anything to do with your experience? Have other people experienced God’s presence in the same place? If so, why? Other than the presence of God, are there things that make a thin place thin? (Photo below: Laity Lodge as a “thin place”?)

Then I have some theological questions. Do you think God chooses to make himself known in an unusual way in special places (call them “thin” or not)? Why? Or why not? Do you see any theological advantages or disadvantages in the phrase “thin place”?
You can anwer these questions as comments, or you can email me. I look forward to your input. Thanks in advance.



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John Key

posted May 8, 2009 at 6:24 am


The term”thin place” was entirely new to me but the concept is easy to grasp…having experienced many “thin places” myself. But I believe that thin places are spiritual in origin, rather than geographic locations. The beauty and majesty of creation, the impact of the presence of a community of believers, study and meditation on the Scriptures…all can facilitate the development of a “thin place” for the believer–or seeker.
I was surprised by the early and large number of comments to the first post. I’ll admit to not having thought about the concept before, but obviously it was a “hot button” issue. I eagerly look forward to your further development of the concept.
John Key
Kerrville TX



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Thomas Buck

posted May 8, 2009 at 7:04 am


” Do you think God chooses to make himself known in an unusual way in special places (call them “thin” or not)? Why?”
The Lord does it all the time. In my opinion, it is to further His plan, whether by advancing His kingdom physically/spiritually, or just by making His glory known.
I think back to the last time I was unemployed, back in the Spring of ’00. As I was out and about with resumés and applications, I would occasionally stop in a store somewhere for gasoline or a can of soda. Most people greeted me with a smile and welcoming attitude, more so than I remembered in the past.
When I mentioned this to a friend of mine, he said, “Maybe the countenance of the Lord is upon your face.” I thought, “Oh!”
May His kingdom advance, and His glory be known!
Tom



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Dale

posted May 8, 2009 at 8:43 am


I would say the thin place is in our mind. Where can we go and focus soley on God? That is a thin place.
I am not an advocate of this idea but surely Jesus proves to be an example as he retreated often to pray by himself or with a few disciples. I look forward to your study on this idea, Mark.



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Ray

posted May 8, 2009 at 9:29 am


I’m reminded of this short passage from Psalm 139:
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
(NIV, copied & pasted from biblegateway.com)
Therefore, since God’s presence is everywhere all the time, all places are equally “thin”. Having said that, I do believe that our receptiveness to God’s omnipresence is affected by our surroundings and our state of mind. The important thing to note here, I think, is that it is only my thick-headedness that keeps me from noticing the “thinness” that is around me all the time, no matter where I am or what I am doing.



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slarrow

posted May 8, 2009 at 10:18 am


Of course there are thin places, and of course God has made Himself known to us in special, powerful ways through them. Mt. Sinai and the Jordan River come immediately to mind. The fact that there is a section of ground we regularly refer to as the Holy Land tells us that we’re already very familiar with the concept if not necessarily the term. If we really think “thin places” are people-oriented and can happen anywhere, then why do people make “pilgrimages” (and call them that) to the “places where Jesus walked”?
I see no theological bar to holding both that thin places exist and that God is omnipresent. Air is also omnipresent; does it then follow that Rocky Mountain air and LA air and NYC apartment air are the same air? (The “thick” and “thin” adjectives parallel here, too.)
Perhaps the most useful thing to recognize about thin places is that God does not need them to appear powerfully in our lives. Like much of what He does, they are for our benefit, not His. Still, that means they have purpose, His purpose, and aren’t just an arbitrary part of the landscape (as I believe some of the pagan worldviews have it–thin places aren’t put there, they’re just there. More like a rock than a door, if you take my meaning.)



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JustMakingItUp

posted May 8, 2009 at 12:01 pm


Exodus 3:5-6
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
It is obvious that God has designed or designated some places as “thin”, to use this jargon. Why they are such can be debated, certainly: Is it some feature that He placed there at creation? Or does anyplace He makes Himself known become “thin”, regardless of its location or structure?
The reality is that such places do exist. We cannot always tell, especially from far off, exactly where (or when) they are; rather, we discover such places when we listen for His voice, and follow it. It is then that we discover the place He has chosen to reveal Himself, today.



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Barb

posted May 8, 2009 at 2:29 pm


I’m pretty sure that Mother Teresa’s “thin places” would have been very different from mine. In fact, now that I consider it more–I WANT MY thin places to be those geographic spots that please me most (mountain meadow, beach, Laity Lodge, etc) BUT I believe that the God I know through the Bible wants to meet me where ever I am.



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Dan G

posted May 8, 2009 at 2:48 pm


I have been fascinated by all things Celtic (Christianity, music, art, legends, etc.) for quite a few years now. Let me share some of my thoughts.
For those of you in the strictly fundamentalist / conservative camp, the concept of thin places will rightly be seen as syncretism. The idea seems to have come from pre-Christian Celtic spirituality (think Druids and so on). For the pre-Christian Celtic people a thin place was a place where the barrier between our world and the “otherworld” was less substantial. For the Celts, in any case, the barrier was never all that thick.
There were not only places where the barrier was thin, but times of the day and of the year. The “time between times” at dusk and dawn were seen as a time when the barrier would grow thin. The changing of the seasons, marked by holidays as in so many “pagan” religions, was also seen as a “thin” time. In fact, some of our traditions of Halloween come from the harvest festival “thin” time when otherworldly beings might slip through into our world.
Now that I’ve thoroughly soured you on the idea of thin places (and times) let me change course. Celtic Christianity has been credited, with good reason I think, for being an outpost of light when the rest of Europe was mired in the dark ages. The Celtic Christians produced, among other things, the wonderful Book of Kells.
When Patrick and others like him brought Christianity to the Celts of Ireland he found a people who were strangely receptive, even among many of the religious leaders (druids if you will). The spirituality that sprang up among the Celtic Christians was strongly influenced by the pre-Christian spirituality and this, apparently, was not such a bad thing.
We have to realize that the knowledge of spiritual things held by “pagans” before Christianity was not altogether incorrect. We live in a universe that is extremely spiritual and that is filled with rulers, principalities, powers, spirits, demons, angels, and little “g” gods, and, of course, the only eternal and sovereign Holy Trinity. Do we really think that God would abandon the host of peoples who have lived in “darkness” throughout the years to an existence completely devoid of his efforts to draw them to himself? Don’t we believe that God is working at all times and in all places to draw people to himself?
People that readily accept the reality of the spiritual and otherworldly, that are not afraid of a mystical communion with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, will be a people that don’t just know about the things of God, but can be in intimate relationship with Him.
I think we can learn a lot from Celtic Christianity. We just have to be ever vigilant. We must test everything against the Holy Scriptures and against the witness of the Holy Spirit. We must examine and know truth by looking at the fruits of ideas. We also have to be aware that with the resurgence of interest in all things spiritual, Celtic spirituality is fast becoming just another chapter in the New Age bible. Right up there with Angels and the Secret. It is very difficult to find factual historical information about Celtic spirituality and Celtic Christianity amongst all the fanciful myths and legends, many of which are of fairly recent origin despite the claims of the various purveyors of ancient mystical teachings.
Well, that’s quite enough for now. I encourage healthy interest balanced by healthy skepticism. Most of us conservative, western Christians should be pretty good at the latter. Maybe because we’re so good at it we miss out on a lot of blessings.



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Tricia Ward

posted May 11, 2009 at 1:43 pm


From what I know of thin places they seem to be places where God has seemingly moved dramatically and therefore has become a place of significance.
I have just come back from one such place – Herrnhut in Germany. It is a town where the Moravians were based and set up a 24/7 prayer tower in the 1700s. It was also the place where the first Protestant missionaries were sent from in Europe and they sold themselves into slavery in 1732 in order to go to Saint Thomas.
Being Scottish I would say that we can learn alot from Celtic Spirituality…. With everything we should seek our intimacy from God and be obedient.



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