Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It Was an Experience

There is a temptation to base one's faith on subjective experience. It seems to put it beyond refutation. But ultimately it puts it beyond real proof. For the basic response is that any faith can claim some sort of experience, and who is to say which experience is better than any other. I have charismatic leanings and have had some fairly powerful experiences. But how am I to prove my experience is better then the next guy's? And in the realm of the purely subjective, how do I tell if I am encountering God, the devil, my own psychological quirks, or the pepperoni pizza I ate last night? We need to ground our faith in the objective, which comes back to Scripture and the events recorded in Scripture.

It is here we meet a second problem. There are those who are convinced that all that is involved in Christianity is a subjective experience and who want to read this back into the Scriptural events. But does this fit with the evidence? Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, does not seem to be describing an experience but a historical event. The natural line for someone who has had an experience is, "I had this experience, and you can have it too." Rather, Paul appeals to a specific set of witnesses who he claimed saw the event and could be checked with to confirm it. If it was a subjective experience, Paul should have desired for them to have the experience themselves. Also, the stress on the idea of a physical resurrection makes no sense if we are talking about an experience. Who cares whether they experienced Christ  as physically raised or spiritually raised if it was only an experience. Nor is there anywhere else in the New Testament where it is presented as a experience. Also, it is not clear why they would have changed, and that quite early, an experience (which is, after all, incontestable) for  an objective fact, which could be falsified. Further, Christianity was faced from the very beginning with opposition. Could the Christians have totally changed their story without someone catching them? Now part of what is happening in this regard is people are reading back the modern neo-orthodox concept of relative truth and what is true for me being different than what is true for you, in spite of the fact that there is no historical evidence for this philosophy existing before modern historical times. This is, of course, viciously circular.

Therefore, basing a belief purely on the subjective, and particularly reading it back into the past, has no basis in Scripture or reason. I am not against experience, but experience must be interpreted and supported by objective fact, not the other way round.

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