The Experience Factor
“About ten years ago I gave a set of lectures at Harvard in which I made the observation that all theology, like all fiction, is at its heart autobiography, and that what a theologian is doing essentially is examining as honestly as he can the rough-and-tumble of his own experience with all its ups and downs, its mysteries and loose ends, and expressing in logical, abstract terms the truths about human life and about God that he believes he has found implicit there…”
Traditionally, some Anglicans have based their theology on a “three legged stool”.
Scripture, tradition, and reason.
The foundation is laid by Scripture, the tradition of the church informs our interpretation of Scripture (what all men have believed at all times), and we use reason to come to conclusions based on those sources.
It is a fine way to do theology, but I think one think is lacking…the thing that whether we want to admit it or not, is powerful in our spiritual formation.
Our life experiences and our experiences inside the faith can and will color our theological understanding.
My experience in the faith has been, frankly, difficult.
I’ve spent decades exposing the corrupt and the venal in the church…and have yet to see God bring justice to perpetrator or victim.
The cost has been staggering in every way…”abundant life” must be reserved for the eschaton.
If “where God guides, God provides”, is true, my holy GPS is broken.
As a pastor, I’ve anointed countless people with oil and prayed, and seen little in the way of response as I’ve walked with people through the last 30 years.
I know that God does not always deliver people “from all their afflictions” (Ps. 34:19) and if “all things work together for good’ that good belongs again mainly to the eschaton.
Some of the most vile people I’ve ever met are in Christian leadership, some people I’ve admired the most, heathens at best.
The vile are assured of eternal bliss and the admired heathens eternal torment…so they say…
Yet, I’ve also seen demons prayed off a person and had a personal visitation from the Lord as a child.
I’ve survived…battered and bloodied,but still here.
Some of God’s people truly are “saints”.
It seems that God doesn’t follow any scripts, including the one we think He wrote.
The lack of answered prayer, indeed the lack of “supernatural” workings, left me with three options.
Well, four really…I considered petitioning the saints but I don’t know which ones are in charge of car repair and vet bills…so three it is.
I could leave the faith.
I could stay in the faith, deny my life experiences, and “stand on the Scriptures”.
I could stay in the faith and change the way I looked at Scripture.
I know Jesus, so leaving isn’t an option.
I can’t lie to myself and call it “faith”.
I took option three… I entered the Anglican communion and began the process of redefining what my expectations are for the Bible and the Christian life.
The key word is “process”.
It’s a messy and painful process.
I desperately want another formula that “fixes” everything, but I know it doesn’t exist in reality.
You’re all along for the ride.
Some of you may want to get off.
Your experiences may be different than mine and every bit as valid.
We all make our own application…