The Role of Experience in Faith?


A Christian Thing

Here, I will raise more questions than answers, in the hope that some of my readers might have ideas. The problem at hand is the role of experience in faith, broadly defined, to include not just what we would think of as ecstatic experience, but also experience of community, doctrine etc. – in the broadest sense perhaps even the experience of God via a sacramentally charged creation, what some might call natural theology.

I have a vexed relationship with spiritual experience. I grew up in an Evangelical tradition in which one’s degree of faith was measured in terms of experiential capital. Those who did not experience had “head knowledge, not heart knowledge,” and it was well known that the personal experience of Christ – often described as a personal relationship – was worth far more than any such head knowledge. It was far more likely that the simple person in…

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2 thoughts on “The Role of Experience in Faith?

  1. Isn’t the role of experience in faith the insistent and repetitive motif in Giussani’s writings? I’m finding the words of the Desert Fathers and Mothers ringing true these days except that I am missing a description of their experiences which is what makes Augustine’s ‘Confessions’ so attractive to me. I still have the reproduction of Michael Angelo’s THE TEMPTATIONS OF ST. ANTHONY you sent my way close by.

    We balk at the commitment to go over an edge and into the dizziness of our own experiences; we’d sooner have another do the work, yes?

    in the Faith Elizabeth

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