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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