Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Today's Talk on "Experience"

Today's talk at our honors forum was made by one of our religion professors. He admitted that his conviction had been based on reason, but recently had been "converted" to experience.

As he was talking, all I could think of was how anyone in this type of climate could survive such "supernaturalism". There would be no way to gauge how one "heard from God". I think this is the epitome of cultish mentality and could lead to abuse of power, as well as "self-delusion".

A interpretive "community of faith" was the answer given to my concerns. This suggests that faith trumps reason altogether. Quakers, Congregationalists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, as well as Holiness traditions hold to this type of "mentality".

The Holiness tradition, which is the tradition of this professor and the university, believes in a second work of grace, called "entire sanctification", where sin is eradicated out of the believer. When this experience happens, then there is "new insight" and understanding of Scripture that is not dependent on academic training. I started to shiver.

When I questioned how one could gauge self-deception and pride, the professor admitted that pride was indeed a problem! Pride is not a "little problem", it is a great problem, because pride is not open to another's opinion, and especially when they feel "spritiually superior" and have "heard from God". These are the things of which great cult leaders are made.

Another gauge was the rule of faith and the rule of love. But, actively loving someone takes personal knowledge, and even with personal knowledge, sometimes, even with my husband, I miss it. So, how is one to gauge if one is motivated with a right-directed "love"?

For instance, if these believe that Abraham's sacrifice was the epitome of faith and must be demanded of another as proof of entire sanctification, then they might bring immense pain and heart-ache in the "Name of God". This is nothing short of cruel, mis-guided and mis-informed fanaticism. Or what if these believed that one must "cut off his hand, or pluch out his eye" because of it possibly leading to "sin". I have been in these environments and have "submitted" to such superstition. I threw away a silver bracelet that my husband gave me for an anniversary because of an "authority" telling me it was an amulet".

I cannot agree or defend such "faith", as it is undefendable. It is based on personal/communal experience combined. This is nothing short of what soldiers experience in their bonding with others in their squad/platoon/brigade. There is nothing significantly "spiritual" happening here, as humans are social animals, that will experience persecuting situations as a bonding experience.

The Quadralateral allows for more than experience. It is based on reason, as well as experience, tradition and scripture. I find that tradition is culture and scripture is context specific, while experience can be unifying. Reason, on the other hand, can be unifying but most often can bring great division as we interpret within our own specific frames and express ourselves in unique ways.

Those that believe in such understandings and experiences, are seeking after a unifying experience and believe it is God. But it is really interpreted as God, because of the context. In another context, it would be called a "country club", or any other kind of social group.

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