Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Gap between Experience and Truth

I often feel the painful gap that exists between what I believe to be true, and my experience of that truth. I have been trained well in "rational belief" through our modernistic approach to education in our conservative Seminaries. When my experience (my day to day emotional and spiritual experience) falls short of what I know to be true, I often falter and lose heart, especially when it seems all the church has to offer is more of the same "rational belief" kind of stuff. Feeling depressed? Read Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 for the cure. Not cured? read it again, this time with faith.


This approach is flawed in several ways - first, in the way we understand ourselves as human beings, and second, in the way we read, understand and appropriate Holy Scripture (I will deal with the former in this post, and perhaps the second point in a later post). If I were a computer needing the right download, correct information and belief would be enough to fix me (maybe after a virus scan?). But I'm a unique creature made in the image of God with far greater capacities for knowing and loving than any computer can ever come close to. This "gap" is what the books of Job and Ecclesiastes are all about. Let's be honest Christians, and acknowledge that often we don't know what the hell is going on.

I find that what fills this gap is the mystery of the person of Jesus, particularly the suffering Jesus on the cross. I say mystery because his presence, though pointed to by rational belief, is not bound to it, meaning that there is sometimes no direct correlation between what I know to be true and what I experience of God at the time. I may affirm my belief in Romans 8:28 (and I do), ["And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,"] but not yet see it yet in my own story - and YET I am allowed to experience the grace and oftentimes silent presence of God in the gap.

In his mercy, he transcends rational belief categories and meets with me in all the broken places where life doesn't make sense (though not in ways that oppose rational belief in what is revealed in Scripture; what may be called supra-rational, but not ir-rational). The truth of Romans 8:28 will be revealed, but just because it hasn't been revealed yet doesn't mean I should force my story to fit into a "nice redemptive ending." This was the mistake of "Job's Friends," and the mistake of many Christians since. The truth of Romans 8:28 will only be finally revealed when I meet God face to face and experience the goodness of God's providence throughout the journey of my life.

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Andy said...

I really resonate with what you write here, Scott. For me, lately it seems that all non-experience of Romans 8:28 has ended in the re-defining of what "good" means for me. Too often I think I define it as: "the way Andy thinks things should go."

But I am realizing that we only experience the full meaning of this Scripture when our hearts are ready to be crushed and broken apart until our view of "good" matches that of our Creator.

Scott said...

good thoughts, brother, as always. Accepting God's definition of "good" is what sanctification is all about! But our definition of "good" is wrapped up in idols and false selves, things that can only be taken away with pain.