Purely experiential

I just finished my first senior-level writing class, Writing Theory and Ethics. In class, we read a Christianity Today interview with Donald Miller, author of the book Blue Like Jazz. In the interview, Miller said several startling things. Here are the main ones:

“Ultimately, everything is purely experiential. If we could divide the complexities of our reality into grids and categories, God would have communicated through the Bible in grids and categories. There are mysteries that cannot be explained logically.

That isn’t to say there isn’t truth. I certainly believe there’s absolute truth. My criticism is, however many years ago, that the Bible or Christian spirituality was changed out of an experiential [approach] into grids and logical kinds of thinking.”

At first, Miller’s purely experiential approach is unsettling, really unsettling. His arguments seem to take all fundamental truths that we Christians have believed and put them into a subjective arena, where your experience gives more truth than the Bible.

However, I do not think this is what Miller was really arguing.  Granted, he’s exaggerating, but his view that human experience is a valid way to discover truths about God is not at all out of line.  Human experience is the basis for many of our beliefs about absolute truth. However, the fact that human experience is the basis does not cancel out the possibility of absolute truth. In fact, in some ways, human experience of the almighty strengthens the concept of the omniscient, omnipresent, creator God of the Bible. The more time you spend in the Scriptures, the more you see that the majority of these powerful words were written by people who directly experienced God.

So, take Miller’s words with a grain of salt and start reading your Bible. Because it presents absolute truth as experienced by humans.


2 thoughts on “Purely experiential

  1. Exactly, experiential knowledge affirms the truth already in the Word from God; however, It shouldn’t predominantly be the other way around. If we read our Bibles mainly as a supplement to our experiences, then our true authority has become our experience rather than or equal to God’s Word. This causes confusion when our experiences in a fallen, broken world challenge the pure truth in the Bible. Even when our experiences lead us into a false perception of God or reality, the Bible is a true guide that corrects our limited experience.

    • I totally agree. I think that the modern church puts too little value on personal experience, and that we lose a lot by doing so. However, we must have the Bible as our objective source for absolute truth in order to measure our experiences.

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