Evangelicals consistently criticize Mormons for relying too much spiritual experience to tell them the truth of things. This is understandable given how tenacious the belief in the Book of Mormon is amongst the LDS.
In the previous post Cal commented:
Kullervo said, “. . . . subjective mystical experiences are not a reliable indicator of objective truth.”
Since we’re straying from the topic, I’ll be as brief as possible. My dictionary defines “subjective” as “of, relating to, or arising within one’s self or mind in contrast to what is outside.”
When I move toward spiritual truth and consequently feel the peace of God come onto me, that’s from outside. It is as real as anything physical. It doesn’t come from any bias I have.
I like Cal’s point, He is telling us feels the influence of God in the same way that he feels other external phenomena. I think we should be able to accept this in a common-sense way without argument. I personally have experienced such feelings. I firmly believe that what I call God has had a direct influence on my life, in some way.
The issues that remain are two: verification and interpretation.
Cal’s word alone does not verify that he is experiencing an outside influence, even if we believe he is honest, because he could be fooled. He admits that people are fooled all the time, Mormons in particular. Mormons believe that Evangelicals are fooled. Indeed, Christians believe that there is an active unseen force specifically trying to fool everybody all of the time.
More importantly, even if we concede that Cal’s experience is external, it is clear that he is not giving us a narrow, scientific interpretation. He is interpreting the experience within a huge framework of Christian ideas. We know that people that experience the same thing often interpret the experience very differently based on their experiences and mindset, brain chemistry and genetics.
The problem of course, is that for the religious, the interpretations become more important than the experiences. We are told to listen and learn from what God tells us, so long as it doesn’t tell what is too different from what other, more trustworthy sources tell us. Mormons allow for leeway in spiritual interpretations son long as they don’t threaten the authority of the church, and Evangelicals allow for leeway so long as it fits neatly within their creeds. Both sides tell us to both trust and distrust what seems to come from God.
Its hard for me to see which view has any chance of getting a handle on the external spiritual forces that effect human beings all the time. Most atheists seem to have given up on the conundrum, believers seem comfortable with blinders on.
Who is trading heroes for ghosts here?
Ignoring the reality of the supernatural doesn’t seem the answer, but boxing it up in a theology also seems very problematic. I worry that trying to see all my experiences through some lens will invariably lead to some sort of blindness to what is really going on. This leads me to an strong distrust of most all theology. How does your brand of Christianity deal with this problem?