Friday, January 25, 2008

Religious experience not inerrancy

The questions raised by yesterday's considerations trouble me to no end. What is the faith based on then, if it's not the Bible and apparently not on evidence? The only answer that I could come up with is "religious experience," that is, religious experience understood in the framework of the historic Christian tradition. That would mean that a sense of God or encounter with God interpreted culturally through the meta-narrative of the Christian story is what gets one to buy into Christianity. Although I am not entirely satisfied with this answer to the question, I am convinced that that has to be the only way one can proceed. I am relieved to see, though, that other prominent Christian thinkers have come to the same conclusion.

William Lane Craig:
"I received a fellowship from the German government to study the resurrection of Jesus under the direction of Wolfhart Pannenberg and Ferdinand Hahn at the University of Munich and at Cambridge University. As a result of my studies, I became even more convinced of the historical credibility of that event. Of course, ever since my conversion, I believed in the resurrection of Jesus on the basis of my personal experience, and I still think this experiential approach to the resurrection is a perfectly valid way to knowing that Christ has risen. It’s the way that most Christians today know that Jesus is risen and alive. But as a result of my studies, I came to see that a remarkably good case can be made for Jesus’ resurrection historically as well, and I hope to show tonight that the resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation of certain well-established facts about Jesus. " (

Experience, first, in the context of a Christian tradition. That is, God reaches out to us through the Christian lifeworld: other Christians, tradition, scripture, Holy Spirit. Next, we investigate the matter, the evidence proves not overwhelmingly against it: belief is able to withstand critical scrutiny. That means, faith comes first, and investigation second. That has to be how it goes. Not faith first, inerrancy second and then investigation third. That's where the problems start. Inerrancy can't come right after faith (as it does for a number of evangelicals) because inerrancy can't withstand the scrutiny, then the faith falls apart.