Experiential Christianity – Foundational or Fallacious?

Photo by wwarby

Photo by wwarby

I have a great concern for the contemporary evangelical church.  In my short lifetime, I have seen most denominations deteriorate into an almost unrecognizable state.  I sincerely question whether one can seriously find the purity of the gospel preserved in most contemporary churches today.  Confusion abounds within church walls and pastors desire to mold and design their churches into a facsimile of what they were never intended to be.

Programs have become more important than the rich, deep, time-enduring message of the gospel.  Contemporary Christians are not satisfied with the truth already given once and for all to the saints from God; instead they seek experiential and cozy feelings; they desire to know and meet God on their own terms, not on God’s terms.  They allow themselves to be misled by not growing in their faith — by not reading God’s Word — by not choosing to listen to accurate, perhaps less popular teachers of the faith — and by choosing the sensational over the truth.

In C.S. Lewis’ book  God in the Dock, Lewis makes a profound statement that seems to describe the state of the contemporary church today.  It can be found in the chapter called, “Is Theism Important?” Lewis states:  Religious experience, in the narrowest sense, comes and goes; mostly goes.

I would have to wholeheartedly agree with Lewis.  His prophetic proclamation speaks truth to the fact that today’s Christian is addicted to experiential feelings in order to substantiate their faith.  This kind of faith rarely produces a lasting, enduring faith that can weather trials and disappointment.  As most experiences in life, this kind of experiential Christianity risks confusion and failure.

In my opinion, few contemporary Christians can accurately pronounce a definition of the true gospel.  Most know they believe in something, but few have put their faith in the true, historic Jesus Christ, come to save us from our sin by His blood atonement on the cross.  Most lean towards easy-believism, not fully comprehending what Jesus really did for us.  Most have no understanding of the words justification, original sin, sanctification, atonement, propitiation and many other important theological terms which are tools to deepen our understanding of our faith….the one, true, historic faith of the Bible.  Most Christians today have a faith in something they have created to believe, or a faith created for them to believe by televangelists and televangelists wanna-bes you can find in every locality.

Lewis’ statement also reminds me that the state of the church today, in actuality, has been existing for centuries.  Fallen man knows no generation, does he?  Still, today is what we know.  It is what we can see.  It is what we can honestly evaluate.  As someone who has tried very hard to find a biblical church to attend, I can honestly say that I have often come up empty-handed.  While there are many wonderful people in the church today, few contemporary churches practice true, biblical Christianity.  Few read and teach His Word completely.  A church that does so has great value indeed and I am thankful for those who take this task seriously.  If only every community had a church like this.

Many people like me have chosen to forsake the church, believing that the pursuit of a solitary Christian life is a better alternative.  I do not think, however, that this is healthy.  As flawed as the contemporary church is, God still asks up to participate.  Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

This leaves the authentic Christian with a dilemma.  It’s hard to participate when you feel alone in the church. Yet, we are required to do so.  How can we survive in this kind of environment without a complete dependence and reliance on the One, True God?  The answer is:  you can’t.

In this same book, Lewis uses a unique word not seen often in today’s vernacular.  Numinous. What a great word!  Numinous is defined as:  evincing the presence of a deity; having spiritual, mysterious, or holy qualities; filled with awe or wonder; feeling that you are in the presence of God or something greater than yourself; filled with a sense of the presence of divinity; of, pertaining to, or like a numen; spiritual or supernatural.  You’ll need this word for the next paragraph.

Photo by txd

Photo by txd

Faith, Lewis says, does not flow from philosophical argument alone, nor from experience of the Numinous alone.  Faith does not come from moral experience alone, nor from history alone.   Faith comes from historical events which which at once fulfill and transcend the moral category, which demand as their pre-supposition the existence of a being who is more, but not less, than the God whom many reputable philosophers think they can establish.  The operation of Faith is to retain, so far as the will and the intellect are concerned what is irresistible and obvious during the moments of special grace.  By faith we believe what we always hope hereafter to see always and perfectly and have already seen imperfectly. These words take a lot of chewing to reach the meat, but how valuable is the meat of real truth!

In Chapter 2 of this same book, Lewis makes another pointedly truthful statement.  Experience, by itself, proves nothing.  The interpretation of experiences depend on presuppositions.  Any serious Christian must consider what role experience has played in their faith.  While some experiences are true and beneficial, so many experiences are figments of our imagination, generated by an over-active imagination or wishful thinking, or perhaps by the deceiver himself.

Our faith is not a figment of our imagination.  Our faith is real, substantiated by real truths and historical reality.  Our God did not expect us to come into the world unarmed and unaware.  He set truths strictly and strongly right before our eyes?  Are we looking?  Are we trying to learn from them?

So the question is:  how well do you know the truths of the historic Christian faith?  Don’t you think it’s worth your time to study and learn these truths?  Consider how much more rich your relationship with God would be if you truly understood His character and the doctrines He has set forth in His Word.  In fact, He expects this of you.  He asks you to be like newborn infants and long for the pure spiritual milk so that you may grow up into salvation if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. But he cautions you not to remain infants because everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness.  Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

May I encourage you to long for solid food?  To really long for it?  May I encourage you to sharpen your skills of discernment by growing in your faith?  For you, the fruit is immense.  For God, He is glorified in our obedience.

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