A child gathers information by watching and listening to his mother. He also learns by interacting with his environment. He tries things, and the world responds. That’s how he finds out that you can fall down stairs, that stoves are sometimes hot, and that ice cream tastes good. In the same way, I have come to understand that your insights from the scriptures will be pointless unless you’re engaged both with the Bible and your experience. We mustn’t ignore our experiences when we study the scriptures for they always count. It would help you make sense of the experiences encountered by Bible figures.
Because we have seen so many people misunderstand their experience, we Christians tend to be suspicious of experience itself. It is fair to conclude that we must be careful when we analyze experience, but we ought not conclude that experience itself is unreliable. Many people misapply the scriptures, but do we assume that the defects is in the scriptures? Of course not. Therefore, when people misunderstanding their experience, we should realize that the source of the problem lies not in the experience, but in the interpretation of the experience.
For example, a woman named Marta might reach the age of forty and evaluate her experience like this: “I’m not married. Being single and childless is painful. I could have avoided this pain if I had married Theo. Theo broke up with me because I wouldn’t move in with him without being married. It was a mistake to be so rigid about the Bible’s sexual standards. I would be happy now if I had seen those standards are outmoded in today’s world 😊.”
You can see that Marta’s interpretation of her experience and the Bible is filtered through some questionable world view assumptions, such as:
A. Marta believes the point of life is to minimize pain. Is that true? What does God think about that?
B. Marta thinks married people are happier than single ones. Does the scripture have any evidence on that?
C. Marta thinks Theo would have made a good husband. What are the qualities of a person likely to be a reliable partner through the trials of life? What could Marta learn about this from the Bible?
Marta doesn’t need to throw out her experiences and just listen to the scriptures. She also doesn’t need to throw out the scriptures and learn only from her experiences. She needs to go to the scriptures with questions prompted by experience and rethink her experience in light if the Bible.
So, if your interpretation of reality conflicts with your interpretation of scripture, you know one is wrong. In order to connect scriptures to your life, you’ll need to go back and examine both experience and scripture more closely. Input from other people can help you get past your blind spots. 😊
In some cases you may never fully understand your experience. When a child dies, a parent may never fully understand how the scriptural teaching that God is good can be consistent with the experience of this loss. This is mystery. But the fact that the parent can never fully understand the consistency between scripture and experience, doesn’t mean there is no consistency. Nor does it mean the parent won’t grow from struggling to see consistency, the goodness of God at work in the midst of suffering.
Love and Peace ❤️💕😊
Photo by Joel Muniz