Is Christian Experience Valid?
"You could get the same response from that table lamp if you believed it possessed the same attributes as your God," said the young law student.
Is the Christian experience completely personal and subjective? Does it have no objective, eternal, and universal validity?
- These are based on an assumption that the mind is capable of infinite rationalization, wishful thinking, and our need for a father image.
- Also assumption that Christianity is for emotional cripples who need a crutch.
- Claim that conversion is psychologically induced brought about by brainwashing - evangelist is a master manipulator
- Some believe it is sometimes harmful -- look at the religious nuts in the mental asylum. (common-factor fallacy - gin and soda, whiskey and soda)
- Some see it as the last stop before being institutionalized
- Some believe it is conditioned reflexes like Pavlov's dog.
First point is to concede the possibility of manipulating human emotions in some circumstances.
Note that the will is like a cart pulled by two horse--the emotions and the intellect. Some respond to one more than the other. Genuine faith involves a decision of the will. Examples of one without the will following:
- demons believe in Jesus, skeptics had the information --these have knowledge of Christ but are not following Him.
- Tele-evangelists preaching (those that are sensational and not really preaching the gospel). They can often sways the crowd to give all this money in support of their ministry.
Is it a conditioned reflex?
Is the comparison between animals and human's a valid one (like Pavlov's dog)? Are we like animals?
- Human's have reason, critical faculty, self analysis, self contemplation, self criticism --much different than animals
- Comparison only valid in certain circumstances (according to William Sargant) in times like war when we have been reduced to the level of an animal because of terrible stress.
- If we are only creatures of conditional reflexes, we must also explain acts of great heroism and self-sacrifice in which we take pride.
- If taken to its logical conclusion, a deterministic view of human behavior eliminates moral responsibility--what is going to happen will happen and I can't change it. Even those holding the view tend to deny it in everyday life like wanting a thief arrested.
- It does not explain all cases:
- Many raised in a Christian home never become Christian
- Many others with no background or knowledge of Christianity become believers the first time they hear the message.
- Many backgrounds have become Christians. Each testify to a personal inner confirmation (a subjective experience). They also testify by a visibly changed life which is not subjective.
Is it autohypnosis (a self induced trance that can be used to suggest changes/feeling to yourself)?
What if some with a fried egg over his left ear came through the door and said: "Oh this egg really gives me joy, peace, purpose in life, forgiveness of sins and strength for living!" Can you argue with that? One of the powers of personal testimony is that it cannot be argued. The blind man couldn't answer many questions but he knew he could see (see John 9). However we could ask him some questions which we also need to answer for Christianity.
- Who else has had this same experience? Harry Ironside was preaching when a heckler shouted, "Atheism has done more for the world than Christianity!". He responded, "Very well, tomorrow night you bring a hundred men whose lives have been changed for the better by atheism, and I'll brind a hundred who have been transformed by Christ." There are testimonies from every race, every country, every walk of life that bear testimony to a change through Christ.
- What objective reality outside of himself is his internal subjective experience tied to? Nothing in our example. In Christianity, the subjective personal experience is tied to the objective historical fact of the resurrection of Christ. J.B. Phillips says, "I know perfectly well that I am merely describing subjective phenomena. But the whole point is that what I have observed results in object phenomena: courage, faith, hope, joy, and patience, for instance, and these qualities are very readily observed."
What does Christianity offer?
- Purpose and direction - God in Christ gives our lives cosmic purpose, tying us in with His purpose for history and eternity. Even routine is transformed as well live the whole of our lives in God's purpose. 1 Corinthians 10:31 admonishes, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Non-Christians have such temporary purposes as family, career, and money that give limited satisfaction, are transient, and mail fail with a change in circumstances. To an age in which life has been described as meaningless and absurd by existentialist philosophers, nothing could have more power and meaning than this verifiable claim of Christ.
- Satisfaction for the soul - Carl Gustav Jung said, "The central neurosis of our time is emptiness." We think if we have money, fame, success, power, and other externals, it will make us happy. Many testify that once these are achieved, disillusionment set in and one is still the same miserable person. We have been made for God and can find rest only in Him. See Mathew 4:4. John 6:35. Christ brings inner contentment, joy, and spiritual refreshment that enables one to transcent circumstances. See Philippians 4:11 which allows a Christian to rejoice in the middle of difficult circumstances.
- Peace - We hope international brushfire wars will not erupt into larger conflicts; large book sales dealing with peace of mind; psychiatrists offices are jammed; Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28). Christ gives peace that passes understanding, a peace the world cannot give or take away. We need to succumb to addictions of any form, visible sins or hidden hatreds and jealousies in the vain hope of gaining peace. Real, lasting peace comes from Christ alone; "He himself is our peace". Ephesians 2:14
- Power -
- Solving guilt and loneliness -
- new life -
Have you trusted Christ?
Small group questions
- Some teachers and preachers consciously or unconsciously play on the emotions of audiences. Is Christianity explained by just an emotional experience? Can emotional experiences be valid? What was Jesus's warning with regards to this (the rocky soil)? Read the parable of the sower from Jesus. Matthew 13:1-9,18-23. Points to emphasize in the discussion.
- Hear the message with joy but never root so you fall away in times of testing. Thus, there is no true belief in these circumstances (no choice of the will to follow).
- God will bring emotions of joy, peace, happiness, fulfillment, and others as parts of following him.
- Emotions are undulant and may even vary with the weather. The good news is that Christian truth does not rest on emotional highs. In times of uncertainty and doubt, it is helpful to review the facts and we will find even deeper faith as a result.
- Question about conditioning
- Question about autohypnosis
- Have you accepted Christ? Would you share that experience? If you haven't, what is keeping you from doing that? Do you have any questions?
- 08 Mar 2008