Welcome to the Crawl

Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.  Also, remember these conversation tips: 1) Be polite, and don’t take offense, 2) Say something if you don’t understand, 3) Ask “why” and speak up if you disagree (It’s not rude, it’s just a good conversation). Now, grab a drink and start unpacking the deep mysteries of the universe!

The Big Question: What role does human experience have in our theology?

The Main Questions

  • What do you mean when you say, “human experience?”
  • What is the difference between subjective experience and objective reality? Is it possible to tell the difference?
  • Is experience a reliable source of truth? Why or why not?
  • Taking turns as a group, read through the section below called “Thoughts from Others.” What quote do you most agree/disagree with? Why?

  • How have your experiences shaped what you believe about God? How do you evaluate these experiences as viable sources of knowledge about God?
  • What is the benefit of recognizing the role of experience in theology? What are the dangers?
  • Is it possible to know God without the prism of our experience? If yes, how so? If not, is theology merely a reflection of human experience?
  • We’ve discussed four “sources” of theology this summer (Scripture, Reason, Tradition, Experience). How should the “source” of experience interact with the other “sources”?

    Important Scripture

    • I have been young and now I am old, / Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken / Or his descendants begging bread. // Psalm 37:25
    • When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth—people getting no sleep day or night— then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it. // Ecclesiastes 8:16-17
    • Wisdom is with aged men, / With long life is understanding. // Job 12:12
    • I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; / But now my eye sees You; // Job 42:5
    • So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” // Genesis 32:30
    • If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. // John 14:7

    Thoughts from Others

    • I don’t claim to be knowledgeable about theology. Most of my knowledge comes out of my experience and the lessons in the Bible. // President Jimmy Carter
    • Theological conclusions are not just deductions from authoritative statements, but are worked out by worshippers responsibly engaged with God, each other, Scripture, the surrounding culture, everyday life, and all the complexities, ups and downs of history. // David F. Ford
    • Question. 1. What is the chief end of humanity?
      Answer 1. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. // The Westminster Shorter Catechism
    • There can be no black theology which does not take the black experience as a source for its starting point” // James Cone
    • God does not become an ideal, so that man achieves community with him through constant striving. He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him. // Jürgen Moltmann
    • The essence of religion consists in the feeling of an absolute dependence. // Friedrich Schleiermacher
    • I now understand that I would never have been able to become a plausible critic of the absurdities of modern consciousness until I myself had experienced them. I did not become an orthodox believer or theologian until after I tried out most of the errors long rejected by Christianity. // Thomas Oden
    • If a man once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real… The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based upon what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. // C.S. Lewis