There’s something I’ve observed about Christians: at times our beliefs are based on what we haven’t experienced. Now, the atheist would say our entire faith is based on what we haven’t experienced. Since the atheist hasn’t had spiritual experiences (or won’t admit he has) then no one has really had such experiences.
We might shake our heads about “those poor atheists.” But their logic mirrors some of our theological thinking. Were we to carry our thinking to its conclusion and strip its theological veneer, we would find ourselves amen-ing the atheists.
Miracles are one example of what I’m saying. Some people I know have witnessed miracles, some don’t think they have. Whole theological systems have been developed to explain why miracles “don’t happen anymore.” Instead of letting scripture challenge our experience, our experience dictates what scripture teaches. We say we believe the Bible; sometimes we use the Bible to justify our flesh-bound viewpoint.
I had someone “prove” to me that spiritual gifts don’t happen anymore by quoting 1 Corinthians 13:10–“But when the perfect comes the partial will come to an end.” As he read, “the perfect,” he tapped his Bible. Scripture, he explained, is God’s perfect testimony. Once the canon was set, prophesy, tongues, and all that jazz ceased; they were no longer needed. I have heard this interpretation more than once among protestants. It was only years later I realized “the perfect” can’t possibly refer to scripture because nowhere in this context is scripture discussed. “The perfect” Paul is talking about can only refer to love.
When a person’s theology rejects biblical spiritual experience, I don’t get too hung up on it. Why? Often, it boils down to terminology. I knew a guy whose theology didn’t allow for prophesy in the present day. Nevertheless, he functioned as a prophet. He spoke hard truths publicly and with grace. God also gave him words of knowledge. When he prayed for me he was dead on about my situations without me telling him specifics. To me, if someone is flowing with the Lord and ministering in His Spirit, who cares what we label it.
But sometimes, it’s more than a labeling problem. It’s unbelief. It’s an atheistic fly in our anointing.
I’ll admit my inexperience causes me to wrestle with God at times. I was born a skeptic. My parents used to joke I was from Missouri because it’s known as “The Show Me State.” Even as a kid, I wanted proof of everything. Since becoming a Christian, I’ve known two different people whom God used to raise the dead. Since I’ve not witnessed a resurrection, I sometimes doubt when reading about resurrections in the Bible. But we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). That means trusting God and spiritually trustworthy people, not just our own experience.
Even in the natural world, much of what I know is taken on faith. I’ve never seen Pluto, for instance. I believe Pluto exists because someone told me. (I also believed for most of my life that Pluto was a planet. Now I’m told different. That’s messed up…)
Furthermore, I have an almost compulsive love of Lindor chocolate truffles. But I never would have tried chocolate if I hadn’t believed the person who told me it was good. Scripture invites us to taste and see that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:3). Do we want to miss out on something divinely delicious simply because we haven’t tried it before? That would be theological missouri, er, misery!
I pray the Lord keeps challenging me to believe Him over my life-experience. After all, I am a citizen of heaven, not Missouri. 😉 (Php. 3:20). Blessed are those who believe without seeing (John 20:29).