A third danger developing in modern evangelicalism’s understanding of spirituality, according to Robert Webber in The Divine Embrace is experiential spirituality. Here are some of his thoughts:
How significant is an experience of God’s grace, or a defining experience, for your community of faith’s perception of spirituality? What can be done about the overemphasis on experience? What role does experience play in spirituality?
The issue here is “the search for a defining spiritual experience” (87).
The origins are in Romanticism and the major theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher. What gave to evangelicalism its experiential focus was the Wesleyan born-again experience, which neither denies the significance of Wesley nor overestimates its importance. Much in evangelicalism does. Experience is elevated to the apologetic for the faith.
Spirituality is hereby situated in the experience. Conversion is to be valued; equating conversion with the experience is the danger. What are the evidences of this approach?
A personal relationship with Jesus becomes the central issue. Webber, when asked if he has a personal relationship, says this: “You’re asking the wrong question. What is important here is not that I in and of myself achieve or create a personal relationship with God, but that God has a personal relationship with me through Jesus Christ, which I affirm and nourish” (89).
I have written about this in my Turning to Jesus.