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The Christ Experience

The Christ Experience

“Separate the Christ experience from the Christ-explanations,” suggests Bishop John Shelby Spong.

In other words, you and I may experience Christ but we could never explain Christ. When you try to explain what God has done in and through the Eternal Christ…

…well…

That’s when it gets complicated and mostly just plain wrong. Furthermore, when you rely on the old explanations from our past, you will almost always come up woefully short and/or wrong again.

The Explanations of Christ

Which is the plight, and peril, of Christian theology throughout Christian history. For all the good, for example, the incredible mind of John Calvin produced for theology in his seminal Institutes of the Christian Religion, one could point to an equally confusing, and ultimately divisive, consequence of his propositionally-laden explanations of the Christ experience.

If you do not know what I’m talking about, consider yourself lucky. No one ever needed Calvin’s explanations of Christ to experience the Christ of eternity.

The books of the Bible, for example, were written between 1000 BCE and 135 CE. Which means, most people writing what we still regard as the sacred writings of the Old and New Testaments believed in a three-tiered universe, thought of the earth as the center of the universe and the sun as rotating around it, believed all sickness was a sign of God’s disfavor and regarded anything they could not explain as a “miracle,” as Spong and others have so rightly helped us to understand.

We know better today than to believe any of this.

Or, do we?

Many believers who claim to be faithful followers of Christ mistakenly think that “faithfulness to Christ” is only ever demonstrated by trying to defend old, worn out explanations of the world, God, and the human experience of Christ by arguing incessantly things like “the Bible is infallible” whenever it speaks of anything…whether science, evolution, the human experience, psychology, biology, astronomy, etc.

Really? Do you actually think that by telling people Genesis is a factual account of how the world came into existence you are being “faithful” to Christ?

I do not agree.

I do not feel this being faithful at all. In fact, to still be trying to defend “infallibility” borders on arrogance. Rather than drawing people to Christ, which is really what all of us want, it actually leaves people with no option but to reject Christianity as some antiquated belief system, even a useless relic of an ancient past.

Is that really what Christians want? Is that really what many define as being faithful to Christ?

Personally, I think there is a better way. And, one more infinitely more faithful to Christ, too.

That way is to let go of the old, worn-out explanations of God, Jesus, the Bible, the universe, how humans evolved, what went wrong with humans, creation, evolution, etc. In other words, rather than regarding everything we are learning in our rapidly changing world as suspicious or worldly or, worse, as being unfaithful to Christ, question everything instead. Start with your own beliefs. If they prove to be antiquated and contrary to what we are learning, let go of them. Staying attached will only ever produce a insufferable inner dilemma. If what you question proves to be true, however, embrace it.

Why wouldn’t you?

The Christ Experience

Be content to invite people into the Christ experience.This never changes. What it does do, however, is change people. Experiencing Christ always defies explaining Christ.

It always has and it always will, too. What will NOT abide are all of our explanations, antiquated beliefs, and things like the Institutes of our theological explanations. These become relics. Why? Because explanations could never be equal to experience.

There is much about the Church today, as well as the beliefs Christian people argue and debate over almost endlessly, that must die with Jesus this Easter season. But, not just die with him, they need to remain in the grave forever.

It is only ever the experience of Christ that will live beyond the cross and the grave, isn’t it?

Indeed!

What else but the experience of Christ HAS ever lived? What else but the transformative power of the Eternal Christ should live?

Isn’t this what we call the resurrection?

It is my prayer this Easter season “explanation” will cease to trump “experience?”

As far as I’m concerned, you can take all the explanations of what God has done in Christ – including my own explanations – and, bury them forever.

What lives beyond the grave is your experience of Christ.
What could be more important than your experience?