From Roger Olson, and I agree with the thrust of Roger’s statements here:
So what is the blik difference I’m talking about here? Some evangelicals seem to see experience of God as always mediated through scripture which, from my perspective, seems to incline them toward bibliolatry. This is why they say they would believe God is a monster (or the author of evil or whatever) IF scripture said so. Other evangelicals (like I) seem to see experience of God as BOTH mediated by scripture AND as unmediated with the latter as primary in terms of knowing God’s character as good.
When I got saved I was not converted to the Bible; I was converted to the God of Jesus Christ. THEN I found more about God through the Bible and believed in it BECAUSE it told me about the God of Jesus Christ I encountered in conversion and in my pesonal relationship with him. My experience of God is both unmediated and mediated and the two are inseparable. But when I open the Bible to read and study it I NEVER do so as a tabula rasa–prepared to believe whatever it might say EVEN IF it says (in some passage I had henceforth never noticed) that God is a monster who might hate me and want the worst for me or who loves his own glory more than he loves me (and all of us). If I am tempted to believe that, I go to God and rediscover him in unmediated experience of him through Jesus Christ or at least remember those times when my heart was strangely warmed and I KNEW without any ability to doubt that God loves me and wants the best for me and does not hate me or love his glory at the expense of my (or anyone else’s) well being in its most profound sense (wholeness).
This is my perspective on experiencing God. People experienced God before there was a Bible and have experiences of God apart from the Bible. But the Bible fills experience of God with cognitive content. But it cannot contradict the God I know as good through my unmediated experience of Jesus Christ because the only reason I believe the Bible is because it is THAT GOD’s WORD. In and through it I hear my Master’s voice in a unique way–as communicating himself to me in a cognitive way, filling my unmediated experience of God with information. But that information cannot contradict the very pre-cognitive experience of God as unqualifiedly good that I had in my conversion and have in my post-conversion relationship with Jesus Christ.Luther’s “tower experience” is what I’m talking about. And that’s what led him to doubt the spiritual value of the Epistle of James and the Revelation of John. Later, unfortunately, in his dispute with die Schwarmer, Luther backed away from this epistemology. But I think some conservative evangelicals forget or conveniently ignore the fact that Luther always held to the Bible’s authority as rooted in the Holy Spirit and not in some self-authenticating quality. His sola scriptura was not bibliolatry or even close to it. He was just afraid of certain fanatics who wanted to abandon scripture.
It seems to me that this is a fundamental watershed between evangelicals. Those of us in the Pietist tradition claim unmediated experience of God that authenticates scripture to us but makes it impossible to see scripture as proving that God is evil or the author of sin and evil or loves his own glory more than he loves people created in his own image and likeness. Those evangelicals in the Protestant scholastic tradition at least claim to experience God only through scripture and at least say they would believe the Bible even if it said God is a monster, the author of sin and evil, who loves his own glory to the extent that it causes him to hate some of the creatures created in his own image and likeness.
No amount of arguing or crying “exegesis!” is going to solve this blik dilemma, this continental divide among evangelicals. To be perfectly blunt, I shudder when I encounter people who seem to me to be worshiping scripture to that extent–that there is no unmediated experience of God outside of scripture. I shake my head and wonder about their spirituality even as I continue to embrace them as fellow evangelicals (even if they reject me as one to them).