Why Do I Not Experience God? [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

A little different tack in this week’s Questions That Haunt Christianity. Rather than a theological or historical question, Andrew submits an existential/spiritual question:

Tony, related to your upcoming book, the question that haunts me the most is this: Why do I not experience God like I have been taught I should? Why don’t I hear his “voice?” I think this may be more personal than theological, but it consistently haunts me that I am unable to tap into the gnosis I was told to (evangelical gnosis as you recently pointed out). I suppose the question could better be stated: If Christianity is for real, why am I not able to have experiences of God?

I will attempt to answer Andrew’s question on Friday. In the meantime, you can proffer your answer in the comment section. And you can submit your own question to the series here.

  • andy

    a question i struggle with daily.

    many people i know talk as if it easy for them to experience God almost as if he is at their beck and call. i suspect that they could be full of shit. it can”t be that easy.

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Andrew:

      You said, “Why do I not experience God like I have been taught I should? Why don’t I hear his ‘voice?’”

      I don’t know how you were taught to experience God, but I’ll make a wild guess that part of the reason you haven’t had a “God-experience” may actually be due to the very things you were taught.

      In my own case, I had to undo years of religious programming (grew up in a very strict and conservative Christian tradition). My “God-experience” took nearly twenty years, and finally occurred when I had fully uncluttered my mind of the nonsense I had been taught.

      That’s key: emptying yourself of mental clutter. Un-cluttering your mind of religious nonsense and minutiae. Breaking down the barriers of religious teaching. Because when you empty and quiet your mind, that is when God “happens.”

      Access to God is not the property of any man-made religion. And while I am a Christian by choice, Christianity is essentially a man-made tradition. For me, my God-experience came first, uninfluenced by religion or dogma or preconceptions. It was only afterward that I chose to identify as a Christian, though I do not by any means categorize myself as the stereotypical Christian.

      And I should also note that for me, Christianity (as I perceive and practice it) is a mechanism through which I express my God-experience and the faith that resulted from it. Christianity was not the source of my God-experience.

      As for why you don’t hear the “voice” of God, it goes back to whatever religious teachings that have so far influenced you. It is difficult to “hear” God when there are so many competing voices.

      Finally, what does the “God-experience” look/feel like? I can only speak for myself. My own experience was profound and life-changing. I guess I could say it was a moment of intense impression, a moment of exceptional clarity — I suppose you could call it “enlightenment.” The sensation was like — if not in fact actually was — experiencing pure Love. Not the sentimental or hokey kind of love. But that powerful living quality, that sublime essence of Life and Oneness that’s the great undoer of brokenness.

      Question is, how do I “know” that this “Love” was, in fact, God? My best answer is this: because the experience didn’t come from within me. The experience wasn’t the product of my own inner ideas, notions, etc., nor was it triggered by any external inducement. It was absolutely “otherly” in its quality. And perhaps most important of all, it was liberating. Completely and joyfully liberating.

      But it happened when I had finally cast off the doctrines and teachings that I had been programmed with, and then took that frightening risk of being empty and open.

  • Eric

    I think one way to answer this question has something to do with the beginning of this speech that David Foster Wallace once gave:

    “There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

    If you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise old fish explaining what water is, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.”

  • Andrew

    My question then, Eric, is why does everyone talk about how God talks to them all the time? By all I mean all my friends in a small conservative Midwest American town

    • Evelyn

      If people are coming up to you on the street or mentioning in casual conversation that God spoke to them, then I’d question their motives. Some people who are on a power trip like to pretend that they have an “in” with God or they might have low self-esteem and might be trying to prove that they are special because God spoke to them.

      If people are mentioning their experiences with God during a church study group or seminar, then they might just be sharing their experiences and their motives don’t necessarily need to be questioned. Then again, they could be vying for the title of “most God-worthy in this church”.

      There is a book by T.M. Luhrmann called “When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God”. I haven’t read it so can’t necessarily recommend it but the author is probably fairer to evangelicals than I think I could be (i.e. I think churching people is mostly about social control and heirarchy rather than helping people with personal growth whereas there are probably a large number of evangelicals who think that they mean well and deny to themselves that they are are actually being manipulative).

      • http://late-emerger.blogspot.com Andrew

        The Luhrmann book is definitely worth a read. It won’t give a spiritual answer to the question, but might give a psychological and anthropological one. And no, I don’t think that those are (or should be) in conflict with the theological answers.

  • Gregory

    Andrew, I think your question is at least partially a theological. It is a question that has placed me on a journey to understand my self, my faith tradition, and God for most of my adult life. I, like you, was taught from an early age that I could directly experience God through prayer and bible reading. I participated in faith community where it seemed everyone had experiences of literally being spoken to by God. My suspicion grew as I noticed that people seemed to be getting conflicting message form on high. I don’t like everything about the movie The Invention of Lying but I think it illustrates many of the problems that arise when we claim to hear from God directly.

    If we define God anthropomorphically, that is, as a big and very powerful person that is located somewhere else occasionally whispering secret messages or coercing creation into doing God’s will then we will likely understand our own internal dialog to at times be messages form God. However, if we take a more progressive theological position when defining God, say for instance, defining God as Ultimate Reality, or the Ground of Being then we will likely understand our personal experience of God much differently. We all experience reality and being to some extent no matter what we may believe.

    I experience God not in a voice but in stillness, in presence or I might say peace that passes all understanding.

    • Jubal DiGriz

      “I experience God not in a voice but in stillness, in presence or I might say peace that passes all understanding.”

      This summarizes my own experience quite succinctly. That I’m an atheist and always have been might also be an indirect answer to Andrew’s question.

      Looking deeply into the practices of all religions, there are efforts to achieve what has been called “peak experience”. The methods to get there has been the cloistered nun all the way to the blood sacrifice rituals of the Maya. I’m fairly convinced from reading a multitude of accounts, observing practitioners, and trying some of the practices myself, it’s all essentially the same experience.

      I don’t know of a better way to describe that what Gregory said, but I can say that the experience is real and does not require Christianity or even a belief in God to have the experiences that people attribute to God.

      And there are, very sadly, people who do not have “peak experiences”. It does seem to require a certain amount of cultivation and intention. I do hope Andrew has had these opportunities, and has not been distracted by looking for something that doesn’t happen.

  • Mike L.

    I think it is because not everyone is conditioned with the same superstitious thoughts. I suspect most people have the same kinds of sensory experiences, but some people are more conditioned with mystical explanations. On the other hand, some people are preconditioned to examine their experiences more critically. Everyone has the normal experiences of “talking to themselves.” If you are preconditioned with a narrative that your normal experience could really an outside magic voice, then you’ll probably assign some of those thoughts to God when it’s helpful to you. People tend to pick out the thoughts they want to assign to God based on their own conscious or subconscious desires.

    Andrew is simply not a seasoned partaker in superstition. He hasn’t honed the art of cloaking his own desires, anxieties, and motivations in religious language (i.e. “God told me to….”). I would tell Andrew to realize his experiences are exactly like everyone else, but he’s not using the same linguistic techniques to express his experience. It’s the same reason most people don’t read their horoscope and think it is speaking to them.

  • Andrew

    @mike L. — ironically I am a very seasoned partaker. It took a couple years of counseling for anxiety and depression and some stable meds for me to stop attributing the voice of anxiety, guilt an overwhelming depression. Of cOurse no evangelical would say that that was actually god. But having mostly healed it leaves me with an experiential void and a mind that is extremely wary of future experiences and yet desires them as well.

    • Mike L.

      Andrew, by “seasoned partaker”, I’m referring to the level of conditioning to interpret your experience with a mystical explanation. Could you elaborate on your experience a bit? Did you ever have these mystical experiences prior to counseling? Did you attribute your anxiety and guilt with superstitious (supernatural) explanations? I’m just curious. I understand if that’s too personal.

  • Craig

    The issue is made worse by the fact that others’ testimony of supernatural experience and divine guidance is usually quite dubious. Some believers seem to regard it as a requirement of faith to attribute their experiences of psychic turmoil or euphoria to the presence of God. Like Tsar Nicholas, and maybe George W. Bush, many Christians believe that God privately guides them. Since, however, God is invisible, they end up taking as the voice of God their own whims, intuitions, pangs of conscience, or bits of advice or news they stumble upon from chance encounters and a small circle of close acquaintances.

    Though are plenty of cases in which this approach to life fails miserable, these aren’t the cases you’ll hear about in Sunday sermons, personal testimonies, or inspiring memoirs. And when this approach to life succeeds, the success can often be attributed to good luck, bountiful circumstances, and to good natural judgement and commonsense.

  • Luke Allison

    Andrew,

    I actually think this might have something to do with temperament and wiring. I am wired in such a way that I ruminate over thoughts and ideas constantly to the point of anxiety or total emotional breakdown. This often causes me to stuff everything I truly feel as a defense mechanism against pain or fear. I’ve found that the way I “experience God” best is often in service and activity: breathing in the air, getting my hands in the dirt, and interacting with real people in difficult situations. Because my propensity is to be in my own head all the time, I have no real “experience” of God in that portion of my life. I don’t receive “personal revelation”, because my mind is one massive jumble of revelations.

    I’ve become more and more convinced of the idea that our true experience of God is through our interaction with other people in whom he dwells. Remember, according to the story of Scripture, God never intended anything but to dwell “with” his people. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Spirit is poured out into individual bodies who make a corporate bodies.

    The kind of “talking with God” that you describe as your normative understanding (which has been mine too) is far too gnostic for me to give it much credence at this point. God is experienced in the laying on of hands, the sharing of meals, and the washing of feet. When our flesh shows up, Jesus shows up. Ultimately, the Christian hope is for the renewal and restoration and upgrading of all flesh. The ultimate fulfillment of this bodily existence will be a restored and resurrected bodily existence. This is a narrative trajectory I can get behind.

    Now, occasionally, I have felt a strong prompt which causes me to speak something to somebody that turns out to be extremely encouraging or revelatory to them. That has happened on planes once or twice, and frequently in bars and restaurants. But almost never when I’m looking for it.

    So in some ways I echo your question, but I also think that maybe we’re all barking up the wrong sorts of trees.

  • http://robopa.blogspot.com Rob

    What I can offer you is only my experience. It seems from your question that you are equating “experiencing God” with “hearing God’s voice”, or so you have been taught to think of it that way. When I considered myself evangelical, and traveled in those circles, it used to frustrate the hell out of me to hear my friends and TV preachers speak on behalf of God with phrases like “God said…”, “God told me…”, etc. It was as if God called them on their phone and gave them guidance. I never had that experience.

    As I’ve emerged out of evangelicalism into a more holistic expression of mystical spirituality (informed of course by the Christian mystical tradition among others), it has been more helpful to me to experience God apophatically (without images, words). For me, I experience the divine in moments of silent contemplation, in moments of Centering prayer when the egoic self is able to be quiet for a split second before being invaded with another thought, in moments of love expressed in relationship to another person that can’t be contained with words, etc. Of course, I have experienced God kataphatically as well, in those thoughts that arise during times of contemplations, in the conversations with friends about the movement of God within us, etc.

    So, for me, I don’t experience God by God speaking TO me as much as I experience God in the contemplative daily moment to moment existence of living.

  • Pax

    I don’t know why God allows some people to have intense emotional divine/supernatural experiences while others do not. I have had experiences of God, but most of the time I don’t have these experiences, and I don’t discount the possibility that what I think are supernatural experiences are really just delusions or have other natural explanations.

    But, I would take issue with people who tell you that you’re supposed to have these experiences. I don’t think God has ever guaranteed that we would. If Christianity is real, it’s not real because of an emotional experience, it’s real because it’s true. And, you can have faith and believe the truth even if you don’t “feel it” because having faith is an act of the will, not an emotional feeling.

    Many saints were tormented (haunted?) by what you’re experiencing and are still held up as exemplary Christian examples. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is a recent notable example of a committed Christian who experienced spiritual dryness for most of her life. I’m not suggesting that it’s easy, but you can try to not let it haunt you because ultimately, the emotional experience isn’t necessary.

    • http://robopa.blogspot.com Rob

      Great point. I should have clarified, not every moment of prayer or contemplation produces the experience of God for me. Most mystics will say that the purpose of contemplative practice is only to create space, not seek an some outcome. If you are graced with presence during that, awesome, if not, there is still an internal shifting that happens. Some depth psychologists, who appreciate the spiritual aspect, would say that these practices aid in making the unconscious motivations conscious to us, and that alone is worthy in our spiritual development. Most of our God-images are driven by unconscious factors, but that’s a topic for another time.

  • Scot Miller

    I am reminded of Mother Teresa’s “experience of God”. In a letter to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979 , she wrote, “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.” (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1655720,00.html#ixzz27V8z6Wps)

    • http://robopa.blogspot.com Rob

      “Silence is God’s first language” – St. John of the Cross

      One of my favorite quotes that helped me emerge out of the overly kataphatic, wordy, evangelical church.

      • Moulder

        +1. Great quote…

    • Elise

      I was going to refer to Mother Teresa as well.

      In the article linked above, they very neatly summarize the point I was going to make about Mother Teresa: “The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever.”

      The widely held consensus was that Mother Teresa was a Christian, and a faithful one at that. Yet she didn’t hear the voice of God for ~50 years. The evidence seems to point toward the voice of God not being necessary to be a Christian (though I can certainly imagine it would be comforting/reassuring).

      Another point: I’d imagine an infinite, omnipotent, omnipresent, personal God would be able to manage different experiences/expressions of faith. After all, I am different than each of you, and so the way that I relate to Deity, what my soul cries for and needs, is going to be different. Just as different bodies are shaped differently and need different clothing, so do our souls need different experiences of Deity, and for some people, no matter what their longing, they may Need silence, and just not know it.

  • Curtis

    If you want to find God you have to stop looking. Psalm 46:10. At the heart of Christianity is a good heap of Eastern philosophy.

  • Andrew

    @mike L. I think that now I think I had mystical experiences. But I would not have called them
    Mystical at the time because that doesn’t sound biblical enough. I attributed my guilt and anxiety to supernatural explanations. But at the time I did not view them as guilt and anxiety but as god and his response to my personhood

  • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

    Psalm 46:8-10 Not exactly the Tao Te Ching.

    8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.

    9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.

    10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

    Kinda hard to make out if this is about centering yourself peacefully, or destroying everything in your path.

  • http://sandwichesforsale.blogspot.com DagoodS

    The problem is the lack of any objective determination reading what it means to “experience God.” Without a methodology or means of verification, one is free (as amply demonstrated by the variance within the comments thus far) to proclaim “experiencing God” to mean anything whatsoever!

    Silence? One person can declare “experiencing God!”
    Voice? Another—“experiencing God!”
    Nature? Sunsets? Air? A friendly phone call, a Bible opened randomly to about any Psalm, a warm feeling, an experience in tongues, a sickness recovered….God, God, God, God…depending on whom one talks to.

    Not surprisingly, one’s immediate religious culture will impact what one expects a God-experience to be. If Pentecostal—one expects a Pentecostal experience. If Catholic—one expects to see Mary on Toast.

    Andrew, it sounds as if your culture is impacting your expectation regarding what a “God experience” is. And without any methodology to determine whether God is not talking at all, or is talking in a different way, or hasn’t talked yet, leaves you with no means to answer your own question.

    Alas, I can provide no solace. After searching myself for the method, I came to the inescapable conclusion there IS no method—it is only our own feelings, emotions and thoughts we chose to attribute to another being. Much like we anthropomorphize inanimate objects (“My car didn’t want to start.” Screaming at a bowling ball to bend.) we likewise assign our desires, wants and feelings to a God.

  • Sven

    I have always wondered whether “God”s silence has caused any Popes to lose their faith.

    Consider:
    A pious young German boy prays every night, just as his father taught him so. And every night he hears nothing but silence in return.
    Later, the boy joins the priesthood, hoping to serve the community and be closer to God. He prays five times a day, but still hears nothing.
    Eventually, the man becomes Pope. Finally, he is humanity’s direct line to God. At long last, he can commune with the almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth. And when he kneels in prayer, he hears…
    …silence. The same deafening emptiness that he heard when he was a boy.

    • Pax

      If a pope wants to hear God speak, he reads scripture, he doesn’t pray in expectation of receiving some kind of private revelation. The pope’s job is to teach what has already been revealed as public revelation.

  • http://www.bignoseduglyguy.com Buzz

    A crucial and pivotal question for many including myself.

    Raised in a Quaker family in the UK, I spent 30 odd years trying to convince myself I was an atheist or anything other than a follower of Jesus. Returning to faith (as distinct from practising religion/churching-going), I have found that silent worship – the thing that so vexed me about Quaker meetings as a teen – is the thing I seek and cherish most. That said, I still find it hard to exclude the world and centre on Him.

    I am blessed to now live in a beautiful part of rural New Zealand and have found that my surroundings have helped me develop a much deeper gratitude for my place in things, the small group of family and friends I have and the community that I am slowly growing into.

    Thus far, my life has led me to my current conclusion that, like some above and contrary to the warnings of many, I mostly experience Him in two ways: through my emotions and through those that the author Jim Palmer calls ‘divine nobodies’ – the everyday folk we can often overlook but through whom He quietly ministers to us, teaches us and shows us His love*.

    Love for Him and all people, living and contributing to my local community, holding myself accountable, stewarding and sharing what I have with open hands – each day is another opportunity for me to strive for what He teaches and diminish the ‘Me-ness’ in me. I suspect that I haven’t even shifted into second gear yet but that’s OK, I’m learning the value of the journey as I go.

    * as in Matthew 25:31-46

  • Mike L.

    I don’t think Christianity requires someone to be a theist (belief in any supreme beings that intervene in space/time). I’m in favor of Zizek’s brand of Christian Atheism. Atheism has done more for my faith than theism ever did.

    The best thing Christianity could do is to untangle itself from particular metaphysical beliefs. It never was about having different metaphysics. Christianity should return to being a sociopolitical viewpoint, not a set of metaphysical assertions.

    • Tom Estes

      Do you not understand that Christianity exists because the sin of man? Christianity is about Jesus Christ, a man who was also God who came to world to die on the cross to save His people from their sin.

      It’s not a viewpoint, it’s about saving people from God’s eternal wrath in Hell. And if it’s not about that, than who really cares? Let’s all just go about our lives doing whatever we want, and believing whatever we want.

      • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

        Yes, Tom. It is a viewpoint.

        What you offer here is nothing more than your opinion. You repeat, repeat, and repeat the same words but always fail to validate the assertions you make. You then say “the Bible tells me so” but then fail to substantiate the Bible’s validity and veracity. You simply have unqualified belief. Nothing more. And your belief is not the same as truth.

        Your god is a very, very small god if you think his people’s mission is to unceasingly wag their tongues with unintelligible religious drivel in the sole effort to try and depopulate a fictional “hell” and populate a fictional “heaven.”

        Yes. A very small god indeed.

        • Tom Estes

          My God is small, yet I believe Him to be the infallible Creator of all things who sent His only begotten Son into the world to save sinners.

          Your god is big because you believe him to be whatever a person wants him to be. Makes sense.

          • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

            Key words in your remarks Tom: “I believe Him to be ….”

            You “believe.” This means, essentially, that your god is a projection of what you perceive — no, manufacture, to be more accurate — in your own mind. And that’s what you worship.

            And while I could be mistaken, I’m pretty sure I’ve never discussed my God-experience here on Tony’s blog. Having said that . . . God — i.e., the limitless living essence of Love and Life that pervades all Creation — is most definitely bigger than the despicable little vindictive character that your imagination projects.

          • Tom Estes

            Well, that settles it, you hate the God of the Bible. I’m sure there are many reasons for your hatred, but you hate Him most of all because He is good, and you’re not.

            I know this will be hard to swallow, but please hear what I say. God is just and good, and this is why you, and most of the others on this blog hate God. You see, an honest and good judge would never let a criminal go free, and if he did, the world would hate him. It is the good judges that we love because they hold criminals accountable for their crimes, and punish them according the laws of the land.

            It is this way with God. Because God is good, He punishes those who break His laws, which is everyone. But thankfully His Son came and paid the penalty for our sin, so if we repent and believe on Christ, we can have our penalty paid by Christ, while those who don’t repent are left to pay the penalty themselves.

            Please don’t mistake what I say here. This is why you hate God. You hate Him because He is just and good, and like a good judge He will punish all who break His laws. You call this vindictive, but I call it good, and so would any other born again Christian.

            Think what you want, say what you want, I won’t respond to you anymore.

          • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

            How dare I not see things as you see them, right Tom? How dare I!!!!

            Here’s a key phrase from your rant above:

            this is why you, and most of the others on this blog hate God.

            So it’s not just me, then. Almost everyone else here on Tony’s blog (and no doubt Tony himself) “hates God,” according to you.

            If this is your conclusion Tom, then why even participate on this blog at all? Is it because you feel it’s your duty to bear witness to whatever “truth” you believe in? If so, then you’re preaching to the wrong crowd. Do you think none of us have ever heard the message of your brand of religion before? My goodness, Tom, many of us here grew up believing exactly as you do (or at the very least having already been exposed to it ad nauseam). None of this is new to any of us (or at least most of us).

            Deep down, Tom, I suspect you feel you have something to prove. “Hey, I’ll just go over there to Tony Jones’ blog and give those sinful, God-hating unbelievers a piece of my righteous mind.”

            That, Tom, is your attitude. Judgmental. Over-righteous. Haughty. And it’s been manifest in your demeanor since you got here.

            I would venture to say that none of us are here because we have a desire to convert others, judge others, or persuade each other to see things “our way” just because we think they have it all wrong. No, Tom. Though I only speak for myself, I’ll venture to say that for almost everyone here it’s about an open dialog. It’s about the value we find in the discussion, in the disagreements, in the varying perspectives. It’s all about an open door. And when you slam that door and nail it shut, all you do is create a wall.

            And I’ll be bold to say most of us on here have a deep and abiding love for God. Which may explain one reason why none of us have treated you the way you have treated us.

  • ME

    “If Christianity is for real, why am I not able to have experiences of God?”

    Of course this isn’t a one size fits all. A couple things that were important in my life. Once I allowed myself to wholly believe in Jesus, to know that I don’t know, and to believe in him anyway, that helped me be more receptive to the experiences you want. Another helpful thing was to read a lot of different viewpoints on Jesus in order to better understand his will.

  • Paul W

    I have a deeply intuitive belief in God but I don’t believe that I have ever heard him speaking. I HOPE-TO-GOD THAT IN THIS LIFE THAT I NEVER DO. I get stressed out merely having to have a conversation with the Executive Director at the agency I work. So I hope you can just imagine how deeply unsettling it would be for me to listen to God vocalize something he wanted to inform me about.

    Now, I’ll readily admit that I am often baffled by popular Evangelical religious experience. And to be perfectly honest, the Evangelical compulsion to hear God’s voice and then the vexation over not hearing it is one that I simply do not understand. Why anyone would desire this let alone be haunted by it is totally beyond me. Nonetheless, I do have pity for the existential angst that so many Evangelical experience on such issues.

  • T. Webb

    Mormons say that when they experience a sense of God, they feel a warm burning sensation in their heart. I don’t know about that… I get a warm burning sensation in my heart when I eat spicy Tex-Mex food. Moreover, recent drugs have been developed that can give people feelings of “spiritual” sensation or experience even if they don’t believe in god (!). If it’s just a sensation you’re after, then be very careful. Maybe drugs or an orgasm is all you need.

    The historical Protestant perspective is/was that we experience God through word and sacrament. The reading/hearing/preaching/praying of scripture and Holy Baptism (which has continuing effects through the Christians whole life) as well as the Eucharist. In this way, the presence of God is mediated through means that Protestants believe that God established for meeting with us. Evangelicals, however, refused to believe that God’s presence was mediated, and preferred an “immediate” experience of God, that is, directly, usually or even often apart from means.

    I doubt that will help, and I’m sure it will be torn utterly to pieces by others or more likely ignored, but there you go.

  • Tom Estes

    I believe that questions like these are great, it’s generally the answers that are a waste of time.

    Andrew, the only way to experience God is to repent of your sin and trust Christ. There is no way that one who is lost will be able to have an experience concerning God at any point in their life.

    If you say, “Well, I’m saved.” I would say first of all that that is great. Then I would say that God never leaves nor forsakes us, but we do run from Him quite often. Go to God in prayer and read the Bible. You might say again, “I’m doing that.” My answer would be to do it more. Do you pray 15 minutes a day? Pray for thirty. Do you pray for thirty? Then pray for an hour. I would say the same about your Bible reading. God says “All that come unto me, I will in no wise cast out.”

    In short, the only way to experience God is to go to God. Sadly, it’s usually the last place that people who want to experience God want to go.

  • MarkE

    Andrew:
    It took me a while in my Christian journey to realize that most of the people that talked that way were merely speaking in code.

    When I was more naïve, I was fascinated to hear about how these people had such direct communications and experiences with God, so much so that I would press deeper with questions to better understand what was going on with them (not in a cynical way, but with genuine interest). Once I pinned them down on their experiences, they sounded less dramatic. The “God told me…” turned out to be no more mystical than many of the strong impressions most of us have about what we ought to do – especially if some form of contemplation is involved.

    I have never felt comfortable with using such code language. It just confuses people and raises questions like yours.

    I agree with many of the comments. What I observe is that most people have mystical experiences, though they are infrequent, unpredictable, and ineffable. Though there are no formulas or guarantees, intentional contemplative practices and compassionate activities seem to provide fertile ground for experiences that are different in kind from the typical. Problem is, the church in general does a poor job of teaching this.

    @Tom: Don’t be so dismissive of previous comments. What you are suggesting is in the same class (contemplative). Your formula is not necessarily the only or right one. We both believe that if we seek, ask, or knock good things happen.

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