Pastor's Blog

The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.  (Proverbs 14.10)

There is a sense in which each of us is an island.  No one can understand or share our internal experiences, feelings, or perceptions with exact precision.

If that is true, we ought not expect that of others.  More than that, if that is true, trying to maintain unity among people around internal experiences will not be a very successful venture.  Yet evangelicals often seem to want to do just that.

Being “born again” (to use Jesus’ terminology) or being “regenerated” (to use the apostle Paul’s) is an internal experience, a work of God inside a person.  And evangelicals often think that the thing that must unite us is sharing the common experience of spiritual rebirth.

But how can people unite around a common internal experience?  How can I be sure that what you experienced within you was exactly what I experienced within me?  And if we didn’t experience the exact same thing, how can we be sure which of us is authentically born again?

I’ve been in conversations where people questioned the genuineness of another’s internal spiritual experience. 

“I’m not sure that that person is born again.  It doesn’t sound like they had the same experience I had.”

You will never know whether they did or not.  Proverbs 14.10 says you can’t.

This doesn’t mean that rebirth cannot be truly experienced, or that internal experiences aren’t genuine or can’t be shared at all.  It only means that I have no way of assessing or judging with any certainty or precision your internal experiences or feelings, nor can you assess mine.

Because spiritual experiences are internal, they don’t serve well as a foundation for unity.  Things that create unity (or community) among us must be external to us – things that all of us can observe and grasp and agree upon together, like a creed or a statement of faith.

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