Saturday, March 31, 2007

Experience As a Theological Source

Nicholas Knisely has an interesting discussion of experience as a theological source of authority that amplifies my last post, which in turn had relied on an earlier post by Nicholas. He elaborates on how our personal experience can indeed be a valid source of authority on theological matters, even in the traditional Anglican triad of scripture, authority and reason:

"But there's an implicit thinking in that essay that I really need to make more explicit. It has to do with the methodology of using human experience as a theological source or even as a norm. It is my understanding that one of the differences between the Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church is that Methodists explicitly allow human experience into the Episcopal triad of Scripture, Tradition and Reason as one of the sources of theological inquiry. If it's not true for Methodists, it's certainly true for some of the newer methods of doing theology (feminist, liberation, queer, etc.)

"The standard critique of using human experience as a source for theology is that one of the tenets of the faith is that our human nature is ontologically flowed. If we can't fully trust reason - which we supplement with other sources - then how much less can we trust our human experience.

"But, as I argue in that paper, there is I believe a way to use human experience in theologically useful manner.

"In a nutshell then, the way theological inquiry really works is that we begin by having an experience. Something about that experience seems holy or connected to God. We test that sense of the numinous by examining our triad of sources and norms to see if that sense can be validated. In other words, experience is the source of our theological inquiry in that it leads us to ask the questions in the first place.

. . .

"This is a question I've been thinking about for years because it seems to me to be at the core of how science and religion need to interact when it comes to moral questions. (Science is not only the source of the experience but it is also strongly present in the use of Reason as a norm.)"

Read it all.

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