Are You Experienced?

(with apologies to James Marshall Hendrix)

Andrew,

I think experience along with temperament are two of the great, unspoken sources of theology. If there’s a reason that so many diverse theologies have been spun out of Christianity’s shared body traditions and writings. What you or I see or experience, and how we experience it from an age too early for us to be forming coherent theologies must inevitably shape us.

A simple example from my own life: I have hard time getting too worked up about denominational distinctives and I think this partially derives from knowing my grandfather was a refugee from the Irish civil war. Knowing this when I was younger, less accustomed to the idea of religiously-inspired war, was the sort of thing that surely made me think that this was so stupid and antithetical to Christianity.

Of course maybe this is where our temperaments come into play, because it seems just as likely that I could have concluded that the other side was all to blame. There are lots of expatriate supporters of the warring sides in Ireland. In many cases, their rationalization was surely something like, “we were driven out of that place by the infidels on the other side” or something like that. In other words, it is the same reason that I give for wanting the troubles to go away for good. I’m not sure how I never managed to identify with that mindset.

So I don’t know. Do we create our own lessons from our experiences?