Can you experience God? Some would claim that if God exists, it would be impossible to experience Him. Yet many others would claim to have experienced the Divine. In this podcast, I talk about the different ways I believe we can experience God, and what the greatest experience we can have of God actually looks like…
The idea of experiencing God might sound a little troublesome to some people. Maybe even a little “woo woo.” After all, if there is a God, then God doesn’t appear perceivable by our five senses. For example, I’ve never bumped into God in the same way my toe has bumped into my nightstand in the middle of the night.
To claim to experience God might be a philosophical category that some would outright deny as a possibility altogether. After all, if God exists, He exists outside of the created order, existing entirely separated from the physical universe. Otherwise, God would be something we could experience as we do any other physical thing that exists in our universe.
Which means then, if someone claims to experience God, they might just be borderline delusional, because it’s categorically impossible.
Yet in spite of such agnostic philosophical objections to the contrary, there would yet be millions, if not perhaps billions, of people in the world that would claim not only is it possible to experience God, but that they themselves have done so at some level.
For most people, this means that God is experienced in a way that transcends our five senses and the realm of physical reality. This means we experience God in a way we perceive as fundamentally spiritual. It’s something that many of us have experienced in some measure for which no argument carries any weight. As the old saying goes, “A man with an argument is at the mercy of a man with an experience.” So no matter the strength of the argument, it’s going to be hard to trump that experience with words to the contrary. And as result, there’s a lot of people who claim to experience God.
For which, there are a lot of different religious opinions as to exactly what that means, and it definitely puts us into the realm of that “woo woo” that I mentioned earlier. And its that “woo woo” that makes so many people uncomfortable, because it altogether seems vague, subjective, mysterious, and altogether iffy.
Yet for those who’ve claimed to have had some sort of transcendent experience of the Divine, the experience to them, no matter how much it’s wrapped up in mystery and subjective feelings, is a concrete experience that’s just as real as anything in the known universe.
As a Christian, I believe that there’s certainly a transcendent experience of God that all mankind can experience in all of creation in some vague and general way, I believe such an experience is very limited. Theologians call this “general revelation.” It’s the knowledge and experience of God that’s available to all of humanity through the created order. It’s the feeling of God one gets when watching a sunset, or a seeing a child laugh.
For as a Christian, I believe that God is best experienced through the person Jesus Christ. For Christians, God goes from this vague cosmic Star Wars like force in the universe, to being someone that is personal and real.
This is what the heart of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, God made flesh, is ultimately about. For the thousand ways God may be experienced through creation, it is through the incarnation of Jesus Christ that God becomes a person with a face that we can actually behold, and is someone we can tangibly know and experience.
Through Jesus Christ, God is no longer some impersonal cosmic deity that exists somewhere “out there,” but He is someone that can be experienced in the here and now, even as you and I know one another.
As Christians we believe that Jesus Christ is the very fullness and likeness of God. To experience Jesus is to experience God in all the fullness and richness of how God wants us to experience Him and to make Him known to the world. Jesus Christ is the fullness of God made flesh, and in that flesh God has made Himself known fully to the world.
Our experience of God, therefore, is a Christ centered experience. Everything else by comparison, is incomplete.
But what does that mean to experience Christ? For Jesus has ascended to the right hand of God in heaven. We cannot like John, claim to have touch, seen, and handled the Bread of Life.
Yet Jesus told us when He left that we would not be abandoned as orphans. Rather that He would send the Spirit of God to live in our hearts, and that we would carry God’s very presence with us wherever we go.
As a result, we continue to experience Jesus Christ in a very tangible way. So tangible He might as well be physically present.
And I think this is an important point to make. For often I hear of many Christians speak of “mystical” and “transcendent” experiences with God. And I sympathize with such verbiage , and understand well what they mean.
But there is a sloppy way of speaking about mystical and transcendent experiences with God as if this is the pinnacle of spiritual experiences. I think the writings of so-called “Christian mystics” like Richard Rohr drip with such notions. And many people like him and admire many other historical “Christian mystics” who seem to be operating at a level of spirituality that skips over Jesus altogether, almost making Jesus seemingly unimportant, as experiencing the “transcendent” is more important.
But let me remind you that notions of transcendence fits into the category of general revelation. Mysticism is a very elementary school sorta thing. It’s not the place where the graduate level experience of God exists. It’s such a basic thing it might as well be classified as pagan. Because even godless pagans have such experiences, yet they live their lives entirely divorced from following Christ.
“Christ in you!“ is greater than any transcendent experience of God in the general revelation of Him.
That is, Jesus Christ living incarnate through the Holy Spirit, in you, with you, and through you, in your day to day grind… that’s the rich stuff of the faith and where Christ is experienced.
And if Christ is in you, and Christ is in others, then the greatest of Christian spiritual experiences is always to be found in the presence of other Christians, in Christ centered community.
That’s why we should never “forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” For if we do such, we’ll become isolated, thinking our private mystical experiences are greater than the experience we can have with each other. And in being together, we can like John, claim to have seen, handled, and touched the Bread of Life.
Everything else, as great as it can be, is just “woo woo.”