Too much about your experience?

This may be something of a rant.  In fact, I think there are some ways in which I'm wrong about this (see below).  But I really want to read and hear less about people's personal experience.  The thing is, I've read quite a lot of Christian books and listened to talks on controversial topics over the last few years and frankly I'm getting tired of the huge amounts of autobiography I have to wade through.

It usually goes something like this.  I'm writing about controversial topic X.  I've had a real battle with X over the years.  I had so many difficult and thought-provoking experiences with X that I've had to reflect deeply, which means you should really listen to me about X, because of my deep and challenging experience.

Can I say to anyone writing one of those books, I'm not that interested in your experience!  I'm interested in your arguments, your reasons and particularly in your explanation of how Scripture relates to it.  I take 2 Timothy 3:16-17 seriously.  I really believe Scripture fully equips me.  In fact, I find it pretty frustrating that you're trying to soften me up to your viewpoint too often by telling me a sob story of some sort.  Is it harsh to say we need to understand that our authority doesn't come from our experience?  I know almost everyone in our culture thinks it does. But, if I'm a Christian, I know it doesn't don't I?  My authority is God - what he says in his word (the Bible).  Take me there as fast as possible.  Help me understand what you're saying from there and you'll convince me.  Psalm 119 is true on the importance, value, significance and joy of grappling with, knowing and obeying what God has said.  The Bereans got it right to search the Scriptures to see if Paul was telling them the truth (Acts 17:11).  The arbiter and authority is Scripture.

I have to be honest, to a degree this frustration probably has its roots in my research-science background - there weren't too many autobiographical details in those research papers!  You were taught to look relentlessly to the evidence, the logic and the argument.  All else was fluff  and to be ignored.  You played the argument, not the person.

And this is why I have to admit I may, in part, be wrong, because being a Christian isn't research science. More than that, I know the Bible writers use story and biography to make a theological point and that the early Christians used testimony as part of their ministry.  I know that Christianity is experiential and that truth lives in the real world.  More than that, rich experience reflected through a biblical lens is of course very helpful in directing our minds and hearts to connect Scripture to life.  Of course, at a pastoral level, we have to think carefully about applying truth to life. Honestly, I get it.

But do you, like me, sometimes feel it's all backwards?  The autobiography, the experience, is what it's all about. Subtly it becomes the authority, with Scripture tagged on to ratify it.  Personally I can't live with that methodology.

OK, rant over, back to work :-)


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