Tag Archives: experience

Anna’s Story | Interpreting Experience (117)

In this episode John and Gregg connect with long-time listener “Anna.”

Anna was the first Untangling Christianity listener to respond with feedback to John and Gregg and has been listening for over 2 years now.  Anna explains how she was listening to many podcasts about Christianity at that time but responded to John and Gregg because she found them to be “approachable.”

Anna describes her own Christian situation as having had some remarkably intimate and compelling experiences of God’s presence, and yet finding other Christians unable (or unwilling) to accept that Anna’s experiences are valid.

More difficult still, Anna explains how these experiences have stopped, and how she longs to feel re-connected with God in this way (and lonely because of this absence).

98: Examining Exceptional Experiences

In this podcast John and Gregg once again return to “the Eagle” in order to discuss the notion of experience and, particularly, to contrast everyday experiences with exceptional experiences.

Gregg begins by explaining how he wants to relate exceptional experiences, and particularly experiences of God, to something called Speech Act theory (by J. L. Austin). John seeks a definition for experience and Gregg believes that experiences in general are composed of—and require—three components: 1) an external event that I can recognize and evaluate as being “really there,” 2) my own action of recognizing and evaluating such an event, and 3) my responses to whatever I recognized and evaluated.

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93: The Eagle Circles Again

In this episode John and Gregg revisit their discussion from last podcast, where they considered the validity of claiming that certain experiences are “from God.”

In this episode they discuss the example of “the eagle” (i.e., being on a hike with a group of people and seeing an eagle in the sky, and one person claims that “God put that eagle there for me.”). Gregg sees this as essentially a “faith claim” and wonders about the reason for making such a claim. So if the eagle was put there by God for this person, what is the significance of such an act?

Gregg speculates that perhaps someone is “having a good day” and the presence of the eagle is simply a form of reassurance / a way of punctuating those feelings. But Gregg believes that interpreting such experiences as being “of God” can also be (and more likely, is often) taken by the recipient as a way of validating the thoughts / understandings that accompany those feelings.

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92: Questioning Experiences of God

In this episode John and Gregg discuss some of Gregg’s ideas about how / what it means to “experience God.”

Reflecting on their past discussion in episode #77,  John wonders if Gregg views God’s action in the world being solely for the purpose of furthering God’s kingdom rather that touching / engaging with people individually?

Gregg counters that he views God to have acted in a very personal way in his life, as an individual, and that people should expect God to act personally. Yet Gregg’s belief is that this “personal action” will not necessarily occur individually, and so we need to be careful not to confuse the expectation that God will act in meaningful, personal ways in people’s lives with the expectation that God will necessarily so act in my life.

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77: Was That Experience Really God?

John begins by presenting the new, “Untangling Christianity” private Facebook group. John explains that the goal of this group is to be a place for deeper conversation about subjects raised on or related to the podcasts, and that the group can be accessed by sending us an email request.

In this episode John and Gregg discuss a comment made on the Untangling Christianity Facebook group by listener Anna, referring to Episode #71: Does God Act Individually or Personally?.

Anna disagrees with Gregg’s skepticism about certain claims to experience God, such as when seeing an eagle on a hike one might believe: “God put that eagle in the sky for me.” Anna agrees that we can’t be certain if God put the eagle there ‘for’ the hiker, but if the hiker interprets the eagle as “a demonstration of [God’s] love and attention” then, in her view, we should not question the hiker’s belief about this. To do so would essentially be claiming that “there is no way that God would go out of his way to do that for you: you really aren’t that important.”

Gregg appreciates Anna’s response and notes that we need to be careful in several regards. First, not every action or expression that God may make toward an individual should be seen as aimed at expressing love and attention. In other words, communication can be oriented toward informing, assuaging, correcting, promising, guiding, etc. This is clear in human interaction, and so too with God: we see numerous examples in the Bible of God interacting with human beings according to these various orientations.

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