One of the key conversations we regularly share is that of the problem of God. This is not as classically conceived as the problem of God’s power, goodness, and the reality of evil. It is instead conceived as a problem of experiénce, as confirmed and validated only in and through experience as the pursuit of relational engagement with God. Here the notion of experiénce includes experimentation and relational engagement.
Here we begin with the recognition that our urban environment, which includes our religion and spirituality, is not about the experience of God. Yet it is within our urban desert, which serves as a rich environment for experiencing God, that we need to pursue and engage God. But how do we go about doing that? This is problematic as people are raised to believe on a God by faith and yet faith is not tied to experience while being strongly disconnected therefrom. And so, as many religions and their claims about God, we are not able to solve the problem through classical arguments as though there is somehow a proof for God in the historical roots and institutionalized traditions of religions. The religions make the problem of God a tremendously diverse and complex issue resulting in the-idea-of God as varied, nuanced, and not easily answered. The problem of God is not something we can meaningful solve apart from God’s availability in Person. How then do we understand the experience of God? In Part 1 we explore this as a broader phenomenon present in primal religions, contemporary spiritualism, and the three great monotheisms or Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
I’ve been writing about the institutional model of church and understand both Catholicism and Protestantism to hold to this model, gathering people to worship and then respectively the Eucharist and Message. Yet the church is not an institution but rather an organism consisting of the people who are the Ekklesia. Nevertheless, despite the reality of the Ekklesia as the people the practice of the Christian faith as Catholics and Protestants has long centered what it means to be a practicing Christian on attending a meeting held in a building, by ordained staff or clergy with approved volunteers, and makes attendance and membership synonymous with a saving faith.
The third key conversation that’s regular at Urban Mystic is about how to cultivate, nurture or develop a relationship with God. This conversation is tied up with people’s past experience of God and their present lack thereof. And the questions asked differ depending on whether people are spiritual but not religious, committed to spirituality and not religion, or committed Christians. Common to each is the realization that they’re not meeting with and experiencing God.
What’s common to each is that everyone has the capacity to recognize God’s Presence and hear God’s voice. Everyone has an awareness of God expressed as having recognized God’s Presence, activity and voice at some point in their life. Virtually everyone remembers a life experience where they were aware of God being there. This may be in a dream but that’s less common than being awake during the experience. Most experience God drawing near to support, assure, strengthen and encourage them during a life crisis while experience God protecting them during a life threatening situation. Also common to the experience is the tendency for others to explain their experience of God away. People don’t often tell this story because of the way others respond, but it continues to challenge the default faith position in society that God is not.Continue reading →
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