Monday, May 18, 2009

Experiential Religion and Ethics

I would like to pull a couple of ideas together based on several of the previous posts. The first observation is that the early Christian communities, whether Jewish or Hellenistic, practiced a form of experiential religion. That is they were Christians who believed they were led by God's Spirit because they experienced God's presence in a variety of ways, including baptism, the Lord's Supper, prophecy, speaking in tongues, etc. And these various communities were tied together with a common devotion to Jesus.

Second, much of the attention of the leadership of these early Christian communities was given to instruction in right living. Pick your New Testament book, and it will be filled with encouragement and instruction on how to live out one's faith, how to follow Jesus. One of the earliest names for the Jesus movement was the Way.

How much of the agenda of modern, progressive Christianity includes creating more ways for members to experience God (instead of just being taught about God)? Can it be done without devolving into hyper-spiritualism and charismatic anti-intellectualism? And can progressive Christianity build on its strength of promoting social justice and inclusiveness to better help members develop a more "devout and holy life" that includes ethical reflection and personal decision making?

What venues do you have to experience God? How does your church help you to make ethical decisions?

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