Monday, February 9, 2009

Sound Off 02-10-09

Yes, I skipped a day.

Scriptulicious was telling me a story about how Biggums was talking to a guy about his religious experiences (feeling a supernatural presence, somehow). Scrip can fill in the details, but apparently she asked the guy about people of other faiths who had such experiences; were their experiences real? He apparently replied that "the mind can play tricks on you". So, she asked how he knew his religious experiences weren't just his mind playing tricks on him, to which he replied that "it was a matter of faith".

Today's questions are for theists, or "recovering" theists, only:

Have you had a religious experience? How do you know it was authentic, and not a delusion? Is there any better answer than "it was a matter of faith"? Are the the religious experiences of people from other faiths valid?

(Don't miss Scrip's new post, which I just bumped down)

34 comments:

  1. Hey Philo,

    My first encounter with doubt about my experience happened when I began to speak in tongues at age 15.

    Not growing up in a Pentecostal or Charismatic church, I was always fascinated with "speaking in tongues" and other supposedly supernatural manifestations of the spirit. When I experienced a "baptism in the spirit" in August of 1995 during, I began to speak in tongues (long story). I remember the immediate euphoria that I felt with the experience. I went to sleep that night believing that God was moving my lips, and I feared falling asleep lest I loose it.

    Through the teachings of Word of Faith teacher Kenneth Haggin and then more centrist teachings from the Assembly of God denomination, I came to believe that "speaking in tongues" was the only way to directly plug one's spirit into God for refreshment or a recharge. So, I added "speaking in tongues" to my daily personal prayer routine. I can remember kneeling at my bed, "speaking in tongues" and thinking to myself, "I believe in faith that this is strengthening my spirit [despite my lack of feeling]." Sometimes I would jump, skip, and dance around in privacy while "speaking in tongues" and work myself up into a bit of dirvishly ecstatic emotion, but more often, I "spoke in tonuges" on my knees.

    Then, the question was raised to me by my mother, "How do you know that it is not the devil making you speak in tongues?" Wow, that struck home. I would occasionally contemplate that while I prayed, but I found I had to take such thoughts "captive to Christ" because they displayed a lack of faith. Eventually, these thoughts overtook me. I remember praying to God, asking for the gift of tongues to be removed if it was from the devil. Later I recall reasoning with God that I would stop speaking in tongues because I did not want to be unwittingly blaspheming through demonic influence in some demo-babel.

    It took me about four years of tongue speaking before I finally realized that it was a purely psychological function of my mind. I finally became convinced by reading Charismatic Chaos by John MacArthur. He has an excellent chapter on the non-linguistic nature of modern tongues. This process of questioning my experience at the time lead me to a more objective, solid commitment to the "objective Word of God." I now see that it was a major step toward a more skeptical view of the world and faith experience. All religious experiences are, in my thinking, a form of "speaking in tongues."

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  2. Supernatural or religious experiences can be either of God or of the demonic realm. The counterfeit can mimic the real. I have experienced both kinds.

    How do I know I have experienced God? Sort of along the same lines as how do you know you have experienced true love. There is true love. And there is lust, infatuation, etc.

    If someone asked you how you know your love is true, how would you answer? Probably something along the lines of “I just know.”

    That’s my answer about experiencing God. “I just know.” To experience God is life changing. To know Him is to love Him. It is Real, Enduring, Comforting, Unforgettable. Just like true love.

    God IS Love (1 John 4, etc.).

    And, by the way, His Voice really sounds “like many waters.”

    I have only heard it on one occasion. I “heard” it....yet the Voice seemed to be within me. Other times have been sudden thought impressions or “hearing” His voice through Scripture....with confirmations following (2 or 3 “witnesses” required, according to Scripture.) The mistake many religious zealots make is mistaking their own thoughts for a message from the LORD. This can lead to religious abuse of others with proclamations supposedly from God. We must be very careful in recognizing the human tendency to err, imagine things, etc. To err is human. To love, Divine.

    Still....there is the reality of God. He does communicate with ordinary people on occasion as evidenced in the Bible. Note that He spoke to a woman named Hagar, a little boy named Samuel, a farmer named Amos, etc. It was not just spiritual giants such as Moses who heard God’s voice.

    He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). We should not be too surprised if God knocks on our heart’s door and speaks.
    .

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  3. I want to comment, but I feel like I've already told my story.

    Maybe later I'll think of a condensed version to contribute. But my experiences have some interesting similarities to Scriptulicious.

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  4. I went to the Royale Buddhist temple in Thailand which is the largest Buddhist temple in Thailand. Its more of tourist attraction then the Royale Palace next door complete with tour groups and sales of souviners. It was absolutely beautiful with amazing artwork and the closer you got to the central holy place the more gold there was in decoration. An extremely attractive young Thai woman instructed me that in order to go into the central most holy place where the large gold Buddha was I had to take my shoes off. In Thailand you take your shoes off before you enter anyone's home so I had no problem with it at all. When I walked in I was absolutely struck with a feeling of a supernatural presence. It was at that point I was told I had to sit in the presence of Budda with my body towards him and my feet pointed away from him. Basically she told me to kneel. I made eye contact and winked at the young woman instructing me before I walked out without kneeling.

    I did not then nor do I now think that supernatural presence was Buddha but I think that God was with me. I do you know for sure logically that it was authentic, and not a delusion. Its not my place to say if religious experiences of people from other faiths are valid and I won't make an attempt to explain them.

    Tandi:

    If someone asked me if my love was true my answer would be: "Because I choose to love. Love is not a feeling or an experience. Love is a choice to put someone elses needs before your own unconditionally."

    I can relate to your "I just know" answer to experienceing God. I'm not sure that its something that can be explained correctly to anyone else. Its a personal thing.

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  5. Love is a feeling, an experience, a choice, a commitment. All of the above.

    Even without the feelings and the experience of true love, we can choose to love and commit to love unconditionally. But the experience, when real, lingers as a life-changing event that impacts life going forward. The fond memory spurs commitment in the dry times, when love is not undulating with waves of bliss.

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  6. I could write a lot on love and how the feelings associated with it are not part of love but that has nothing to do with your comparison. Perhaps 1 Corinthians 13:13 supports your comparison grouping love with faith and hope.

    The majority of my definition of love comes from the Bible combined with loving my children before they were even born. Script, Philo, Uruk, regardless of your definition of love where does your definition come from?

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  7. > An extremely attractive young Thai woman instructed me that in order to go into the central most holy place where the large gold Buddha was I had to take my shoes off.

    >It was at that point I was told I had to sit in the presence of Budda with my body towards him and my feet pointed away from him. Basically she told me to kneel. I made eye contact and winked at the young woman instructing me before I walked out without kneeling.


    See! See! Zee, that's exactly what Trinket would have done!

    Especially the wink. I know he would have done that!

    :-)

    Maybe it isn't anyone's place to determine the authenticity of someone else's religious experience.

    That being the case, we cannot impose our experiences on others, either. Then, the spiritual become personal and private. Subject to the interpretation of the one who had the experience.

    Maybe this is why the skeptic refuses to accept religious experience as a means of evidence for any particular religious doctrine.

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  8. > That being the case, we cannot impose our experiences on others, either. Then, the spiritual become personal and private. Subject to the interpretation of the one who had the experience.

    I agree 100%.

    > Maybe this is why the skeptic refuses to accept religious experience as a means of evidence for any particular religious doctrine.

    I also refuse to accept religious experience as a means of evidence for religious doctrine. I apply that to both my personal expereinces and to those of others.

    Maybe I should read "The Deer and the Cauldron" so that I can see what you are talking about.

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  9. Hello Scrip, All....

    Yes, much of tongues speaking is gibberish, counterfeit, demonic. and pyschological. But all of it?

    I heard one mild-mannered man speak out in church in a booming voice that sounded like a train. It put the fear of God in me. Yet it was the only time I heard what I considered “authentic” tongues speaking in that charismatic church unscripturally dominated by women.

    I don’t know what to make of my limited tongues speaking experiences.

    I still remember the first words

    And they sound a bit Hebrew!

    This was before i ever knew a thing about the Hebrew language or had even read through the Bible completely (early 1980’s).

    Perhaps you can interpret for me:

    Eloi rama so shoshonai...


    Is there any true linguistic connections here? I no longer speak in tongues since doubting the experience myself many years ago, reading MacArthur’s book, etc. Yet I remember these words...and as I am now studying the Hebrew language I see hints of Hebrew here. Shoshonai is a word, right? What does it mean? Does the phrase make any sense at all?

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  10. Forgive me for posting this here, but I do not remember what thread asked the question about true religion.


    What is the true or right religion?

    I have been thinking about this question but do not yet have a cohesive answer.

    Some initial thoughts:

    The one in harmony with Moses and the Prophets.

    The one that does not negate large portions of Scripture as “somebody else’s mail’ as per Dispensationalism.

    The one that is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Yeshua

    The one that relates the Gospel of the Kingdom spoken by Yeshua

    The one Yeshua will set up at His Return.

    In the meantime....

    Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)

    Wesley's notes: The only true religion in the sight of God, is this, to visit - With counsel, comfort, and relief. The fatherless and widows - Those who need it most. In their affliction - In their most helpless and hopeless state. And to keep himself unspotted from the world - From the maxims, tempers, and customs of it. But this cannot be done, till we have given our hearts to God, and love our neighbour as ourselves.

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  11. I once heard a woman speaking in tongues in a large church. Everyone stopped as a woman shouted from the back (she was about five rows behind me.) The pastor went with it and made quite a show out of it. Apperently he didn't see that she was obviously of hispanic decent and it was clear he didn't know Spanish or he would have known she was condemning the church was being influenced by satan.

    Wait... does that mean I have the spiritual gift of translating speaking in tongues? I do not believe speaking in tongues is from God unless there is someone there to translate and it results in revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction.

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  12. Interesting... and how did you come to the conclusion that no form of Catholism fits your description? Personally I think there are posers in every denomination well except for Zeeism since there is only one Zeeist.

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  13. I never heard of Charismatic Chaos by John MacArthur. I wonder where I'd be if I had read that five years ago.

    For the Apostolic Faith believer, tongues is the sign of the Holy Ghost filling you. If you do not have a tongues experience, you have not been filled with the Spirit of God-- according to the doctrine.

    Follow those implications. The Apostolic Faith imposes a religious experience upon all their followers. And anyone who has not had the experience is automatically excluded from the family of God.

    If someone had the ability to convince me that tongue speaking was either demonic or just psycho-babel back when I was devout, I'm not sure what I'd do! That was our proof!

    That's something for me to think on.

    In the Apostolic church, everyone spoke out all at once or in a corner, or running up and down the aisles. Interpretation was only sought if maybe a preacher was in the middle of a sermon and the congregation was quite and someone stuck out like a sore thumb. Those conditions don't happen often. When that finally happened, no one could interpret.

    But, when I left the Apostolic Church and went to Church of God, I heard people "interpret" tongues for the first time. But, it was always the same person doing the interpreting.

    Hmmmm . . .

    Zee:

    I (obviously) really enjoyed the Deer and the Cauldron.

    And obviously, I can't say if you'll like the story or not.

    I mean well when I compare you to Trinket.

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  14. Uruk:

    I believe that both speaking in tongues and the interpretation of speaking in tongues are both gifts of the Spirit. I don't think those are gifts that are regularly given out so it seems logical to me that when you went to Church of God there was only one doing the interpreting. I probably would still have some doubts about the validity but I wasn't there.

    Its clear that you mean well when you compare me to Trinket. I'm just curious at this point. I checked the local library and they don't have the Deer and the Cauldron and the cost of the book on Amazon.com is greater then my curiousity at this point.

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  15. Hello Zee,

    You asked, what is your definition of love? That is a good question, and if you don't mind waiting day or so, we are doing to make that into a more generalized Sound Off question. Thank you for relating your story the Buddhist temple. That is interesting--especially considering that you are not culturally conditioned (as far as I know) with a non-Western religious experience.

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  16. Hello Tandi,

    You posted a number of attributes that the "true religion" must possess. Now, I must ask you again, if God is so big into preserving the Bible (I will gratuitously grant you this assumption for the sake of argument), why has not God preserved one religion? There are almost as many variants on the Christian religion as there as variants in the Bible. Explain.

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  17. Hey Uruk,

    I recommend that you pick up Charismatic Chaos. You can probably buy it used on Amazon for less than five dollars now as you are unlikely to find it new in any bookstore. Ironically, MacArthur is willing to apply critical science to charismatic experience while exempting non-charismatic Evangelical experience from the same. It's a double-edged sword, science, that is. If he was more consistent, he would be writing Religious Chaos or Christ Chaos, or something.

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  18. Hello Tandi,

    You state that your first statement in "tongues" was:
    "Eloi rama so shoshonai..."

    This displays closer affinities to Aramaic than Hebrew, but, though I can read Aramaic, I cannot understand it. Realize that "sounds" made into letter in Hebrew make a big difference in meaning. But with a very very crude connection to Hebrew words:

    Eloi - maybe Eli for "my God"
    rama - vibration (noun), similar to ram for thunder
    so - nothing in Hebrew
    Shoshannah - I think spring flowers

    So, My God vibration spring flowers.

    Go figure. Rama is not a verb...so you can't translate it "God vibrates spring flowers." And, really, the Hebrew is gibberish. It would sound, to make a dynamic equivalent, like "Myo God vibration sp spring floweros."

    I added that "o" to My to make it "Myo" because that is how that random added "o" sounds in "Eloi" to a Hebrew (not Aramaic) ear. "Vibration" is not a verb, it is a noun. The word "floweros" is Spanglesh--a combination of Spanish and English because the words shoshanai is sort of like a Hebrew word with a non-Hebrew plural ending.

    It was vulnerable of you to share this. I must state, though, that it is psycho-babel. It might draw from some Hebrew or Aramaic words that you knew at the time or your memory has molded it into a meaning that you have unconsciously loaded it with.

    There are no "tongues" expect for that which is common to christian cults, gnostics, hinduis, sufis, and the mystery cults. All of it is psycho-babel.

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  19. I think I might have to check out Charismatic Chaos.

    Reason can be sharp like a razor when wielded appropriately.

    Interestingly, the Bible says that the word of God can cut like a two-edged sword.

    That may be the summation of all our discussions. Which one is sharpest, The Word or reason?

    Zee:

    I'd loan you my copy, but I paid too much for them.

    :-)

    The book was originally written in Chinese. I hear there are other translations on the web that are free.

    Your curiosity might make that search worthwhile. Just a few moments in Google.

    If I run across a free translation online, I'll pass along the link.

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  20. I tried Google and I've come to the conclusion that I fail the internet.

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  21. Hello Scrip,

    Why should God preserve a religion other than the one He gave the Israelites, which we call Judaism today. Yet Judaism denies Yeshua and is mixed with Babylonian and rabbinic error and excess. Each generation has “kept the faith” in whatever mixed up measure they have been able to practice it to the best of their understanding.

    Maybe the Seventh Day Baptists came somewhat close to the mark, adherents coming over on the Mayflower I think.

    How about the Waldenses? I need to watch a video again on the subject to refresh my memory about the faithful followers of Yeshua through the centuries. It would make an interesting study and you bring up a good question that I do not have a good answer to at the present time. So I’ll just share my tentative thoughts:

    The true religion consists of small, independent congregations of believers, as described in Revelation. No monolithic hierarchy such as the Roman Catholic Church was ever intended or founded by Jesus. Most denominations are just splinter group offshoots of the Harlot Mother Church....with the mark of Sunday worship tying the tentacles together.

    So I would say that in our generation there has been an attempt to restore the true faith through Messianic Judaism, yet the Devil has thrown a monkey wrench in the gear works in this movement as well. That is his specialty....tearing down what the Spirit of God is trying to build.

    Your mindset seems to insist on a uniformity and perfection that is elusive and unrealistic to expect in religion and theology in these times. I think it was Uruk who mentioned Sudoko and made analogies to contradictions in the Bible. In Sudoko apparently there is only one correct and logical answer. But Zee mentioned that suggesting a wrong answer leads to getting a clue to the right answer. Hmm....something resonates there concerning Bible study and interpretation and finding our way.

    Could the Bible also be compared to poetry, art, a collage, a mosaic? In this case, we would not necessarily insist on logic alone ....and may expect a woven tapestry,,,,, and the wonder and mystery of paradox.

    This is a very sketchy answer but I see through a glass darkly. Maybe someone else can take these thoughts further.

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  22. Tandi,

    Would you have the same special assignment if your friend became a Catholic as you do now?

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  23. Zee,

    Ask your library to get you the book on Interlibrary loan. That's what I do for books I do not wish to purchase. Put your county tax dollars to good use. It's a free service. Take advantage of it.

    It does sound like a very interesting book.....although the use of so much vulgar language would annoy me too much. The review I read said that this was the reason they could not recommend it to children, where otherwise it would be a wonderful book for them.

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  24. Hello Zee,

    That would be my worst nightmare if my friend converted to Roman Catholicism. Perish the thought. I don't want to have to follow him there. This is bad enough.

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  25. Tandi,

    That puts a lot into perspective. Good luck with your special assignment.

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  26. Um . . . Tandi,

    I might be off base here, but . . .

    Sounds like you (inadvertently?) implied that you'd rather a person be atheist than Roman Catholic if you had to win him or her to Christ.

    Is my statement accurate?

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  27. I would rather a person be unsettled in his views than settled in a religion that if chosen would have very strong demonic tentacles that would be difficult to extricate someone from. Remember, I was a Catholic myself and I have read quite a bit on the subject. I don't mean to offend anyone who may have friends and family in Catholicism, but I have strong feelings about the religion of my past and how it kept me from the truth of God's Word and the simple and true salvation message that saved my soul.

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  28. If I could vote twice you'd get both votes.

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  29. Zee said: "Script, Philo, Uruk, regardless of your definition of love where does your definition come from?"

    Referring to myself and Script, you could do no better than to ask two internet-addicted sci-fi geeks about their definition of love. But, as Scrip said, we may just revisit this issue on valentine's day.

    Tandi said: "That would be my worst nightmare if my friend converted to Roman Catholicism. Perish the thought. I don't want to have to follow him there. This is bad enough."

    If we had a "comment of the week" award, this would get my vote.

    Scriptulicious said: "My God vibration spring flowers"

    The "eloi rama" part sounded like the aramaic: "eloi lama", as in "eloi, eloi lama sabachthani." (Matthew 27:46)

    Also, "so shoshonai" reminds me of "rosh hashana".

    So, wouldn't a more sensible translation be: "My God, why New Year's?"

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  30. If by "religious experience" you mean seeing Christ in my toast, talking to a burning bush or speaking in tongues - then no. But if you mean have I had experiences that convinced me of my faith - then certainly yes. Most predominantly during my time in Alaska. I was isolated on a tiny island with very few people in a rain forest in Alaska. And yet, in often the smallest ways, I would reminded that I was not alone. When I would start to forget the beauty around me because it had rained (poured - flash flooding type rain) for two weeks straight the sun would flash across the ocean and hit the tip of Pyramid Mountain (guess the shape...anyone?) just right so that the entire range would reflect in a gorgeous rainbow. When I would start to feel lonely some wonderful stranger would approach me on the street and we would stroll through the docks (perfectly safe in this town). But the biggest experience? Well, it is too long to put here but check out my blog tonight or tomorrow and you will see it. It was unreal and I cannot help but believe it was a miracle.

    As for other religion's experiences, sure they can be real. I believe all religions, monotheistic religions - that is, are pretty much the same. We have different names and words for our God and Savior but the message is still there.

    As for how I know they are real - I don't. No one does. We never can. Maybe we are not supposed to. It is like how children believe in Santa. Ask a child how they know Santa is real and they will give all kinds of reasons, but none are proof and yet to that five year old - Santa is very real. Maybe one day we will all find out that God is just one big Santa Claus, but not today - not for me.

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  31. Wow.

    I feel speechless, but at the same time I feel like I have so much to say.

    I will at least say that it's nice to see you here, too, Lion.

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  32. Hi Lion(ess), thanks for checking out our blog and for commenting. I'll check out your experience on your blog, but you'll forgive me if I am skeptical (as I am with anyone's religious experience).

    "the tip of Pyramid Mountain (guess the shape...anyone?) "

    Dodecahedron?

    Regards,
    Eric

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  33. Philosobot,

    Skepticism is healthy.

    "Dodecahedron"

    ....close...really, really close in the same way that America is close to Pluto.

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