2 Peter, A.C. Grayling, Apologetics, Barbara Ehrenreich, experience, Faith, religion, Romans, Self-Disclosure
Ehrenreich’s chief experience of a transcendent Otherness, an experience which has had a large impact on her life, occurred when she was eighteen.
Grayling then goes onto describe her sense of “otherness” in some detail. Ehrenreich took the experience to be some sort of divine intervention. He also critiques her understanding of this Other as a true objective event:
Religious people, of course, attribute them to encounters with the divine, and it may well be that experiences caused in these ways lie at the root of humankind’s impulse to create religion. But the fact that empirical science today so well explains the causes and nature of these disturbances of normal neurological function is reason to guard against the supernaturalistic attempts at explanation, which were once the only resource our forebears had.
I have no opinion about the natural or source of Ehrenreich’s experience. The very subjectivity of such an experience makes it impossible to affirm or deny or perhaps even understand. For the Christian, even an event which others experienced is alone insufficient to ground faith. Peter specifically directs our attention elsewhere:
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,”
18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,
20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.
21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Peter who had a supreme experience, a sight of the transfiguration of The Lord, refuses to rest faith there. Rather he directs us to something else: God speaking. This may seem an odd ground for faith, and yet there it is:
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:14-17. This is so, because all that we can know of God can only come through revelation. God must disclose himself to us, for we cannot come to him any other manner. The self-disclosure of God coming in its final form as God speaking in his Son (Hebrews 1:2a, in these last days he spoke to us in his Son):
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. John 1:18.
Thus, we do not ground our faith in some subjective experience but rather in God’s objective self-disclosure.