Experience · Proverbs · Reality · Truth

Does Experience Equal Truth?

Part I: Testing Our Experience

We live during a time when people have placed massive amounts of stock into the market of experience. Think about something as simple as shopping. We often don’t just want the duty of buying something, but “lifestyle shopping.” 

A business friend of mine recently explained this concept to me. He doesn’t just want his customers to buy something they want or need, but to experience something. This in turn will help them enjoy the buying process, often bringing them back to purchase more. Our current society holds experience in high esteem.

The problem is that we have made experience such a false god that many today make a direct correlation between experience and truth, believing the two cannot be broken. They are not able to separate the two. This has been one of the bedrocks of critical theory, which has recently surged like a swelling storm into our society. To learn more about critical theory you can find some resources here.

If someone has experienced something, how dare we even question them on whether their experience is true?

First, let’s note that experience can be relative at times. For example, maybe my friend, who usually eats at high end restaurants and I, who often go to restaurants that are more in line with a small budget, eat out together. We come out of the restaurant and he says, “That meal was terrible,” while I am thinking that it was a decent meal. 

The difference could be our experiential point. It could have been terrible for him, because of what he is used to, and great for me, because of what I am used to. We have different experiential reference points.

However, there are times when we believe we have experienced something which we have not. In fact our senses, perception, knowledge (or lack thereof), of something can play tricks on us, can it not? We have all thought we experienced something, only later  realizing our perception or view of what happened was inaccurate. Sometimes we just didn’t have all of the information necessary.

Maybe we were offended by what we believed someone said about us. Later we find out the information shared with us by a third party was not correct or potentially never even said. Perhaps I read someone the wrong way, thinking he was mad at me, but later discovered that bad mood had nothing to do with me. . 

We all know these things happen because we have been on the other side of the coin. Someone else took something we said the wrong way, when that was not our intent at all. They just misunderstood what we said. The reality is, we all know that experience does not always equal truth.

So how do we know what is and is not true? We need to test our experience against the truth. As Christians we should be truth seekers. The apostle Paul tells us in I Thessalonians 5:21 that we should “test everything; hold fast to that which is good.” He specifically is speaking about false prophets here, but the principle of testing the truth is found throughout Scripture. 

The word “test” in the Greek, dokimazo, means to examine, explore, or search out. Proverbs 25:6-8 talks about this when it says don’t be hasty to bring someone to court or judge someone. “What your eyes have seen do not hastily bring into court (7b-8a).” Why? In the end, the passage says, you could actually be put to shame if it is found out that you made a false accusation. Remember, don’t jump to conclusions without testing an offence. Too many relationships suffer because someone misunderstood the conversation.

One way to avoid this is to bring others into our experience. Proverbs 18:1 says, “whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” It is good to get others’ perspectives on a situation. We need to pick counselors, not just people who we know will affirm us, but those who can sift through the evidence with us to see if something is true or not. 

When you think you have experienced something, do you automatically assume it to be true, or do you test it? Do you attempt to talk to the person who may have offended you, or do you quickly judge them presuming you know exactly what they were saying, thinking, and what their intentions were? Are you fair, and do you use what Scripture calls “just weights” and take the time to make sure that what you believe you experienced lines up with the truth? Next time we will be looking at the case study of Cain and Abel and whether what Cain experienced was indeed real.

You can read Part 2 and Part 3 here.

Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons atwww.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP oniTunes  orGoogleplay.