Believing, and Experiencing

In Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Marcus Borg describes how after his Christian upbringing, he rejected his faith tradition and became an atheist, particularly because so much in Christianity hinged on belief, but he could not will himself to believe what his mind couldn’t make sense of. He describes feeling guilt and shame for doubting, but concluding that belief is not subject to acts of will — the mind will doubt what the mind will doubt.

And then, in his mid-thirties, Borg had a series of what I will call spiritual experiences. He doesn’t describe them, but describes their effect:

I realized that God does not refer to a supernatural being “out there” (which is where I had put God ever since my childhood musings about God “up in heaven”). Rather, I began to see, the word God refers to the sacred at the center of existence, the holy mystery that is all around us and within us. God is the nonmaterial ground and source and presence in which, to cite words attributed to Paul by the author of Acts, “we live and move and have our being”.

[…]

Being a thinking type, I began studying experiences of God in both mystical and nonmystical forms. I learned that even though these experiences are extraordinary, they are also quite common, known across cultures, throughout history, and into the present time. Gradually it became obvious to me that God — the sacred, the holy, the numinous — was “real.” God was no longer a concept or an article of belief, but had become an element of experience.

Borg’s experiences were just that — experiential. “God” was redefined from something he could not bring himself to believe, to something quite different that he knew first hand.

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