Every fiber in my body tensed up.  In my mind, I immediately began barraging the man sitting to my left with questions.  I was baffled.  No sooner had I read the last word from a passage in Hebrews than he blurted, “I don’t agree with that.”

That comment plagued my thoughts for several days.  What would prompt someone to say something like that?  Did he have an outright disregard for the authority of Scripture?  Or was something else amiss in his thinking?

Trying to recall what I knew of the man, I retraced the conversation in an attempt to discern why he said what he did.  I think what he was trying to say was that his experience did not line up with what the author of Hebrews was saying.  He had placed what he learned from his experience in his mental category of “truth” and quickly dismissed anything, even God’s Word, that disagreed with it.

In the situation described above, both epistemological and hermeneutical questions arise. What can we know through experience?  What is the role of experience in faith development?  Where does Scripture stand in relationship to our experience?  How do we interpret our experiences as Christians?

As an educator, I have had to wrestle with such questions.  With so much literature on the role of experience in learning, how do I navigate it, interact with it, and adopt it given epistemological and hermeneutical commitments governed by my Christian faith?  These questions are also exceedingly important for pastors to consider.  Examples like the one I described above abound in our churches.  How can pastors and church leaders graciously help people like the man I encountered?

In a handful of upcoming posts, I will share how I am working through these questions.