Friday, August 31, 2007

Experience < Word

If you aren't familiar with Justin Taylor's site you should acquaint yourself with it. There is always good stuff there. Today he posted a link to Rick Phillips who writes about the recent revelation of Mother Teresa's spiritual despair and emptiness as she ministered to the poor in Calcutta, India. The recent release Come Be My Light will only further solidify Teresa's saintly status among Roman Catholics, but raise many more questions about her in the minds of evangelicals.

Here is an excerpt of a lesson learned from the revelations of Mother Teresa's spiritual darkness: "...I would suggest that Mother Teresa's testimony should turn us away from the path of subjective spiritual experiences and urge us back to the life of faith in God's Word. Like her, we should long for the presence of Christ in our lives. But unlike the soon-to-be-sainted yet truly tragic Mother Teresa, let us seek Christ where He is found. Paul explained: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) or "Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)" (Rom. 10:6-8). Paul tells us to seek Christ in the Word of God. For as our faith rests on God's Word and trusts in the promises of his gospel, we gain Christ and His light shines in our hearts."


At 9:08 AM , Blogger Drew said...

"Why was her faith so dry and dead, as she lamented for over sixty years? One key answer seems to be that her faith was not rooted in the Word of God, but in experiential ecstacy. In this, parallels can be seen between Mother Teresa and Christians of many stripes -- many of them evangelicals -- whose faith is driven by spiritual experiences instead of by the truth of God's Word." This was a very telling quote from that excellent article. Thanks for sharing that Aaron. Another reminder of the value of being saturated in God's Word.

At 1:43 PM , Blogger Michelle said...

I have a great respect for Mother Teresa, but I do admit that I have disagreed with her doctrine on several occasions. I read the article in TIME and wondered if this was truly just a trial from God or if she lacked a true faith. Even so, this article seemed to go too far. He needed to do some more research because several of his points were completely off. I'm not saying I'm an expert, but he could have easily found out from whom she took the name Teresa and things like that. He jumped to conclusions that I don't think he had the right to. I do think it is good to be discerning and not follow others blindly, but there is also a respect that I have for her and what she has done. I know many non believers have done great things in the eyes of the world and that doesn't mean that they are necessarily Christians, but she did do a lot which I think shows fruit of a Christian. There are times in the Bible that God tested Christians by not allowing them to feel his presence. I don't know her heart and I realize I am rambling a bit. I'm sorry. I just think that the article went way to far in the conclusions it drew. I know that for me, I want to take what I can and learn from her. I still respect her and will strive to have a life that shares many traits of hers.

At 8:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

ummm...the Word is a collection of experiences. even if it was divinely inspired down to the last letter, it was still written by humans who were chronicling their own experiences with God. all theology is experiential. there's simply no way around it.

At 10:10 AM , Blogger Aaron said...


I hear what you are saying. However, I think it is stretching it to say that the author's points were completely baseless (I think you said "completely off"). I felt like he took the information that he had access to and did nothing more than what those who revere Mother Teresa would do - which is try to analyze exactly what was going on within her heart based on the personal letters that she left behind - and measuring those words next to her actions in life. It's not fool-proof science, but I don't think that he completely mischaracterized or went too far in his speculation about Mother Teresa.

There is absolutely not question that she is a woman who demonstrated perseverance in life. However, by her own admission, her prayer life had wilted and her time with Jesus through His Word was lacking. It appears that she was motivated largely through her spiritual experience - an experience that needed to be grounded more in God's Word.

But it is hard to have anything less than admiration for her work for social justice in India. But where I find myself conflicted is whether or not this woman's labor was in vain (spiritually speaking of course). Did she exercise faith "in" and "through" the Gospel? This is where I believe evangelicals and Catholics will have sharp disagreements.


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