Friday, January 4, 2013

Christianity and Mystical Experience

I am commenter #58 (J Climacus) on this post over at Ricochet.

One of the basic lessons we learn from Kierkegaard is that grasping the nature of Christianity is not an easy task. That is not to say it isn't a simple task, for often it is the simplest tasks that are the most difficult (another Kierkegaardian lesson). But there is a natural inclination to think that because Christianity has extraordinary implications about the nature of God, man, morality, the universe and indeed reality itself, it must be based on some extraordinary or difficult to grasp evidence.

But it isn't. Christianity is based on ordinary, even mundane experience - the experience of a group of witnesses who met a man, spoke with him, ate with him, and even touched his wounds. Nothing unusual about that. What is unusual is that these witnesses had seen this same man crucified and buried several days earlier. It is this extraordinary conjunction of ordinary experience that provides the basis for Christianity's transcendent conclusions.

And it reinforces Christianity's connection to the ordinary. Jesus Christ doesn't replace the ordinary, mundane world with an extraordinary world only reachable through mystical experience; he transfigures the meaning of the ordinary world through His Life, Death and Resurrection. Cana didn't just transform the meaning of a wedding reception in ancient Palestine, it transformed the meaning of all wedding receptions from then on. Wine is never the same after Christ transforms it into His Body and Blood at the Last Supper. The nuclear family is something more than merely a sociological statistic in a world that has seen the Holy Family. And the ordinary fact of death, which once heralded the everlasting end of all that is good, becomes instead a means to conquer evil when death itself is conquered by Christ.