What Is Experiential Theology?

What Is Experiential Theology?

Experiential or experimental theology addresses how a Christian experiences the truth of Christian doctrine in his life. The term experimental comes from the Latin experimentum, meaning “trial.” It is derived from the verb experior, meaning “to try, prove, or put to the test.” That same verb can also mean “to find or know by experience,” thus leading to the word experiential, meaning knowledge gained by experiment. John Calvin used experiential and experimental interchangeably, since both words in theology indicate the need for measuring experienced knowledge against the touchstone of Scripture.

By experiential or experimental theology, we mean Christ-centered theology which stresses that for salvation, sinners must by faith have a personal, experiential (that is, experienced) Spirit-worked knowledge of Christ, and, by extension, of all the great truths of Scripture. Thus we must emphasize, as the Puritans did, that the Holy Spirit causes the objective truths about Christ and His work to be experienced in the heart and life of sinners.

For example, our lost state and condition by nature due to our tragic fall in Adam, our dire need for Jesus Christ who merits and applies salvation by His Spirit, and our responsibility to repent and believe the gospel of God’s freely offered salvation in Jesus Christ all must be known and experienced in our lives. Experiential theology stresses that the Holy Spirit blesses man-abasing, Christ-centered theology that makes room for Christ within the soul; believers will then yearn to live wholly for His glory out of gratitude for His great salvation. John 17:3 says, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” The gospel truth of sovereign grace that abases us to the lowest and exalts Christ to the highest in our salvation must be proclaimed and experienced.

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