The "Evangelical" QIRE

QIRC = Quest for Illegitimate Religious Experience. Ben Myers hits the nail squarely.

“Where every church service becomes the opportunity for a life-changing experience of the divine presence; where every song and sermon and prayer is designed to produce immediate emotional impact; where the whole Christian life is transformed into the pursuit of a “naked” experience of the divine – here, the final outcome can only be a profound and paralysing boredom. And for those subjected to such boredom, the only remaining spiritual desire is for a mysterious God, a God not merely naked and exposed, but clothed in ritual, sacrament, tradition.”

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  1. I hate looking like one guilty of the quest for illegitimate (religious) certainty, but I think you meant “QIRE,” right?

    Anyway, I am more persuaded that the usual option for those caught in the horns of such boredom is not so much “ritual, sacrament, tradition,” but the rationalism of QIRC. Myers almost seems to be suggested that mystery and ritual are to be avoided. But mystery is a good thing (remember?), and so are ritual, sacrament and tradition (none of which are spelled with four letters). I think the ritualism Myers might be speaking about is really just another subset of the QIRE, which is smitten with mysticism over against mystery. Evangies are bored with one form of mysticism (experientialism) and simply looking for another one that appears to be rooted in something substantive.

    I can’t say that I blame them, having stood at the trail heads of Rome and Constantinople for a spell after having grown bored myself at lightening speed with the sawdust trail.

  2. Hi Zrim,

    Thanks for the correction. I suspected something was wrong but couldn’t see what it was.

    I particularly liked the one paragraph that I highlighted, but perhaps Ben has a slightly different agenda than I do. I don’t know.

  3. Maybe there’s something to utter depravity versus total (QIRC = Quest for Illegitimate Religious Experience…”E” before “C” especially when that’s what you intend)?

    Well, I think your agenda is better, which is why I’d rather call it a taxonomy. And just because Rome gets (mystery) ritual, sacrament and tradition wrong doesn’t seem to imply these are bad things. After all, if tradition is so bad could any of what Mathison says about it to distinguish solo and sola scriptura be quite as relevant?

  4. I understood him to be saying that, having (in a sense) got what they wanted, they’ve become bored in the absence of mystery and so Rome looks inviting because it restores mystery. Maybe I misunderstood him completely?

  5. I just read the bit you pasted, but shouldn’t we expect a divine experience in our gathered worship? If we really do believe that God speaks to us in the preached Word and feeds us with his Supper, then there should be such a thing as a Quest for a Legitimate Religious Experience. My fear–especially for those of us in Presbyterian and Reformed churches–is that rationalism will become an attractive option for those not tempted to Rome or Wheaton.

  6. Hi Eric,

    Of course we experience God in Christ by the Spirit as he mediates himself to use through Word and sacrament. I think this passage captures the QIRE nicely: “here the whole Christian life is transformed into the pursuit of a “naked” experience of the divine….”

    I’m sure that we all agree that there is such a thing as proper, vital, Christian experience. There is a strong “experiential” tradition in Reformed theology, piety, and practice, but I don’t think that’s what Ben is describing and it isn’t what I or Zrim are rejecting.

    Rationalism is just as evil as subjectivism, indeed, it’s the evil twin of it. That’s why I also warn about QIRC and why I mistakenly used QIRC in the title of this post originally instead of QIRE, since they are, ultimately interchangeable since they are both seeking to know God as he knows himself rather than to know him as he has willed to condescend and mediate himself to us through Word and sacrament.

    How can anyone with a regenerate soul not be moved by the form for communion or the preached Gospel and yet this is not a “naked” experience of the “naked” God. Further, we have no business seeking to create this experience or that. We minister the Word and we leave the outcome to the Spirit.

    I’m sure we all agree about that.

  7. Scott,

    Whatever Myers may be getting to, I think what is typically perceived about Rome in the evangelical mind is simply a continuation of mysticism, not true mystery. As you have pointed out before, the tie that binds Rome with Wheaton is “the personal encounter the risen Christ” (I can’t find that link right now to your post, but this also makes for some interesting points about the religious bigotry evangies seem to have against Rome).

    The reason I think the QIRE and -C work well is that they sign post the two mighty pillars of modernity, reason (liberalism proper) and experience (liberalism/evangelicalism). One elevates reason above scripture, the other experience. And western Christianity seems to traffic between the two, Protestant or Roman. The Reformed understanding of the Creator-creature distinction knows faith as that whcih relates creature to Creator–not reason, experience, intellect, etc. Those are perfectly legitimate categories, of course, just not how we know God.

    I agree that Myers captures some element of the QIRE well, no doubt. And maybe I mis-read him…but, to borrow a term from Eric recently, I could almost feel the bathwater brush my cheek as he was tossing out mystery, ritual, sacrament and tradition. And you know how Hart feels about ritual(!).

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