The intellectual vs the experiential

Thanks to everyone for their fantastic comments on my last post on Hinduism. They were humbling to read and think about. There’s too much good stuff there to call out. But I’d like to reflect a bit on something in Victor’s comment:

There are huge experiential parts of Christianity, and to be honest, this is the BIGGEST part of the faith for me…In fact I would say when reading Jesus in the gospels it is primarily an experiential religion. However, our culture, today is vastly different, and Bible studies reveal little of the experiential part, if any at all.

I love the word experiential, and think it is more illuminating than ritual. Christianity and Hinduism have to be experienced to be understood. And even though I acknowledged the ‘doing’ component of Christianity, it seems I still undersold it.

However, it’s easy to go too far in that direction. The Bible speaks about truth and its importance repeatedly. It is important to believe that Jesus was resurrected. So even if Christianity is enormously experiential, and even if that aspect is often neglected in public discourse, the ‘belief/intellectual’ component in Christianity is much larger than the one in Hinduism.

We Hindus simply don’t have the type of conversations Bible studies routinely engage in. And while these types of studies may be fairly recent and caused by the Enlightenment (rather than being intrinsic to Christianity), it’s telling that something similar hasn’t developed in Hinduism. Truth, as understood by Christians, is simply not as important to Hindus. If I were to pick something that is, it would be dharma, or duty.

Anyway. Thanks again for the comments, and for helping me sort through all this.

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