Experience and Knowledge

Which is first – experience or knowledge?

I have to say that my experience usually does not match my knowledge. Let’s take God’s promise to heal at any time, or to provide for us.

Even though my experience tells me otherwise (my son is in hospital with a severe pneumonia at the time of writing, our bank accounts are more than dry), I know that I know that God is no liar and that His promises are true.

But maybe we have to take a step back. Let’s look at these words a little more closely.

Experience is a sensual, soulish, or mind-driven interaction with the fallen world or God’s working in it that is processed by a fallen mind and soul and remembered with many flaws, as we know from science. Not very trustworthy.

Knowledge is part of a trinity in Proverbs and the Torah: wisdom, knowledge, and understanding (Exo 31:3, Prov 9:10).

Wisdom in the Hebrew and Middle East understanding of the word is “to do things the right way and to do the right things”. No understanding necessary, sometimes even better not to understand too much.

Knowledge is a relational word (and Abraham knew Sarah, and out of it came Isaac). So Prov 9:10 says that only through a relationship with God (the Holy) we can gain understanding.

So knowledge comes out of wisdom and the fear of God (Prov 1:7). No experience involved whatsoever. Understanding comes out of a living relationship with the Lord.

Experience is only a helpful or hindering thing on the way. We can take good experience to keep us on track, as David puts it: Be still, o my soul, and remember what God has done for you.

At any time, let your knowledge come from a living relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, through prayer, reading and studying His Word, and see experience as secondary, and if contradictory to His Word, as a lying deception.

Let me have a look at this text from a perspective 15 years later.

I think that I got the interpretation of wisdom wrong. In Hebrew, wisdom is not “to do things the right way or do the right things”. It is standing in the river of God and partaking of his revelation afresh every moment.

It is true that we live from a place of faith, and that experience often is a terrible counselor or foundation for decisions. But then, the longer we live a life of faith, the more our experience reflects this. We can expect that they converge.

It was important for the place I was at 15 years ago that I believed what I said about healing and provision. I now know that things are not as black and white as I described them.

What if God does not heal? When I follow my train of thoughts from back then, I have to blame myself. If I had enough faith, he would heal.

Stating things absolutely gets me into trouble when they do not manifest. Or they have me find creative explanations like: well, death and resurrection will be the ultimate healing, even if I die from cancer and impoverished.

I have come a long way from believing the Bible literally because I had to to survive in the troubled times after my sons accident and the difficult years that followed regarding health, survival, and finances.

And here I stand. We are still around, and we are doing much better. We are neither healthy nor rich, but alive.