Have Any of You Had Similar Experiences?

(Aziraphale The Angel) #1

I have long been a theistic evolutionist (and an avid reader of this fine site!). Though I have had anxieties about whether my theology was too liberal, whether I was compromising in it, I was comfortable in my understanding, reveling in our 15 billion year old cosmic temple of a universe.

Then, on or around the twenty-third of July this year, I received what I am inclined to believe was a locution from God that said, with respect to the Genesis narrative, “It’s literal. I’ve since read St. Teresa De Jésus and St. John of the Cross on this topic (that is, locutions). In that spirit, I’ve determined with some certainty that it carried power and authority, I’ve been essentially unable to forget it, it doesn’t conform to what I want to hear. As far as knowing a tree by its fruit, it’s increased my humility and made me more charitable to holders of other views on origins, but that’s about it, I’ve been fretting for months

Now, please understand that I do not intend to boast when I say I have a rich inner life and a near-continuous, multi-track, inner monologue. My experience silenced all of that for the remainder of the evening, I cannot tell if that was desolation or if I am just unaccustomed to peace after being lead astray by fancies and speculations for so long. Further, I cannot see what Satan would have to gain from deceiving me thusly, or why I would have imagined this.

I have since tried to find an understanding of the text that can be called literal while still being harmonious with the fossil record and such. I’ve told myself that since only the Hebrew autograph was inspired, yomin could be long ages, or they could be intermittent. However, I think (largely) in English and the message was communicated to me in English, so days are likely days. I’ve reimmersed myself in John Walton’s Functional Ontology view, but I’m becoming acquainted with its difficulties. I am also aware of St. Augustine’s delightfully idiosyncratic interpretation of the literal sense, but I fear I’m just trying to find an out.

I have recently become aware of more modern criteria for determining the veracity of locutions and other such experiences, which disallow those not in conformity with natural science, this is some comfort, but I cannot help but wonder if it is the result of elevating fallible human reason above the Word.

On the level of the intellect, I remain unpersuaded by Young-Earth Arguments and am reasonably certain on philological grounds that a literal reading of the text is untenable (see the pillars of the earth, the raqia, etc). However, the thing about our faith is that can be contrary to the intellect, a current in Christian thought from St. Paul. to Tertullian, to the Muggletonians.

This dovetails nicely into the next part of my question, having to do with the mystics and visionaries of the Church, how do you reconcile non-YEC models with what they saw?

For instance, St. Hildegard,

By His word God commanded that the waters bring forth reptiles and birds with a living soul, like blossoms that sprout from the branches of trees. In the beginning God created the creatures, then He let them come forth from others. For He foresaw what would be necessary for survival for the entire order of creation[11] . . . God created only two of each species of creatures, one male and one female, which were already fertile in seed and later became scattered and reproduced across the earth. Of the trees and herbs He didn’t make two of each species, but several of a kind across the entire earth.[12]

According to St. Hildegard’s visions, as in the Mosaic account in Genesis, fiat creation of the various creatures culminated with the creation of Adam and Eve as the king and queen of the universe.

When God created Adam, divine radiance surrounded the clay substance of which he was formed. That way this lump of clay appeared on the outside as an outline of its parts, after its shape had been given to it, but inside it was hollow. Then, from the same mass of clay God created inside of the figure the heart, the liver, the lung, the stomach, the intestines, and the brain, as well as the eyes and the tongue together with all the remaining organs[13] . . . When he awoke afterward he was a prophet of heavenly things, knowledgeable of all powers of the creature and of all arts . . . God gave over to him all creatures, that he might make them his own by his manly power because he knew of them and about them. For man represents all creatures, and the breath of life, which never ceases to live, is in him.[14]

Ven. Maria Agréda

Having seen God in this vision She was immediately shown the works on the sixth day of the creation of the world. She witnessed, as if She Herself had been present, how at the command of the Lord the earth brought forth the living beings according to their kinds as Moses says (Gen 1, 24). Holy Scripture here refers to the terrestrial animals, which being more perfect than the fishes and birds in life and activity, are called by a name signifying the more important part of their nature. She saw and understood all the kinds and species of animals, which were created on this sixth day, and by what name they were called; some, beasts of burden, because they serve and assist man, others, wild beasts, as being more fierce and untamed; others, reptiles, because they do not raise themselves or very little from the earth. She knew and comprehended the qualities of all of them; their fury, their strength, the useful purposes which they serve, and all their distinctions and singularities. Over all these She was invested with dominion and they were commanded to obey Her. She could without opposition on their part have trodden upon asps and basilisks, for all would have meekly borne her heel.

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich

saw Adam in Paradise among the plants and flowers, and not far from the fountain that played in its center. He was awaking, as if from sleep. Although his person was more like to flesh than to spirit, yet he was dazzlingly white. He wondered at nothing, nor was he astonished at his own existence. He went around among the trees and animals, as if he were used to them all, like a man inspecting his fields.

Near the tree by the water arose a hill. On it I saw Adam reclining on his left side, his left hand under his cheek. God sent a deep sleep on him and he was rapt in vision. Then from his right side, from the same place in which the side of Jesus was opened by the lance, God drew Eve. I saw her small and delicate. But she quickly increased in size until full-grown. She was exquisitely beautiful. Were it not for the Fall, all would be born in the same way, in tranquil slumber. The hill opened, and at Adam’s side arose a crystalline rock, formed apparently of precious stones. At Eve’s, lay a white valley covered with something like a fine white pollen.

When Eve had been formed, I saw that God gave something, or allowed something to flow upon Adam. It was as if there streamed from the Godhead, apparently in human form, currents of light from forehead, mouth, breast, and hands. They united into a globe of light, which entered Adam’s right side whence Eve had been taken. Adam alone received it. It was the germ of God’s blessing, which was threefold . . .

[Adam and Eve] were like two unspeakably noble and beautiful children, perfectly luminous, and clothed with beams of light as with a veil. From Adam’s mouth I saw issuing a broad stream of glittering light, and upon his forehead an expression of great majesty. Around his mouth played a sunbeam, but there was none around Eve’s. I saw Adam’s heart very much the same as in the men of the present day, but his breast was surrounded by rays of light. In the middle of his heart, I saw a sparkling halo of glory. In it was a tiny figure as if holding something in its hand. I think it symbolized the Third Person of the Godhead.[28]

She also problematizes OEC by having Jesus speak specifically to the age of the earth (as does this fellow: https://youtu.be/H0V6qIHw7ak)

I have somewhat rationalized this by saying, as a Jew aware of Rabbinic tradition, Jesus would have reckoned the Creation days apart from the Anno Mundi calendar, but I wonder if I’m being stubborn in not allowing His words their full force

I’m aware of Jesuit rules for interpreting visions as recreations of the events they depict, as they are inconsistent with each other and historically inaccurate (compare their descriptions of the Crucifixion to the bones of that unfortunate fellow Yehohanan). However, I’m hard-pressed to imagine God allowing something as important as dominical teachings on Creation to be subject to variance

These visions used to be of little consequence to me, but it’s different when it happens to you

On a lighter note, yes, I recognize the irony inherent in the fact that my username is a character from a book that showcases the fun that can be had in a literalistic worldview.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #2

Hello, Aziraphale, and welcome to the forum!

You’ve got quite a bit to ponder here, and it’s obvious you’ve been thinking about these things for quite some time. I’m not familiar with many of the particular visionaries you mention, so I don’t have a lot to say about them except that I am provoked to ask you: is there a particular denomination, tradition, or community that you worship and study with? The reason I ask is that if people strike out “on their own” to study lots of books, Hebrew, and mystics of the past - it is easy to drift off into idiosyncratic kinds of ideas and details, and you do seem sensitive to this possibility. So I would be remiss to withhold my own first impression here that you do seem fixated on what may be some fringe ideas. But then again, I’m not the one here who may have had visions.

One other comment, even though it would seem you already know this: “literal” has not historically meant “read only in a surface sense” - which has become the modern way to use that word. I understand that many of the ancient church fathers used the word to mean something like “what the text is literally trying to teach us”. I.e. it means exactly what God and/or the human authors meant it to mean. Or to put it yet another way then: “literal” is not a magic bullet that delivers one to the intended meaning. It leaves one still with the work to do of studying, seeking context, and determining just what it is that is literally meant. At least that’s my initial reaction. But I don’t pretend to have understood everything you wrote above, and it will be interesting to learn more of your experiences that bring you here.

Added edit:

kudos to you for that!

This is something none of us escape. Even after we’re aware of it and want to avoid it. But the problem is that we cannot “take leave” of our minds. Even as you resolve to place God’s word above your own fallible reason, you are still using your reasoning faculty to do this, or to bring you to whatever new posture you may “reason” is now the more faithful one. It may be healthy to think of it instead as us bring our God-given reasoning abilities under subjection to Christ. So far from setting reason aside, we embrace it among other things, as a tool for the Spirit to use.

(Aziraphale The Angel) #3

Thanks for the warm welcome!

As you may have guessed from my sources and my choice of honorific, I’m a Catholic, but am not in full agreement with the Magisterium. One thing I particularly like about Rome is our understanding of the relationship between faith and science. I mentioned this to a spiritual director, all he said was that YEC arguments are untenable, a position with which I am inclined to agree. I do have a way of becoming fixated on such things

I cling to that Patristic definition of literal, using it to inform my “Near Eastern Creation Myth, but inspired” stance, but I wonder if that’s a cop-out. In addition to the intended by the author sense I also use the Ken Ham sense and I wonder in which it was intended

I look forward to using my Reason as a tool for the Spirit!

(Mervin Bitikofer) #4

I’m interested in hearing more from you about why you think it might be a “cop-out”. If it is what the usual suspect so often is … perhaps it is your feeling the tug of modern skeptics who often taunt the believer with things like “you’re just using all that nuance and metaphor stuff as an excuse to render more palatable to your scientifically honed sensibilities all the embarrassing and absurd biblical claims.”

Ken Ham and so many YECs generally have fallen victim to just such taunts by conceding their assumption that we owe just such skeptics all such answers on their own terms. So I wouldn’t worry overmuch about Mr. Ham’s posture. A lot of us here feel that he has demeaned scripture rather than actually taking it seriously. Ironically, it is the atheistic skeptics that he has taken most seriously.

(Aziraphale The Angel) #5

That has been a concern of mine in the past, but now it’s more (as with Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich’s vision) the worry that I’m denying God’s words their full force. I don’t see why would have needed to be told to take it as intended, a myth, I don’t think I was allegorizing excessively, I was ‘drashing on Genesis 1

(Christy Hemphill) #6

It is very hard to give spiritual advice based on internet comments, and I realize we do not know each other and probably come from very different Christian traditions. So take what I say for what it is worth to you and if I am totally off-base, please feel free to dismiss it all.

You opened by saying that your acceptance of evolution and an ancient earth was a cause of some measure of anxiety for you, and that you weren’t truly at peace about it, and you felt you needed to justify what felt like a compromise to some degree. And now it seems that after this message that you believe is from the Spirit of God assuring you his word in Genesis is literal, instead of bringing you to a place of peace and rest, you are at a place of even more turmoil and doubt. You have a heightened sense of needing to justify whatever “position” you come down on, so you have doubled down even more on your efforts to understand how this message from God fits with your reasoning, knowledge, Scripture, and the writings of saints whose spiritual insight you hold in high esteem.

If I were in your shoes, I would ask my spiritual director to pray with me for insight and help me discern what God is trying to reveal about my own soul and spiritual condition by impressing on my heart this very clear message. In my own experience, when God communicates something very clearly like that, it is usually because there is some wounded area of my heart that God wants to heal, or some area of weakness or sin that God wants me to recognize and deal with, or some place of resistance where I have not fully surrendered my will or pride or selfishness so that God can bring me closer to him.

Maybe this anxiety you have been feeling and are now feeling even more of is something that God wants to unpack with you so that you can move to a deeper level of communion with him. But I don’t know that you will be able to do the spiritual work that maybe needs to be done if you run off and do a bunch of research and intellectual exercises. Maybe it is this dependence on intellectual strength that God wants to break down, in order to touch some other part of your being. Maybe instead of researching and reading (as profitable as that may be for some things and in some seasons) God is pushing you to spend more time in quiet meditation on his word and in prayer, not so you can know for sure some kind of capital T Truth about how the world began, but so you can know the truth about yourself and where you are and where God wants to bring you in his personal relationship with you.

It seems to me that the visions you cited recorded by mystics of the past were not so much God revealing bare assertions of fact about cosmic reality so much as God revealing powerful, awe-inspiring images based on his word that the people had obviously spent much time meditating on. What was the benefit to them of these visions? Was it really to reveal information about origins or was the benefit in the experience of connecting with God with the whole of their imagination and heart in a way that sealed in them a certainty of God’s presence and enabled them to come before him with an even greater sense of awe at his majesty and a greater sense of being loved and valued as his child. It seems to me the benefit was highly personal, and the benefit in sharing their experiences is not so much that others can gain special knowledge that these saints were given access to, but that others can have the hope of similar close communion with God’s spirit if they seek it out, and others too can be pushed past more “normal” human experiences with God into a deeper, more intimate encounter that has powerful and profound effects on the way a person goes on to live out their Christian life.

(system) #7

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