To understand the matter truly we need to make clear to ourselves by examples drawn from occurrences in the Bible record to what more general class of experience those that are concerned with the Resurrection belong, and then to grasp what the essential character of this wider class is. Isaiah tells (ch. vi) how in that mysterious experience in the Temple his inward eye was opened to behold Yahweh in Ilis holiness and majesty, how he received His command and became thereby tho messenger of Yahweh to His people. This supreme, mysterious vision becomes thus for Isaiah his summons and his ordination, and his whole subsequent activity as prophet in its wider (significance is founded upon this experience. And the occurrence is not one without a parallel, but rather is typical of all the groat men who received God's summons (compare Jer. i, Ezek. i and ii, Amos i, Ilosea i).
But what really took place in these mystical experiences ? Has God a body? Is He really seated upon a throne, or has He any place in a physical sense ? Do beings such as the Cherubim and Seraphim are described surround Him in visible form ? Has He a voice audible to our actual sense of hearing ? Even those who, so far as concerns the Resurrection of Christ, think to base their faith upon an actually perceived Empty Tomb and a Body which, however ' transfigured ', yet remained an object to see and touch— even they will answer these questions with a decided negative as regards the vision of Isaiah. Even they will admit that these forms of imagery, in which the experience of Isaiah clothes itself, are nothing more than forms of imagery, born of the ideas of the time and merely a vesture for something seen and apprehended by other means than by stimulation of the senses, with which it indeed has nothing to do.
On the other side, the naturalistic rationalist will set up some sort of plausible psychological ' explanation ', differing according to the empirical psychology that is at his disposal ; or, reporting to a still simpler mode of explanation, he will be inclined to say that such occurrences never occurred at all. But whoever knows anything of the Spirit and its miraculous nature, whoever feels in himself the Spirit active in those mysterious experiences that build up the Christian's life, will reject such explanations. He alone has the key to the truth of the matter. Just as the Scriptures as a whole, as the Christian believes, require the Spirit if they are to be taught or understood, so too is it with these occurrences. Only a first-hand spiritual experience teaches a man to see and enables him to estimate a spiritual experience of a former day. Possession of the Spirit at first hand becomes here a faculty of ' retrospective prophecy', which is recognition in the sense of re-cognition or knowing again for oneself. And so only on the basis of a first-hand religious experience, of and from the Spirit, is there any possibility of obtaining a real and genuine historical knowledge of these things, for only such an experience is acquainted with and can estimate the effect of all the factors of the explanation. What the Spirit gives is not a view that transcends the historical, but the genuine historical view. And the naturalistic view gives on the other hand a falsification of history, for it has ignored an essential part of the facts it seeks to explain.
Let us now turn to the New Testament. Once we have come to understand aright, that is, in the Spirit, the experiences of the great prophets, we can recognize plainly how similar they art) to tho narratives of the great visions of Jesus at the outset and at the full height of Ilis ministry—the vision at Ili.s Baptism and the vision at His 'Transfiguration'. As with the prophets, so with Jesus : these, too, are manifestly spiritual and mystical experiences ; but these, too, were objectively real occurrences. And they are also to be counted as belonging to the same class of experiences for the reason that they too are manifestly visions of Call and Ordination. As before, we do not doubt that all that is recounted in perceptual terms stands upon just the same footing cs the perceptual imagery that invests the mystical experience of Isaiah, the essential and unshakeable truth of which lies not in that vesture, but in the knowledge and assurance horn ' of the Spirit'.
And if we pass on to the Resurrection-experience of Paul on the road to Damascus, do we not at once recognize the same characteristic features V Have we here sense-perception or spiritual experience? Paul nowhere describes how and in what form he beheld the Risen Christ. That does not in itself make it the less likely that he did see Him in some form, probably as a royal figure of radiant glory rather than merely as a dazzling light. The material of his vision was no doubt supplied him by the current idt-as of his time concerning royal splendour and messianic kinghood, and then his faculty of vision gave this material an individual and special form. That is but to say that the vision would have a vesture of outward form just as that of Isaiah did ; but this does not, for Paul any more than for Isaiah, touch the inmost import of the experience, which is here: ' He lives; He lives as the accepted of God, tho preserved of God, the exalted of God, the transfigured of God, as the conqueror of Judgement, of the Cross, and of Death.' And at the same time that further point of resemblance with the occurrences already mentioned is manifest which, strangely enough, is here not generally noticed.
For this vision of Paul, like those others, is not merely a vision of the Risen Christ, but ag.an precisely inaugural, a vision of Calling and Ordination.
At the same time this experience of Paul has its place among a second class of experiences, which in turn stand fully illumined in the Pauline writings. For it is but the first link in a whole chain of spiritual happenings which develop in him and in hi& congregations. These are the ' charismata ' or ' gifts of the Spirit', and among them is included the gift of ' horasis ' or mystic vision which Paul himself possessed. And what took place on the road to Damascus is not only the first link in the chain, but more fundamental end potent than all that followed. There it was that the 'pneuma' first broke through, the Spirit which man makes not nor can bestow upon himself, which blows whither it lists, and kindles what it wills, and whose'prick' wras already felt in Paul's heart.
Paul puts his experience on a parity with those of Peter and others, an indication that these also were of the same class as his own. And we could ourselves recognize as much even without Paul's express testimony. According to Paul's statement Peter was the first to receive the new revelation of the Risen Christ, and what we know otherwise of Peter is in accord with this. He has the gift of ' visionas tho story in Acts x shows, and it had been manifested more than once while his Master was still on earth, as &t the time of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. And the Synoptic record gives other more general indications of his rare spiritual endowment. Further, for Peter and the others to whom the experience came, the vision of the Risen Christ is once again an inaugural experience of Call and Ordination, es is indicated in the words, ' Go ye therefore and teach all nations ', which we are to take as a spiritual realization of mission just in the same way as the command of Yahweh to Isaiah : ' Go and tell this people', and which, no less than the experience of the prophets, attest themselves as having been really 'heard' in spiritual perception at a definite place and time. And again in the case of these original witnesses to the Resurrection, the vision of the Risen Christ is no more an isolated experience than in the caso of Paul. For Paul and his converts are not the first to receive ' the Spirit' and its sevenfold gifts. These gifts are the possession of the earliest Christian community from the first, and characterize it, as Paul himself avows, when he justifies his position as an apos'le in showing that he and his converts a'io possess the saino spiritual gifts which the Christians of Jerusalem hail from the first.
And so the consciousness of the Risen Christ loses its isolated character and is already manifested as one of a class of spiritual experiences, a mystical and spiritual apprehension of truth, beyond the opposition of supernuturalism and rationalism.
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