It seems increasingly obvious to me that Christianity – by and large – centrally isn’t about abstract theorizing but rather about an on-going personal relationship with the divine – what Christians call a triune God.
What are the components of this relationship?
First, there are certain personal experiences which are central to many people’s relationships. A core experience of the Christian type is what is often referred to as the ‘light of the indwelling Holy Spirit’. This is typically something that is felt at a time, but then has medium- and long-term affects on the person’s behaviour and beliefs. The at-a-time experience is often characterized as a feeling of light, goodness, love, or connection. Connection to what? To something like the Christian God.
These sorts of experiences are often then connected to other experiences – of nature, for example, where the latter experiences now ‘patch into’ the former experience, such that they are made sense of or informed by it, and so in a way become part of it.
Second are intuitions, which direct a Christian. These intuitions often come in response to a question a Christian will pose to God. Reading the intuitions is part of the practice of discernment – as with any practice, it is a build up of skills. For example, where to go, whether to take a job, what to say in a specific situation, and so on. Sometimes, these intuitions are dramatic, other times more quotidian.
Third are what I have referred to as non-chance coincidences. These are things that happen, that seem unlikely given conventional secular modes of explanation. These are related to the topic of synchronicities in more secular psychology. Sometimes, these non-chance coincidences are signs, that is they seem like a response to a particular implicit or explicit question the Christian might have for God. A Christian will sometimes have the experience of ‘aligning’ with these non-chance coincidences, and having a large number of them start to occur in a relatively short period.
All three of these are, in a sense, kinds of experiences. I think these sorts of experiences are the main engine of Christian belief – it’s to a large extent why people are Christians. It’s important to note that these are empirical, testable, and useful.