For the sake of differentiation, I have put Anastasia's comments in normal font. Richard's are in blogger italics.
Anastasia wrote: "...For us, truth *has to be* a matter of personal experience, and theology is nothing but description of that concrete experience. (The alternative is what?)"
"On the other hand, the Church insists that she guide us into *the* experience, which is to say the Apostolic one, the very same experience of Christ that they had and have passed down from person to person."
"That is the most befuddling thing so far I have heard yet concerning Orthodoxy. It would seem that even the occultist who has a plethora of religious experiences would back up his/her experiences with their 'theology'. Thus 'truth' is formulated. But that obviously puts us in the category of subjective truth."
"The alternative is Thy Word is Truth. When it comes to God and His Ways and our condition before Him we have no other sure foundation of Truth even when our experience/reason would say otherwise. e.g. Incarnation."
"How can we experience in the same way the death and resurrection of Christ whom the Apostles say they are eyewitness and who touched him? In my own experience I had a few powerful 'spiritual' encounters which led me to search the Scriptures which led me to repentance/faith which led to the Church. That is how experiences sometimes work."
"For the Orthodox, theology is not to "back up" experience or anything else. Instead, it is the outgrowth and explanation of a particular experience, namely our Life in Christ. That comes first, theology comes afterward as its verbal expression."
Quoting Richard again: "But that obviously puts us in the category of subjective truth."
Anastasia continues: "Provided it IS Truth, Truth as attested to not only the Holy Spirit in the believer's heart but also in Scripture, by the Fathers, by the whole Church, over a period of 2,000 years and counting -- what's the objection to its being 'subjective'? (We would call it 'inward' rather than 'subjective'.) I mean, within a Prot. context, I can see the problem with 'subjective' but not within an Ortho context....."
"What I'm saying is that ALL theology, like the Scriptures and including them, is an account of experience with God. Or else it is bogus. In Jeremiah 14:14, false prophets are denounced because they were speaking things out of their own heads and not expressing encounters with God; God had neither commanded them nor spoken to them."
"IOW, the Word of God comes to mankind FIRST in living reality, in experience, and THEN gets written about. Orthodox theology is *based upon* experience with God, experience guided, informed, explained and articulated by the whole Church, especially by the Prophets, Evangelists, Apostles, and Fathers."
"That is, not an individual's private experience, but upon the experience of the whole Body together and of each of us, personally, as members of that Body."
"If theology is based upon anything else than experience, then at best it's just abstractions, concepts, mental exercise. And if theology is based upon experience but experience other than that of the Church, then it will indeed be more than shadows, but will not faithfully reflect the Apostolic experience, hence, not be able to help transmit it, and in fact will become a hindrance to the transmission of it, and that's the definition of error."
Quoting Richard again: "How can we experience in the same way the death and resurrection of Christ whom the Apostles say they are eyewitness and who touched him?"
"Sorry, I worded that badly. I should have said it is the self-same experience of the crucified *and risen* Christ. His historical sojourn here upon the Earth is finished and not to be repeated. We can and do have the same experience of the post-Resurrection Christ as they do."
"And YET --- and yet, not physically, but in the transcendent Christ, by the timeless Holy Spirit, we do experience His life on earth, both as He lives it now and as He lived it then, in such a way that we are at no spiritual disadvantage as compared with those who were present at the foot of the Cross, at the empty Tomb, on Mt. Tabor, or in the Garden of
Gethsemane. (Ask any Orthodox Christian who has been 'put through' all the services of Holy Week whether he has 'been there' and you will get a resounding 'Yes!')"