Scriptural or Experiential: Can the Categories Never Coexist?

“She’s (he’s) gone over to the experiential side.”


I’ve been accustomed to that terminology since my first Bible doctrine class at 27 years old. The language might be dated for many of you but you get the gist. My teacher (in the presence of the Lord now) whom I loved and whose passion lit a fire in my own bones often used the delineation. Something was either “Scriptural” or “experiential” and ne’er the two could meet. It made perfect sense to me.


For a little while.


I’ve never lost my esteem for my teacher. I could get tears in my eyes just thinking about him. He taught under a powerful unction of the Holy Spirit and with a love for the Bible that I had never seen. I suppose some 90 percent of what he taught me I still believe with all my heart. No one made a deeper investment in my love for the Word of God.


But I’ll share with you the teaching in that first Bible doctrine class that I couldn’t accept for long. I couldn’t accept that a believer must fall cleanly into one category or the other: the Scriptural or the experiential. Of course, that’s why I had critics counting me among the experiential crowd 15 years ago but I’ll be forthright with you. The criticism, no matter how mean-spirited it got, was worth enduring because I was not about to let somebody convince me that Scripture and experience were always mutually exclusive. I wanted them both. I wanted to thrill to the Word of God with everything in me AND I wanted to experience the presence of Christ as palpably as He’d permit me.


I would not deny for a moment that there are people in the wide stretch of Christendom who rely strictly on experience and rarely if ever open their Bibles. I also have no doubt that many study their Bibles but never have what they’d qualify as an “experiential” encounter with the Holy Spirit. But there is another category and it is chock full of people who have devoted their entire lives to the study of Scripture and could also testify to rich experiential encounters with Christ. They are not the either-or’s. They have known both.


They are people who would not dream of giving their experience the same weight as the Scriptures. They know full well that it doesn’t mean everything. But must it mean nothing??


Does the Word of God itself not validate experiencing the presence of God?


Every time the living words of Scripture seem to leap off the page into the reality of our present challenge, are we not experiencing God?


Every time our pastors or teachers bring a word that causes the blood to flow hot through our veins –  in the terminology of 1 Thessalonians 1:5 “in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” – are we not experiencing God?


Every time we are overwhelmed with fresh conviction and we experience true repentance, are we not experiencing God?


In those moments when we’re brokenhearted and bewildered and we suddenly feel embraced by His love and assured of our chosenness, are we not experiencing God?


In our worship when we feel moved inside with the sense that His thick presence around us in that place is a greater reality than anything we can see or touch, are we not experiencing God?


When, after striving and seeking and praying, we suddenly know with astounding clarity what God wants us to do in a situation or relationship, are we not experiencing God?


When we have encounters with people that only God could have ordained and had appointed conversations that become pivotal to our callings, are we not experiencing God?


Was the Holy Spirit Himself not given to us so that we could continue to experience the presence of Jesus on this earth??


And do we not keep our Bibles wide open and study them all our lives and every day so that we can even recognize what could be a valid Holy Spirit experience?


No story I’ve ever told publicly has gotten me in more trouble than the one that occurred in an airport many years ago when I felt a profuse stirring of the Holy Spirit to go over to an old man in a wheelchair and brush his tangled, matted hair. Nothing has thrown me into the “experiential” category with my critics more than that story. But here’s the ironic part: I had my Bible wide open in my lap actively memorizing John 1 at the exact moment the Holy Spirit moved on me to stand up and walk over to that man. In fact, I was nearly annoyed by the inconvenience of having to get up and go serve somebody while I was busy with my memory work. They weren’t two separate things. They were happening simultaneously.


Despite the discouragement that being stereotyped can bring, if I thought I’d “experienced” God for the last time, I’d be ready to pack up this whole earthly existence and go home. I live to experience God – in my Bible study, my worship, my restoration, my personal revival, in the laughter of my family that has endured against all odds, in the burst of color in an autumn sunset, in a praise song blaring from the speakers in my car, in church service after church service, in the love I still feel for one man after 36 years, and in a walk all by myself in the country.


I write these words to you today who have devoted your lives to the study of God’s inspired Word and make it your daily bread. You don’t have to choose between the Scriptural and the “experiential.” You can have a devout study life and esteem the Bible more than any other tangible possession on this earth and you can also validly experience the presence and palpable activity of the Holy Spirit. You don’t need human permission to do so. You have the Bible’s permission.


Don’t let anybody take that right from you.


239 Responses to “Scriptural or Experiential: Can the Categories Never Coexist?”

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  1. 151
    Shelle says:

    As a child who was raised to be an atheist by a brutal father, I would have never ever ever believed in God or accepted his son Jesus if God did not give me the experiential along with scripture. Since my salvation, I never even realized that there was a doctrinal separation of the two. It saddens me, and makes me curious about the heart of the one who created this doctrine.

  2. 152
    Marjorie Scheib says:

    AMEN!!! Loved to hear from you today. Beautifully put as always. I am not sure I would have stuck it out if I had to deny my experiences with the Lord were from the Lord and without the Word I am lost little girl stumbling around in the dark not knowing which end is up. I am an AND girl all the way.

  3. 153
    Mickey says:

    Actually, Beth, you are the one who validated for me my experiences that I have had, (and still have) as true encounters with God. I always knew that was what they were, but really could not find anyone to validate that for me. I had never heard of the terms of spiritual and experiential. Honestly, it was my experiences that drove me to the scriptures, which, for me, validated my experiences as encounters with God. Sometimes I felt alone, though, and wondered if I was the only one?? I cannot tell you how thankful I am that God led me to YOU, (another encounter) who has validated my experiences for me. Thank you, Beth. You are a true leader. 🙂

  4. 154
    Melissaa says:

    Yes! Thank you for taking the heat enduring so you can share your freedom in Christ with us. I’m so thankful for my experience in Christ and I do believe that experience is intensified because I am in His word every day. You and the LP girls are in my prayers.

  5. 155
    Jacci says:

    Amen! I experienced the Lord in a time of hurt and bewilderment just this week. Immediately I began to doubt that the comfort I felt was not the Lord, but just my own mind rationalizing. But I want to hold on tight to my experiences with God and not let anyone tell me that they are not real.

  6. 156
    kathy white says:

    Beth : So blessed to read this blog the other day. I love Jesus and His Word and I love that He is so ” up close and personal ” I smiled because I have served in ministry for many years and felt ostracized from some who probably questioned my testimony of HIs encounters…( and I am not speaking of visions ) Although God has done the miraculous to those who do not have the many resources we have available in the States.
    Just this past Sunday I had gone to church with a heavy heart and knew being in the body of Christ in worship was one of the RX I needed for the day. The songs of worship put my eyes on JESUS and my Spirit was so refreshed….God didn’t stop there….Our Pastor had recognized all the VETS and was calling them up for prayer. I was heavy hearted because my husband who suffer with PTSD was at home..He has been in a “wilderness of sorts” and I felt sad that he was not able to join these fine military volunteers. And the appreciation from the church. Our church is big so it was taking some time as they ushered forward… I was moved to tears as I too stood and clapped as they headed to the altar. All of a sudden a co/leader from my Bible Study Group touched me on the shoulder and whispered, ” Kathy, I just want to give you a hug” Mind you she does not know anything about my husbands service in Vietnam….God used this dear sister in Christ as a conduit of His marvelous love and comfort…. I give all the honor and glory to Him and bless her for her obedience.
    Your experience in the airport years back, and the combing of the mans hair moved me and still moves me to tears when I am reminded of the encounter. You were used by God as His conduit of His great love and comfort ( hadn’t the man lost his wife ? )
    That is my desire to know Him more and be the reflection of His grace to those He puts in my path…Always mindful of His love for me to reach out to others. Scripture teaches us a to walk in obedience to all that He says…And just maybe we will sense His Winks !!!!!
    Blessings to you Beth, you are deeply loved and prayed for !

  7. 157
    Joy French says:


    Much love,


  8. 158
    judygrieve says:

    Beth, I just attended a women’s retreat where the two… spirit and experience wove themselves together. The denomination in which I worship is really “quiet” not too much witnessing about our lives, the spirit etc. frozen is often an adjective used. But the theme was the gift of the Holy Spirit and somehow words flowed, tears and smiles joined together. Experience is the glimpse we get of the spirit working. we don’t always see it and perhaps it is not always grounded in the scripture. But for this group ANY time someone is willing to physically and verbally share God in their life…… IT IS GOD AT WORK here in our midst. And I am thankful for it all. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

  9. 159
    Bridget Frederick says:

    Hello Beth,

    Right on target! Honestly I haven’t been asked or suggested such a concept. If someone told me that God could’t be experienced both scripturally and experientlly, I wouldn’t give their opinions much thought. I’ve experienced God is so many ways, but especially in times of deep sorrow and loss. Oh, how He identifies with loss! Only the individual understands how they experience God. That’s why it’s called a personal relationship. It’s specifically designed for each of us to experience God in whatever manner he chooses to reveal Himself. And no one can tell us how we should experience Him. Keep teaching truth. God Bless You!

  10. 160
    Kimberly Mason says:

    Amen Beth! Experiencing God’s presence makes me seek Him in His Word and in Bible Study all the more. Once you get a taste of it, you long for it all the more.

    God bless you sweet Beth!

  11. 161
    Erin says:

    Wow – I never even thought of anyone making this distinction. The Word is living, so it seems like experiencing its truth and power in our lives is inevitable. I love the story of you in the airport. It is beautiful. Thank you for not listening to and not caving into your critics and being faithful to serve us all these years. You’ve brought the Word in season, and we’ve all experienced God together! Thank you!!!

  12. 162
    Becky Comoglio says:

    Amen to that Sister!! The God of Scripture is surely mighty to save, but I also need the intimate God of the daily. If I didn’t have Him experiencing life with me, I am pretty sure it wouldn’t be worth the experience. Don’t get me wrong I love Scripture, it is the heartbeat of God. However our “knowing” includes more than the words on the page and I am so thankful to Father God for that! Your blog encouraged my heart today. Thank you.

  13. 163
    Donna Barbatti says:

    Amen sister. I have had the privelege of hosting Bible study in my home for 8 years. Over half of the women who attend, I met when they walked through my front door. Is that not “living proof” of God working. Eight years together, never turning anyone away who wants to attend, who desires to enrich her life by looking into the Word with each other and being taught by a person who loves the Lord and has shared with us all these years. Thank you Beth Moore for all the hard work you have done and will continue to do. Because of your studies mothers who have lost children, wives who have lost husbands and mothers whose children have cut them out of their lives can say “God is in charge and His plan is the best for my life”. Thank you Beth for coming into my home every Thursday for these past 8 years. God Bless you.

  14. 164
    Susie Hoffmann says:

    I am so thankful for women who are willing to share their experiences with the word of God so that the rest of us can learn and share also.
    May God bless your family this Thanksgiving.

  15. 165
    Connie Feight says:

    AMEN. Thank you, sister loved by God ,for that word.

  16. 166
    Brooke Lynn says:

    Thank you for encouraging us to a deeper level of intimacy with Jesus! You are an inspiring woman!!

  17. 167
    Amy Hedden says:

    You go girl! I have always loved that story about combing the man’s hair and have shared it with others and been encouraged by it in my own life and desire to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. Thank you for a great word today!! You make God smile so much!

  18. 168
    Francine Alston says:

    Being able to study God’s word is a privilege and a blessing. I LOVE God’s word. However, some things we could not do with ‘experiential’ guidance by the Holy Spirit. There have been many times when the Holy Spirit spoke to me with such clarity to do something specific to me that I could not have received in the pages of the His word. When I think of the 400 years of silence between the old and new testament years – not a prophecy, not a movement by their God for generations upon generations of God’s people who hungered and hoped for one iota of a tangible acknowledgment of their existence in His eyes. And we are privileged beyond comprehension to know His presence every day of our new lives. But there are those who would deny the power of this gift given for this generation. It breaks my heart. It’s like someone trying to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together with a lighter sitting next to them. I don’t understand how this could be missed. I am so grateful for the in depth research Beth puts into her studies. But I am also blessed by the personal examples and asides that either reinforce the lesson or let me know I’m not crazy for thinking the same thing. Hang in there, Sister. You are loved by God and a whole host of women who can appreciate the sacrifices you make to bring us His word in such a wonderfully presented package.

  19. 169
    Nancy Hogan says:

    I am so thankful that recently I got to attend a Beth Moore Simulcast and I learned about the wonderful love the Lord has for me and all my baggage. The Lord, has even called me by name. Oh, what joy that act has had on my heart. Did I mention that the Lord knows MY NAME.
    The holiday baskets look amazing. Whomever, gets the baskets will truly enjoy the special gift these specific baskets will be filling.

  20. 170
    Gay Idle says:

    To that I say, AMEN AND AMEN!!! We need to be in the Word and the Word in us as we seek to EXPERIENCE ALL that God has for us in this world! And how in the world do we expect to get all from His Word that He has for us if we do not expect to experience the movement of the Spirit in our lives daily. The rest is up to Him to decide when and how He speaks to us or moves us through His Spirit.
    I love this post!
    Gay Idle/CaptiveHeart

  21. 171

    Thank you, Beth, with tears flowing across my face as I read this post, I realized I needed the verbal hug of this encouragement.
    Thankful in Tennessee

  22. 172
    Mikki Carey says:

    I agree!:)

  23. 173
    Laura Steele says:

    About five years ago my husband and I were in the Charlotte airport on a Wednesday or Thursday morning the beginning of March and a very old man in a wheelchair with long white/grey hair was wheeled off the airplane and in to the waiting area. It struck me as odd because someone in their 90’s usually does not have long hair past their shoulders. I believe I saw this man that you brushed his hair — after it had been brushed! This story has always challenged me because I have asked myself what would I do if The Holy Soirit had prompted me to get up and brush his hair? Who is willing to answer the call especially when the request would seem so odd? Thank you for being faithful and setting the example of obedience . Xxoo, Laura

  24. 174
    Deana Amlott says:

    I’m totally with ya! I didn’t grow up in a church so now since becoming actively invloved and learning how to navigate the whole structure of it and not wanting to do anything “wrong”…i often observe how its done and what other people do there, not wanting to step on other peoples toes etc. I have triedto seehow others live their lives in Christ and how they experience him because I have been hearing him in many different visual ways with situation and tangible objects, with people etc. (experientially) along with Scriptues confirmation of what he is trying to tell me and although it is awesome and edifying and i am convinced/know its him…I …didnt know how to bring it up to others without sounding crazyor felling like they looked at me as if I was crazy until u opened the door to discussion in our church through the Children of the Dayvideoon prophecy and not quenching the spirit. I was able to ask how and others hear him and experience him and to my surprise the seemed interested and open butdidnt have experiences to share themselves. Which I think has a lot to do with Hebrews 11:6 about dilligently seeking Him…he rewards those that do…and I believe it is with more of himself and his presence and also Hebrews 4 about Gods special promised rest for Gods people and that some will not find it due to unbelief and disobedience…i know that during my wilderness experience I didnt hear and experience him like I jad when He parted the waters to escape from “Egypt” in my life and am certain it was because i was wholeheartedly devoted nor fully believed the God that I believed in…in returning to Him..He returned to me…in awesome experiential ways together with Scripture…im a firm believer in the whole package but its now because im doing my part in wholehearted devotion and seeking him…i believe the “extra” stuff are gifts from our Father of the heavenly lights 🙂 Thanks for all u do and your obedirnt heart!

  25. 175
    Mary Ann Wood says:

    Hi Beth,
    We are really enjoying Children of the Day but speaking of God’s word, why do you use the Holman bible?
    Thank you, Mary

  26. 176
    Heather McFee says:

    Such a beautiful basket of goodies!! So thoughtful to put a give away together!

  27. 177
    Alice Myer says:

    What a great idea! I am a big believer in bringing people together through a good meal. Thanksgiving was God-ordained in my mind. A holiday rooted in giving thanks around a meal! That should be a weekly observance! To whomever these baskets are awarded … I pray they will have many opportunities to spread God’s Truth around the table!

  28. 178
    Anitha Abraham says:

    Beth – you are truly one of my heroes in the faith. This blog summarizes what I love most about you – you are both scriptural & experiential. Thank you for being obedient to the call on your life – the body of Christ, especially the ladies, are better because of it!

  29. 179
    Cheryl Williams says:


  30. 180
    Marilyn Cunningham says:

    Logically and passionately put. 🙂
    Thank you for stirring in us the desire for both!

  31. 181
    Lindsay says:

    The story of the hairbrush moves me to tears every. single. time. I love that story. God met a need in that man’s life through the prompting of the Holy Spirit in your life. How beautiful! Thank you for sharing it, in spite of the criticism. It has BLESSED so many, and has reminded us to be alert for opportunities from the Lord to minister.

  32. 182
    karen says:

    And all God’s women said – AMEN!!

  33. 183
    Joy says:

    I would really love my sister’s name to be chosen for one of the baskets. She lives her faith everyday! Recently, her small washer has broken, she fell and fractures her ankle and pulled her ligaments, then her hot water heater broke!
    She still cares for me and for my husband, her pastor. She is my encourager and she loves so many in her life so well.
    She is a great blessing to all who know her.

  34. 184
    Angela P. says:

    Dear Mrs. Beth thank you so much for what you have been teaching on the Life Yoday program a new as well as your books and your teaching series through the book of Deuteronomy on one place radio I have enjoyed it very much and learned a lot about what God wants to do in our lives or the lives of others. Please be in prayer for these young ladies the Cummings sisters and their mother passed away some years ago from cancer. And I believe their father passed away from cancer just last night they have a younger sibling a sister that’s just starting college so please during your prayer time please pray for them. Thanks and God bless Angela Padilla.

  35. 185
    Carol Crabtree says:

    Right on, Beth. Very well said. Jesus wants us to be in relationship with Him, after all. The two views are two sides of the same coin – they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Thank you for bravely bringing up this subject.

  36. 186
    MiChal says:


  37. 187

    I could not possibly love this post any more! 🙂

  38. 188
    Melissa says:

    Wow! Thank you for making that so clear…we can have both!!!

  39. 189
    Amanda Cross says:

    I agree that we can experience God, His character and ways. He showed Himself to Moses and the children of Israel through miracles and signs. He also showed Himself through the life of Jesus with miracles and signs and by raising Him from the dead. However, not everyone who experienced those things believed. I think the fine line is that we no longer follow our impulses and emotions like before becoming a believer. I still too often find myself doing just that–allowing an experience to lead me. An example is my experience with our 4 year old boy where he gets into things and I get angry instead of being patient and self controlled. I came to know Jesus in a very experiential church and allowed myself to live more on emotions and feelings rather than off God’s Word though I was taught to walk by faith and not by feelings. It was taught to us in word, but practically, it was always evident that more was needed.

  40. 190
    Rosa Phillips says:

    I’m new to the to this blog but not new to Beth Moore studies and events. I can’t wrap my head around anyone saying that you can’t experience the true living, and loving God. Im having an even harder time understanding anyone could criticize Beth for sharing her experiences. As far as the man with the matted hair in the airport ; we should all be so obedient to Gods directing. I could say so much more, but ll I just say, “thank you Beth Moore and LPM” Looking forward to starting CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT at my church.

  41. 191
    Becky Brawley says:

    I love experiencing scripture! Right now we are doing Breaking Free as a small group and I am so thankful for Beth Moore obedience in sharing her heart with is what God has done for her. Studies always have been perfect timing! Beth makes Jesus just jump off the page. The study guide helps me stay prepared with God for the day to come ! Thank you so. Much!!! Becky Brawley

  42. 192
    Audrey says:

    So true! Thank you for sharing…and for enduring so much for the sake of the Gospel. We know His glory far outweighs our light and momentary troubles, but conflict is never fun (for me, at least ;). Love you!

  43. 193
    Denise says:

    I love that feeling of His presence when I read the word and I feel it in my heart. And my heart is beating so hard and my breathing is heavy. WOW! I pray that every believer could experience that. And I love how I have a problem or question or an issue and I read the best book ever and He gives me an answer and I know that I know that I know that it was from Him.

  44. 194
    Penny says:

    Thank you for being such willing servants to encourage and lead us by God’s grace!

  45. 195
    Alisha says:

    What a beautiful post, Beth! Thank you so much for sharing! I recently watched a beautiful sermon by Messianic Rabbi Schneider on his show Discovering the Jewish Jesus. He basically said the same thing you did. He explained that one of the reasons we have emotions/feelings is because HE has them. We are made in His image! It moved me to tears when he used the Song of Songs from his “Song of Songs Conference” to show that when we love and worship God, it actually brings Him joy! I had never thought of it in that light before. God is so amazing! Blessings to you all!

  46. 196
    Jewell says:

    Praise God!!! Beth, God just recently introduced me to your ministry. I saw that you were going to be at a church in the area where I live. I didn’t get to attend, but I looked you up on my IPad and found your books. I love to read ( especially God’s word ) In the last month and a half I have read ( So Long Insecurity and loved it , also Breaking Free ) I call it a study I did with you and God. For two weeks, I could hardly lay it down. Switching back and forth in the book and. Bible, making notes on my IPad. Now I plan to write all the notes in a journal. In case anything happens to my IPad . Every day I try to go in and read my notes to keep me breaking free. I have so many favorite statements you made, it is hard to decide one to put on here. Here is one, “People Who Know God, will want God Well Known.” How this study has blessed me. During the two weeks, satan came at me so hard. I can’t go into it all. I know for certain that God put it in my hands the days before his attack. So, Amen Beth, we can have both the Spirit and the experience and no one can make me believe otherwise! Thank You so much for all you do. Praying for you. After I finished the study, I said to God, oh, how I wish I could have a one on one talk with her. Pray for me. Hope to get to meet you somet time. God Bless

  47. 197
    Debi Detroyer says:

    Thank you Beth, I just finished your Children of The Day Bible Study. As I read this blog, and related it to this study….I could see the scriptural and experiential are so closely related. I don’t think you can have one without the other..I think of the word breathe …. how it is spoken in scripture and how you can feel God breathe new life into you. How the Holy Spirit indwells within us. The WOW moments….the confirmation He gives to the one who seeks, is beyond anything we could have imagined before our life in Christ. Praise and glory to our Lord Jesus Christ. I thank him for you and your ministry, you are such a blessing to so many. Love and Prayers, Debi

  48. 198
    Jami says:

    I love to read what God puts on your heart. Or anyone’s as of fact. Thank you for being you! Simply beautiful!!! “I will love you forever” I have stolen that phase from you. 😉 I adore it!! And such truth to those I chose to say it to.

  49. 199
    Sarah says:

    Beth’s silly update was great from October. I was just catching up, and her catching us up while I was catching up was great. 😀 I love it when she does that. So down to Earth and sharing God’s love.

  50. 200
    Sheryl Vickery says:

    Standing tall and loud on this one.
    I KNOW Him. He knows me. We interact…all the time.

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