It has been stated to me that Christianity is "experiential" meaning it is experienced and not necessarily understood. Do I have that definition correct? Is this true?
Yes, I think it is. Though, with an emphasis on "necessarily". Well, beyond the core tenants, anyway.
If you are a Christian but have never experienced God's love, then something is missing. I'm not talking about charismatic or pentecostal "gifts of the Spirit", I'm just talking about... feeling that God loves you.
Miguel de Unamuno: "Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only in the God idea, not God Himself”
Disclaimer: this is my understanding, and probably mine only. I do not speak for any congregation, demonination, or any other -ation.
"Experiential" is inherent to all beliefs to some degree or other, not specific to Christianity. Religion's certainly not empirical if that's what you mean.
Whether can be understood without being experienced is up to the individual I think.
In my view, in order to fully understand something we need to address its root cause. When the root cause is the mind of God, then it is unknowable and can't be understood. There is no "obviously it's just a given that God exists" axiom unless you approach it from inside the belief system, i.e. experience it.
Even science and philosophy have some a priori axioms that we assume because they are either indeterminate or as yet unproven. So there is some degree of faith required for science to work as well, and when the axioms we accept fit with the rest of our experience then it makes sense. Take quantum mechanics or big bang cosmology as an example:
- It's understood in the sense that there is a working theory that explains how the system behaves, and it fits our models and experiments.
- It's not experiential because it's very counterintuitive to our experience at human scale.
For most people these can't be understood through theory or experienced in nature. I think it's an interesting counterpoint.
As Blessed Mother Teresa is a good Christian soldier, I would have to say no.
She had faith, she loved and she hoped in her Redeemer, but for almost 50 years she did not 'feel' Christ's presence in her life.
Christianity is a journey, it is an encounter with our Creator and Redeemer, it is not primarily experiential, although there are charismatic movements within Christianity that focus on the experience and the gifts of the Holy Spirit which can be experienced.
As St. Paul says, there are many charisms, but one Lord. Since not every Christian is given the grace of experiencing the Spirit. If Christianity is indeed accessible to all, then it is not experiential.