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The Experience of God [Kindle Edition]

David Bentley Hart
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Despite the recent ferocious public debate about belief, the concept most central to the discussion—God—frequently remains vaguely and obscurely described. Are those engaged in these arguments even talking about the same thing? In a wide-ranging response to this confusion, esteemed scholar David Bentley Hart pursues a clarification of how the word “God” functions in the world’s great theistic faiths.

Ranging broadly across Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Vedantic and Bhaktic Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism, Hart explores how these great intellectual traditions treat humanity’s knowledge of the divine mysteries. Constructing his argument around three principal metaphysical “moments”—being, consciousness, and bliss—the author demonstrates an essential continuity between our fundamental experience of reality and the ultimate reality to which that experience inevitably points.

Thoroughly dismissing such blatant misconceptions as the deists' concept of God, as well as the fundamentalist view of the Bible as an objective historical record, Hart provides a welcome antidote to simplistic manifestoes. In doing so, he plumbs the depths of humanity’s experience of the world as powerful evidence for the reality of God and captures the beauty and poetry of traditional reflection upon the divine.

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"Hart ... recalls believers of all faiths to the best of their traditions, challenges unbelievers to examine their own metaphysical presuppositions, and does these with tremendous gusto... A necessary book."-Michael Robbins, Commonweal -- Michael Robbins Commonweal "David Hart can always be relied on to offer a perspective on Christian faith that is both profound and unexpected. In this masterpiece of quiet intellectual and spiritual passion, he magnificently sets the record straight as to what sort of God Christians believe in and why."-Rowan Williams, University of Cambridge -- Rowan Williams "Hart marshals powerful historical evidence and philosophical argument to suggest that atheists-if they want to attack the opposition's strongest case-badly need to up their game."-Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian -- Oliver Burkeman The Guardian "A thoroughly entertaining and engaging read. It's difficult to convey to those who are unacquainted with Hart's writing the sheer exuberance of his prose and the bite to his wit."-Ryan Marr, Catholic Books Review -- Ryan Marr Catholic Books Review "Stunning ... bracing and bold ... For provoking deep thought about the profoundest human questions, and for taking an intelligent stand in defense of faith ... Hart deserves the gratitude of a large and appreciative audience."-Damon Linker, The Week -- Damon Linker The Week "Bracing and eloquent ... fans of Hart's winsome prose will not be disappointed ... a fine work."-Edward T. Oakes, S.J., National Review -- Edward T. Oakes, S.J. National Review "David Hart's new book is nothing less than astounding. He is liberal, conservative, radical, theological, philosophical, and historical all at the same time - that is his genius. There is no American writing on religion as intelligently, bravely, and originally as Hart."-Conor Cunningham, University of Nottingham -- Conor Cunningham "David Bentley Hart's new book is a feast- stylish and substantial. Bringing together Sanskritic analyses of God's being with Latin and Greek and Arabic ones, this is a considerable achievement by one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary theology."-Paul J. Griffiths, Duke Divinity School -- Paul J. Griffiths "Writing at a high philosophical level with a sharp sense of humor, Hart argues for an ecumenical Theism. Devastatingly accurate, imaginative, and immensely readable, this is David Bentley Hart's best book"-Francesca Murphy, University of Notre Dame -- Francesca Murphy "Magnificent ... a book unlike anything done in recent times and one that only Hart could write."-Robert Louis Wilken -- Robert Louis Wilken "Impressive"-David Gibson, Religion News Service -- David Hibson Religion News Service "Hart is a phenomenally gifted thinker who recalls believers of all faiths to the best of their traditions, challenges unbelievers to examine their own metaphysical presuppositions, and does these with tremendous gusto... A necessary book."-Michael Robbins, Commonweal -- Michael Robbins Commonweal "Magnificent ... Massively learned and gorgeously written, The Experience of God should entirely transform contemporary debates concerning the validity of belief in the divine."-Mark Anthony Signorelli, University Bookman -- Mark Anthony Signorelli University Bookman "Creative and engaging ... a stunning and provocative achievement."-Kenneth Oakes, Reformation 21 -- Kenneth Oakes Reformation 21 'This hugely suggestive book is a lyrical paean to a vital, more capacious understanding of reality, ourselves and God: a timely and gripping invitation to wake up, see the regnant naturalism, and subvert its suffocating hegemony. The text is by turns elegant, curmudgeonly, witty, infuriating, incisive, nostalgic, rhapsodical, explosive, frequently bang on the money - and always stimulating.' -Philip McCosker, The Tablet -- Philip McCosker The Tablet

About the Author

David Bentley Hart is an Eastern Orthodox scholar of religion, philosopher, writer, and cultural commentator.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful summary of true theism 27 Jan. 2014
I agree with a previous reviewer that this book could benefited from a bit of editing down; it is probably slightly longer than it needs to be. In spite of this though I wholeheartedly give it five stars, since it is so clearly and engagingly written, with a wonderful lucid prose style. The author communicates very well the ideas of classical theism, and shows how these ideas are ubiquitous across all the great religious traditions. He explains brilliantly, and better than anyone else I've read, how the human capacity for grasping the world by means of abstract conceptions (universals) necessitates a transcendental perspective, and how our desire for knowledge, for justice, for beauty and for love all point to this same transcendent realm. I love the way he shows how our bare ability to know THAT something exists, even before we know what it is, points, once again, to this transcendental perspective. He also shows clearly, but also respectfully and with sensitivity, that the naturalistic worldview is ultimately absurd, in the same sense in which the great atheist philosophers such as Sartre and Camus described it as so. He does not set out to show that naturalism or atheism is false, but he does succeed in showing that just about everything in our phenomenological experience that we value and care about cannot be grounded when we subscribe to them, and that, furthermore, we have no little in the way of good reasons to believe that they are true anyway. Open-minded atheists, theists and agnostics should enjoy and be stimulated by this book, and therefore I unreservedly recommend it.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Book 28 Dec. 2013
By Pete J
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is so good that praising it is easy. That its author is able to thread his way unharmed through so many profound issues, with no need to obscure them in unnecessary complications and with no loss of rigour, while systematically dismantling the iconography of most of the popular faiths of our time, from Materialism to evangelical Protestantism, from mundane Naturalism to Intelligent Design, is a testament to his clear understanding of them.

What it says about metaphysics, philosophy, consciousness studies, theology and so forth is for the most part simple and, in philosophical terms, fairly obvious. What it says about God would be a different matter, but it is not obscure. It is fearless in its adherence to sound reasoning and common-sense and takes no prisoners.

The meaning of the word `God', when this is used in its most profound or fundamental sense, in other words its correct sense, is carefully proscribed, and this ultimate phenomenon is clearly distinguished from the various non-reductive and anthropomorphic ideas of God that are invariably the target of atheist preachers and quite often objects of faith for their opponents.

God is defined in such a way that it becomes quite easy to speak of Him in terms of Being, Consciousness and Bliss, and thereby almost casually to syncretise the world's main theistic and atheistic religions. The idea that the God of Christianity, Islam and Judaism would be inconsistent with the discoveries and teachings of Buddhism, Taoism and advaita Vedanta is explicitly rejected in the sub-title and is not entertained for a moment. Rather, there is a cross-referencing of quotations that indicates the commonality of their core doctrine.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
One of the wonderful things about David Bentley Hart's latest book is the sheer breadth of the author's reading. Weaving together sources from contemporary and classic philosophy with those from a variety of the world's major religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, etc.) reading this book feels like being taken on a guided tour of a lifetime of reading and reflection. And it is no arid reader or tome, with the author's heart worn very much on his sleeve. The central contention is not that dissimilar to the one contained in Karen Armstong's 'The Case for God' i.e. that the god that predominates so much contemporary debate, especially amongst fundamentalists on both sides of the argument, is essential a modern creation (with Deists again taking much of the blame) that is far removed from the understanding of God as found in traditional teaching of most of the world's major religious and philosophical traditions. In this latter schema God is not a super-being (like you or I, but with greater powers), but is rather the depth and ground of being itself; God is not a demiurge or grand architect (Hart clearly has little patience for creationism or intelligent design) but is the root and cause of all being.

My two principal criticisms of the book would be as follows: first, one suspects that a judicious editor could have removed 50-100 pages without an loss of meaning or insight. The author's animated writing style and enthusiasm ensure that if never feels like a slog, but it could be more succinct and would probably gain for the improved brevity. Second, as noted the author possesses a rather rambunctious and unguarded approach to writing. Comparisons are not unreasonably made to G K Chesterton in full flow.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Go and buy it!
I'm roughly two thirds of the way through this work, however I have to say it has so far proved to be an incredibly eye-opening and academically rigorous book. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Josh Ringsell
3.0 out of 5 stars Some of the thoughts and describing certain findings confused me ...
Some of the thoughts and describing certain findings confused me. I had to read the book twice to really try and understand some of it but yes, it is worthy or purchasing and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Iris Gee
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful little book
Just wonderful! An inspiring, generous and even a magnanimous book. An important read for theists and their opponents alike. Will be reading more David Bentley Hart.
Published 4 months ago by Michael Foley
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece. Clarifies the classical understanding of God in a...
This book is a hugely important contribution to the God debate by a highly gifted philosopher and theologian. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Simon Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Thought provoking and challenging of some current assumption by those who are critical of religion.
Published 8 months ago by Pen Name
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard Dawkins should read this. It demonstrates to perfection ...
Richard Dawkins should read this. It demonstrates to perfection the adolescent level at which he - and the other new atheists - conduct the debate.
Published 9 months ago by walterono
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books of the year
One of the best books of the year. Hart gives a fresh analysis of perennial problems and leaves sn gasping at the originality of the writing and thought. . Read more
Published 11 months ago by D
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if wordy but doesn't add much new
Hart makes the point that the God he is attempting to describe and justify is not a small ‘g’ god or the demiurge of the Old Testament who created a universe from pre-existing... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Heathcliffe
1.0 out of 5 stars Turgid nonsense
Like most theology, this book contains nothing more than vague, mystical, meaningless bluster which might soothe those who are swayed by emotional talk but will not convince... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mr. Wayne Bagguley
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