The Experience of God

Being, Consciousness, Bliss

David Bentley Hart

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September 30, 2014
376 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 9780300209358
Paper

Also available in:
Cloth

From one of the most revered scholars of religion, an incisive explanation of how the word “God” functions in the world’s great faiths

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

“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

‘. . .there is something evangelical about this study: it is at once both the most valuable discussion of the doctrine of God to have appeared for decades, and a witty, often mordant, defence of Christian belief. . .The Experience of God is still an outstanding addition to the literature on God, not least for its survey of so many of the world’s great faiths. It is also a fine piece of work of Christian apologetics, and a major contribution to debate on science and religion.’—Andrew Davison, Times Literary Supplement
“Bracing and eloquent . . . fans of Hart’s winsome prose will not be disappointed . . . a fine work.”—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

“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

“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
“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
“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
"Magnificent . . . a book unlike anything done in recent times and one that only Hart could write."—Robert Louis Wilken
“Impressive”—David Gibson, 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

“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

“Creative and engaging . . . a stunning and provocative achievement.”—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

“A classic of Christian apologetics”—Francesca Aran Murphy, First Things

"Hart is as skilled a rhetorician as he is a theologian, and is able to deliver a punchy verbal image of the God who transcends all images."—Francesca Aran Murphy, First Things

“[Hart] retrieves and celebrates the classic Christian understanding of God . . . [with] rigorous logic and a caustic style . . . His elegant prose and witty invective bring Evelyn Waugh to mind. . . . Hart’s exuberant writing unmasks the false pretensions of secularism.”—Sidney Callahan, Commonweal
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