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The Experience of God

A Postmodern Response

Kevin Hart

Publication Year: 2005

The book provides a series of approaches to the ancient question of whether and how God is a matter of experience,or, alternately, to what extent the notion of experience can be true to itself if it does not include God. On the one hand, it seems impossible to experience God: the deity does not offer Himself to sense experience. On the other hand, there have been mystics who have claimed to have encountered God. The essays in this collection seek to explore the topic again, drawing insights from phenomenology, theology, literature, and feminism. Throughout, this stimulating collection maintains a strong connection with concrete rather than abstract approaches to God.The contributors: Michael F. Andrews, Jeffrey Bloechl, John D. Caputo, Kristine Culp, Kevin Hart, Kevin L. Hughes, Jean-Yves Lacoste, Crystal Lucky, Renee McKenzie, Kim Paffenroth, Michael Purcell, Michael J. Scanlon, O.S.A., James K. A. Smith. Kevin Hart is Notre Dame Professor of English and Concurrent Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame; among his many books are The Trespass of the Sign: Deconstruction, Theology, and Philosophy (Fordham), and The Dark Gaze: Maurice Blanchot and the Sacred. His most recent collection of poems is Flame Tree: Selected Poems. Barbara Wall is Special Assistant to the President for Mission Effectiveness and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University. She is co-editor of The Journal of Catholic Social Thought and The Journal of Peace and Justice Studies.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page

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pp. v


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

The essays in this collection had their first life at a conference, ‘‘The Experience of God,’’ held at Villanova University in the fall of 2001. The conference took place in the shadow of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Those events were nothing if not an experience, an exposure to peril, and the decision to go ahead with the...

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pp. 1-19

Merely utter the simple expression ‘‘the experience of God’’ and you will divide a room, especially if it happens to be filled with philosophers and theologians. There will always be a group that strenuously objects that the expression makes no sense at all—or, if it does, then it is downright dangerous. ‘‘It is the very nature of...

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Chapter 1: The Experience of God and the Axiology of the Impossible

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pp. 20-41

Who would not want to have an experience of God? But if no one has seen God and lived, who would want to risk it?Would this experience be some very extraordinary and death-defying event, like landing on the moon or being abducted by aliens? Or would it rather be a much calmer, cooler, and more calculating affair, like...

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Chapter 2: Experience of God

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pp. 42-46

In the seventh chapter of his epistle to the Romans, St. Paul tells us how he wants to do good—how he wants to follow Christ, but confesses that it is impossible for him to do so. Then comes the eighth chapter, and he finds himself able to do the impossible, and now he writes that he has been empowered by...

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Chapter 3: ‘‘A World Split Open’’?

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pp. 47-64

If a woman told the truth about her life, ‘‘the world would split open,’’ the poet Muriel Rukeyser observed.1 This was gospel for the earliest feminist theologians. Mary Daly gave this now classic explanation, ‘‘In hearing and naming ourselves out of the depths, women are naming toward God.’’2 Or, to paraphrase the...

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Chapter 4: A Womanist Experience

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pp. 65-70

Kristine Culp has taken us on an interesting ride. We have experienced with her memories of her visit to Lourdes, and we have shared with her a partial yield of her reflection. We have discovered that she, unlike some postmodern feminists, wants to reclaim, at least for feminist theology, the intrinsic and extrinsic value of...

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Chapter 5: The Experience of the Kingdom of God

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pp. 71-86

Imagine that someone knocks on your door and, when you open it, the man standing there says to you, ‘‘I have experienced God.’’ And imagine that you have walked down the hallway from the kitchen or the study with a remote in hand, a newfangled contraption with a special feature you have been dying to try out: a pause button that works with human beings. No sooner has that...

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Chapter 6: Faith and the Conditions of Possibility of Experience

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pp. 87-92

I think I know the fellow who knocked at Kevin Hart’s door: every Sunday, he sits just a few pews in front of me at Del Aire Assembly of God, an inner-city church in Los Angeles. And every once in a while, he comes to pester me in my adult education class. Lacking that handy remote which could stop him mid-sentence...

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Chapter 7: Liturgy and Coaffection

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pp. 93-103

When we pray, what is this ‘‘we’’ that prays? To answer this question, I will take on three tasks: (1) spelling out the phenomenal reality of the ‘‘we’’ or the ‘‘with’’ by evoking two accepted understandings of these notions; (2) describing the liturgy...

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Chapter 8: A Response to Jean-Yves Lacoste

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pp. 104-112

Liturgy and Coaffection: Jean-Yves Lacoste’s title makes the reasonable suggestion that we attempt to think the relation with God together with thinking about the relation with other people, and more precisely at the level of mood and feeling. As his text unfolds, we are also required to heed the conditions defining the context...

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Chapter 9: When God Hides His Face

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pp. 113-129

The attempt at meaning is hard, involving, as Ricoeur would say, a ‘‘long detour.’’ How does one make sense of the seemingly meaningless? When God hides his face, and Derrida’s ‘‘transcendent signified’’ is displaced in human experience, how then does one find meaning? What I wish to consider here is ‘‘experience of distress...

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Chapter 10: Schools for Scandal

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pp. 130-135

Perhaps I can only begin where Michael Purcell does, with his presuppositions. He begins with the assertion that ‘‘Human life is meaningful . . . we are entered into a ‘world’ in which there is already meaning.’’ His second assertion is that this same life, the meaning of which we find ourselves already ‘‘in the middest,’’ can seem...

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Chapter 11: Faith Seeking Understanding

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pp. 136-155

Similar to many contemporary postmodern philosophers, the phenomenologist Edith Stein rejected certain ‘‘modernist assumptions’’ concerning the human self and the self’s experience of God. Although she did not live to participate in contemporary discussions on modernism,1 I submit that Stein would, in fact, be quite...

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Chapter 12: The Twilight of the Idols and the Night of the Senses

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pp. 156-172

The question of experience of God may be taken to respond to the thought that experience of God has become questionable. Heard in this way, the question summons the idea that what we call ‘‘God’’ is in fact not God, whether this is taken to mean simply that there is no God or that God is somehow other or more than what...

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Chapter 13: The Black Women’s Spiritual Narrative as Sermon

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pp. 173-191

In 1836, itinerant preacher Jarena Lee offered her Philadelphia readership a brief spiritual autobiography to teach them of salvation and to give an account of her call to preach the gospel. She employed the prophetic words from the biblical book of Joel—‘‘and it shall come to pass . . . that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons, and your daughters shall prophecy...

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Chapter 14: Wisdom of the Heart

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pp. 192-212

At first glance, the comparison proposed by this essay might appear counterintuitive at best, idiosyncratic and misleading at worst: there would seem to be an insurmountable number of differences and contrasts between the seventeenth-century French scientist, mathematician, and theologian, devoutly Catholic...


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pp. 213-246

About the Contributors

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pp. 247-250


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pp. 251-260

Others Books in Fordham's Perspectives in Continental Philosophy Series

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pp. 261-263

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247790
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823225187
Print-ISBN-10: 0823225186

Page Count: 278
Publication Year: 2005