#31 – The Experience of God by David Bentley Hart (My 100 Favorite Books)


How do you picture God?  Who, or what, is God?

Whatever people may say they believe, the way people talk about God points to a sort of God who is just a bigger or more powerful version of a human.  This is common between both Christians and atheist.  In common parlance, when God is spoken of, the image of a bearded white grandpa who is super powerful and a being within this universe appears to be in mind.

Essentially, David Bentley Hart’s book The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss is all about illustrating not just a better, more accurate view of God, but the understanding of God that theists through the ages have believed in.  In other words, Hart is not presenting new ideas but rather old ones.  God, argues Hart, is not a really powerful being among other beings, God is Being itself.  Multiply the universe into a multiverse, add layer upon layer to the natural realm, catalog every being in existence from the smallest quark to the largest galaxy and God is not within this.  God stands totally outside and beyond it all.

Hart is one of my favorites.  His books are extremely difficult (though once you read Beauty of the Infinite, this one seems easy).  He often comes across a bit arrogant.  His arrogance in this book comes across most clearly when he is refuting the totalizing claims of naturalism.  It seems to many today that naturalistic atheism is the neutral viewpoint to which a belief in God must be added.  Hart shows convincingly that to leap to a naturalistic viewpoint is to exercise at least as much faith as a theist exercises.  After all, just because you personally have never witnessed the supernatural does not prove much of anything and to claim there is no supernatural is to dive out of the realm of science and into the realm of faith statements.

That said, this is no Christian apologetic work.  Hart challenges the naturalist view and offers an alternative.  This alternative, at least in this  book, is a view of God that Muslims, Jews and others would hold to.  Hart is a Christian for sure, but this book is about theism in general, not a uniquely Christian view of God.

Overall, this is one of my favorites…though it is not the last time Hart will be on this list!

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