The Experience of God: A Postmodern Response

The Experience of God: A Postmodern Response

John D. Caputo series editor
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 278
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Experience of God: A Postmodern Response
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4779-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Kevin Hart and Barbara Wall
  4. Introduction
    (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 God not to be experienced by finite beings,” someone will offer as a first comment. “And if we do encounter anything that appears divine it would be, at best or worst, an idol.” Chances are that another member of this group will...

  5. 1 The Experience of God and the Axiology of the Impossible
    (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 trying to read extremely complex computer data from the Galileo telescope that only a few highly trained experts can understand? What would “experience” mean if one had an experience of God? For that matter, what would “God” mean if God could...

  6. 2 Experience of God: A Response to John D. Caputo
    (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 the divine Dynamis,¹ the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, to do the impossible. What was impossible for Paul while he livedkata sarka(in the blood, that is, on his own) is now more than possible because...

  7. 3 “A World Split Open”?: Experience and Feminist Theologies
    (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 playwright Ntozake Shange, as feminist theologians working in the late 1970s and ’80s sometimes did, women found God in themselves and “loved her fiercely.”³ When women told what they had undergone, what had sustained them, oppressed them, and set them free, how they had endured and survived, what...

  8. 4 A Womanist Experience: A Response to Kristine Culp
    (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 experience in saying something meaningful to ourselves and others about God and our self. This work is intriguing even with the recognition of its being read with the eyes of one who, in great similarity to Culp’s experience at Lourdes, could neither fully participate in...

  9. 5 The Experience of the Kingdom of God
    (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 remarkable statement been uttered than you press the button: the man becomes a living statue, and you are left to ponder what has been said to you without having to respond....

  10. 6 Faith and the Conditions of Possibility of Experience: A Response to Kevin Hart
    (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 (I’ve put one on my Christmas list!), I don’t have the luxury of turning off his testimony regarding his experience of God. And so I often hear him recount similar experiences: “Jamie, I met God in such a powerful...

  11. 7 Liturgy and Coaffection
    (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 (or what people docoram Deo) as an experience that knows neither “subject” nor “object”; (3) and examining the extent to which the “we” of the liturgy is that of a coaffective experience, that is, the “we” of aMitbefindlichkeit.

    For Husserl, who coined and popularized the wordintersubjectivity, the other man, the other subject, the other...

  12. 8 A Response to Jean-Yves Lacoste
    (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 for this exercise. In Lacoste’s work, this means, above all, recognizing the greater emergence of what we might call the secular dimension of our humanity,¹ but also dealing with new and sophisticated forms of thought willing to ground themselves entirely there. His approach to this twofold challenge...

  13. 9 When God Hides His Face: The Inexperience of God
    (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 and perplexity,” which gives rise to “lament,” and how this is associated with the scriptural notion of a God who has hidden his face. When God hides his face and will not respond, what then is the human response?

    We begin with a few basic presuppositions that...

  14. 10 Schools for Scandal: A Response to Michael Purcell
    (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 evacuated of meaning. What stands between the “world” of the first and the “appearance” of the second, I wonder? In other words, if to us the world from time to time “seems evacuated,” then is the problem one of perception (what it seems) or...

  15. 11 Faith Seeking Understanding: The Impossible Intentions of Edith Stein
    (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 sympathetic to several postmodern philosophical trends. In this essay, I shall describe how Edith Stein rejects an Enlightenment view of the self in a manner similar to that of Jean-Luc Marion. I will also show how Stein, like Marion, remains genuinely committed to the apophatic tradition, drawing effortlessly on the negative theological imagery of Dionysius...

  16. 12 The Twilight of the Idols and the Night of the Senses
    (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 we say. The fact that the experience of God can be the theme of questioning and inquiry thus informs us that reflection on the experience of God is always accompanied by doubt, whether this doubt is only the...

  17. 13 The Black Women’s Spiritual Narrative as Sermon
    (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 [sic]”¹—as the epigraph to the first autobiography written by a black woman in the United States,The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee, A Coloured Lady, Giving An Account of Her...

  18. 14 Wisdom of the Heart: The Human Encounter with God in Pensées and Moby-Dick
    (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 (though not necessarily orthodox), who set as his goal to write the ultimate defense of Christianity, and who lived the last years of his life as a sickly hermit; and the nineteenth-century American novelist, raised Calvinist, married to a Unitarian, who came up with his own brand of skeptical, confrontational theism, who penned perhaps the greatest and most strangely...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 213-246)
  20. Contributors
    (pp. 247-250)
  21. Index
    (pp. 251-260)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-263)