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Analyse paragraphs 11 & 12 of Peter Donovans article 'Can we know God by experience?'

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Introduction

Donovan Paragraphs 11 & 12 A. In his essay 'Can we know God by experience?' Peter Donovan analyses the possibility of having direct, intuitive knowledge of God. Having done this Donovan considers the views of 20th century theologians and philosophers who have argued that religious experience may provide knowledge of God through intuition. Donovan points out how this idea of intuitive knowledge fits with established Christian ways of thinking: God is a personal being who acts in history. He then distinguishes psychological feelings of certainty from actually being right on logical grounds, and associates intuitive awareness of God with the former. Donovan points out that our sense of certainty is often mistaken, an observation he takes from Bertrand Russell. Although he considers the possibility that experience of God might be a personal encounter (I-You), Donovan rejects the idea that this is itself a form of knowledge. He does not accept that intuition can provide knowledge of God, but claims that this point does not undermine the value of religious experiences altogether. ...read more.

Middle

we can infer the cause (God). Hume argued that cause and effect does not operate as simply as this. Moreover many modern scientists influenced by Darwin such as Richard Dawkins have argued that by looking at nature we can infer only what is scientifically provable through testing, and that to look at the Earth and to make the jump to God is too great. Another example of Owen's that Donovan uses to gain a sense of God's reality in this extract is religious experience that comes as a product of secular pressures of life. This again is a controversial area of sociology and philosophy that has been addressed in detail by Karl Marx. Marx argued that rather than being a source from which to gain knowledge of God, religious experiences that are triggered by secular pressures are a form of 'religious opium' that act to nullify the pains of those with lower social status. Marx went on to counter the religious experiences of those of higher social status by claiming that these religious interactions merely act to reaffirm the positions of the ruling classes who are desperate to keep hold of their power. ...read more.

Conclusion

One key proponent of the idea that we can learn about God through natural theology is Mother Teresa who used her views of nature to conclude that "God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls" As has been shown by all the conflicting viewpoints on the acquisition of knowledge about God, it seems to be an area of philosophy that, like many others, is inconclusive largely due to its subjective nature. In this extract Donovan points out how this idea of intuitive knowledge fits with established Christian ways of thinking, however Donovan in the rest of the article goes on to acknowledge the weaknesses of gaining knowledge of God, arriving at the conclusion that there is no justification for an all or nothing view of religious experience as despite its weaknesses it still has significant value to the individual. ...read more.

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