Examine and comment on how far the study of religious experience can illuminate an understanding of God with reference to answered prayer.. (50 marks)

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Examine and comment on how far the study of religious experience can illuminate an understanding of God with reference to the topic you have studied. (50 marks)

Richard Swinburne, a British philosopher of religion states that: ‘An Omnipotent and perfectly good creator will seek to interact with his creatures and in particular with human persons, capable of knowing him.’ Suggesting religious experiences is a way in which a divine being seeks to interact with us, his creations. This view point is not universal and differs from a person to person. People today are still seeking the explanation and understanding of religious experiences and whether or not it helps illuminate our understanding of God.

A religious experience is a non-empirical personal encounter with the divine. The topic within religious experience I have studied is answered prayer. Prayer is a way of intensely communicating with God, claimed responses people have received to their prayers lead them to believe that there is a God, listening and answering their prayers. According to many theists, which have experienced answered prayers, most of them would argue that the experience has illuminated their understanding of God. For instance, if a prayer has been answered, it strengthened their belief in God; with the experience it brings an awareness of something beyond us. Hence, for believers, this makes religious experiences the most convincing proof of the existence of God. Saint Teresa of Avila described it: ‘God establishes himself in the inferior of this soul in such a way, that when I return to myself, it is wholly impossible for me to doubt that I have been in God and God in me.’ An answered prayer is suggested by Caroline Franks Davis as an interpretive religious experience. Interpretive religious experience, sometimes a person sees an experience as religious not because of any unusual features of the experience itself, but because it is viewed in light of a prior religious framework. 

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Some experiences seem to be an answer to prayer. William James reports a sailor in 1689 whose ship had been overcome by pirates. The man fought the pirates, but came to a point where he needed something to strike with. He prayed "Lord, what shall I do now?", and at that point, remembered a knife in his pocket. He broke free from those holding him, got the knife, and killed some pirates. The man that fought the pirates believed, this to be an answered prayer, but others would argue that, it is just a matter of coincidence. Therefore, because experiences ...

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