Donovan paragraphs 34 on


Donovan explains here that there are theologians who argue that God is best known through personal experience and that inference and argument are not as essential and they differentiate between knowing about a person and meeting them and knowing them personally.


He goes on to refer to Martin Buber’s book I and thou. (His philosophy accords with that of the dualists in seeing everything as having two natures or parts.) we view the world in terms of me and not me or his I and Thou and I and It. The world of It is the phenomenal realm ‘objectivity, reasoning and analysis’; we can’t live without it but cannot live in that realm if we are to be truly human. The realm of the You is fragile and impermanent and it is here that God can be encountered.


Drawing on examples from the Bible, Buber’s likeminded philosophers see God as personal and actively seeking personal relationships with man. The arguments about God and His existence belong in the realm of the I- It whereas arguments from experience belong in the I-Thou realm.


Again in the Christian tradition faith in is always better than belief about. To know God we are advised to ‘trust’ and get involved in the activity rather than remain detached. (See Wittgenstein Lang Games)


In addition there is much in personal relationships that remains essentially inexpressible thus relationships with God have I-You features rather than I-It features. If we cannot be reasoned and analytical about our relationships with other people how can we expect to be about relationships with God. He goes further to suggest that once one breaks a relationship down into cold hard facts the essence of it is lost and it becomes an I-It experience.


As with intuitive knowledge of God this idea of knowledge of God through experience has some philosophical objections to overcome.

These include:

a) the experience may be misinterpreted;

b) to have the experience assumes one already knows about such things and

c) this kind of experience doesn’t guarantee knowledge in the form of understanding.


Just because we believe doesn’t mean we are right. We might be but we might not! Certainty is no guide to veracity. As Russell explained if we can be wrong about people we can be wrong about God. On occasions we can achieve such a close relationship with another person that we feel a genuine rapport but how do we know it’s a real experience.


TV and such like show us constantly how easy it is to be wrong about something we believe is certain knowledge; we trust people implicitly only to have them let us down. If this is true about facts then it is equally true about encounters. (flat earth).


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