Review (Part One): The Experience of God–Being, Consciousness, Bliss, by David Bentley Hart

This book is a rare find.  Hart eloquently puts forward what is fundamentally wrong with the materialist point of view that lures so many into a blinkered perception of reality.

Part One:  “God”

The Straw Man

Here we consider the first of the theses Hart pursues:  that the new atheist argument against God is a straw man argument.  The god they reject ought to be rejected, because it does not exist.  What Hart is saying is that any proper discussion about God’s existence ought to begin with understanding something basic about the God we’re talking about.

The fictional god which is the straw man of materialist writers is properly regarded as a demiurge; a conditional entity unto itself.  Another caused entity, rather than the uncaused cause that is above and beyond and behind every conditional, created thing.  Richard Dawkins and Victor Stenger are two among the materialist writers who most blatantly make this mistake.

The real God

The real God is unconditional; pure actuality; the source of all things, and the source of all being.  This is the actual God of philosophers and theologians of enduring religious tradition.  Materialists pretend He does not exist.  They speak and write of imaginary lesser deities, like Zeus and Apollo and Thor, and imagine the God of the Jews and the Christians to be like them.  Such materialist authors simply ignore the God that screams His presence to us in the form of His creation.

Hart makes this his first stop on the way to explaining the incoherency of materialist philosophy—a point of view about which he does not mince words.  “Naturalism [or ‘materialism’] is an incorrigibly incoherent concept, and one that is ultimately indistinguishable from pure magical thinking.”

Materialist circular reasoning

The most fundamental reason for materialism’s incoherency is that it maintains that nature proves that nature is all there is.  What they’re essentially saying, if one parses their approach, is that supernatural reality does not exist because it is not material reality.  X is all there is; Y is not X; therefore Y does not exist.  The premise assumes the conclusion.  As Hart puts it:  “The very notion of nature as a closed system entirely sufficient to itself is plainly one that cannot be verified, deductively or empirically, from within the system of nature.”  Evidence from within the system cannot prove that it is a closed system sufficient unto itself.

Actually, evidence from within the purportedly closed system proves the opposite.  Hart will go on to talk about phenomena manifested in the natural world, which provides just such proof:  being, consciousness, and bliss.  Beyond the scope of Hart’s book is another form of such proof:  the advent of Christ, and His resurrection, and His Ascension, see this prior blog post:  Faith, Reason, and the Ascension.

On his way to pointing out the incoherency of the materialist position, Hart points out the conundrum that if materialism is true, then there is no reason to take as true what the materialist says about reality.  He writes:

If naturalism is correct, and if consciousness is then an essentially material phenomenon, then there is no reason to believe that our minds, having evolved purely through natural selection, could possibly be capable of knowing what is or is not true about reality.

[And see this prior blog post:  Can a Materialist Tell the Truth?]

Proof of God within material reality

Hart’s purpose, he says, is to explain correctly what God is, not to prove His existence.  By explaining God, however, he necessarily does prove His existence.  He organizes his book on what he says are the three supernatural forms of the natural:  being, consciousness, and bliss.  We will visit those phenomena in the continuation to this review.

May 17, 2015

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