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Religious Experience and the Knowledge of God

The Evidential Force of Divine Encounters

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For many Christians, personal experiences of God provide an important ground or justification for accepting the truth of the gospel. But we are sometimes mistaken about our experiences, and followers of other religions also provide impressive testimonies to support their religious beliefs.

Religious Experience and the Knowledge of God offers an introduction to the complex topic of religious experience and its viability as support for Christian belief, lending credibility to the Christian claim that experiences support our beliefs and actions. Harold Netland explores from a philosophical and theological perspective the viability of divine encounters as support for belief in God, arguing that some religious experiences can be accepted as genuine experiences of God and can provide evidence for Christian beliefs. The book also draws out the implications of religious experience for Christian witness, missiology, and apologetics in today's globalizing and religiously diverse world.

1. Religious Experience: Mapping the Conceptual Territory
2. Religious Experience and Interpretation
3. The Critical-Trust Approach
4. Edwards and Wesley on Experiencing God
5. Experiencing God, Basic Beliefs, and the Holy Spirit
6. Mysticism
7. Theistic Experiences and Religious Diversity


"In this erudite and enlightening book, Netland explores the complexities of religious experience and skillfully guides the reader through the thickets of this topic. Whatever your own experience of the divine (or lack thereof), you will no doubt learn much about the ways religious encounters can inform our thoughts about God and support the soundness of our beliefs."

Chad Meister, department chair and professor of philosophy and theology, Bethel University, Indiana; coeditor of The Cambridge Companion to Religious Experience

"In Religious Experience and the Knowledge of God, Netland provides a comprehensive and thoughtful analysis of key debates, figures, and questions concerning the evidentiary force and epistemic implications of religious experience. The book maps the terrain on this topic as it has developed in approaches found broadly within Western philosophical theism. The 'critical-trust' approach Netland adopts is sure to generate robust discussion among philosophers, theologians, mystics, and religionists. For those interested in the philosophical debates concerning the epistemology of religious experience, this book is essential reading."

Patrick T. Smith, associate research professor of theological ethics and bioethics, Duke Divinity School

"Religious Experience and the Knowledge of God is a first-rate systematic defense of a theistic argument based on religious experience. It is fair-minded, balanced, and engages with historical and current objections. Highly recommended."

Charles Taliaferro, professor of philosophy, St. Olaf College

"In a world that both elevates personal experiences to sacrosanct truth and denigrates or ignores the validity of contrary experiences, it is difficult to imagine a more timely, essential book. Netland charts a careful, clear path through the intricacies of the epistemology of religious experience. Writing from within the Christian tradition but with an awareness and appreciation of other kinds of religious experience, he avoids unhelpful debates and focuses on a 'critical-trust' approach to religious experiences. The greatest strength of this book--one that ironically will be viewed by some as a great weakness--is that the claims Netland makes are not radical, paradigm-shifting, or deconstructive. Cheers to a balanced, common-sense approach to this important issue!"

James Beilby, professor of systematic and philosophical theology, Bethel University, Minnesota

"In Religious Experience and the Knowledge of God, Netland provides a thorough and illuminating account of how religious experience can function as an important testimony for God. His reasoning is careful, and he deals thoughtfully with various objections along the way, alert not to overstate the degree of certainty afforded by experience or to isolate religious experience from other sources of the knowledge of God. The book is conversant with the best of recent philosophical literature while also including important historic testimonies like those of Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley. This is a robust, balanced, and compelling treatment of an important topic."

Gavin Ortlund, author of Why God Makes Sense in a World That Doesn't

"Impressive in its range and judicious in its judgments, this book is now one of the first any student of the subject should consult."

John G. Stackhouse Jr., Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies, Crandall University

The Author

  1. Harold A. Netland

    Harold A. Netland

    Harold A. Netland (PhD, Claremont Graduate University) is professor of philosophy of religion and intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, where he has taught for more than twenty-five years. He previously served as...

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