Between Man and God: Issues in Judaic Thought

By Martin Sicker | Go to book overview
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3

The Experience of the Divine

One may assert with some confidence, notwithstanding the efforts of philosophers and theologians over millennia, that there are and can be no satisfactory logical proofs of the existence of God. The presence of the divine can only be experienced. Accordingly, as one writer put it, it is for this reason that man may, in his own mind, justifiably demand of God that he be given the capacity to apprehend the divine in his experience. Man thus turns to God for help when all human effort is to no avail—he seeks miracles that defy the order of nature as a sign of the divine presence. This approach, however, is fatally flawed for it presumes that God somehow needs man to apprehend Him and will therefore grant such a brash request. “Only those are able to feel the presence of God who are capable of perceiving Him in the wonders of existence which hint at wonders which transcend existence.” 1

The crucial distinction between monotheism and polytheism as it affects man may perhaps be best understood in terms of the problem of how one experiences the presence or sense of the divine. In the pagan universe, it is assumed that each category of interaction with the divine reflects the involvement of a distinct deity, a god that specializes in a particular sphere of activity. In the monotheistic conception of divinity, there is only the one God who relates to the universe of His creation in the multifarious ways that man becomes aware of the divine presence.

It is important to note, however, that man never directly experiences God, despite the contrary assertions of some with pretensions to mystical insight, because to do so would be equivalent to claiming that God is real in the sense that He exists within time and space. It would imply that God is some “thing” that man is capable of actually experiencing. But, as Steven Schwarzchild

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