OCST06 Christian Experience of God: Christ, Church, World



In his Encyclical Deus caritas est Benedict XVI describes Christianity in terms of an experience of God’s love: “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Benedict XVI, Encyclical Deus caritas est, 1). This gives rise to the need to examine the nature of this kind of experience more closely and to clarify the meaning of this way of speaking. The question of the specificity of the Christian understanding of the experience of God goes to the heart of every Christian spirituality.

The aim of this course is to relate the most important moments of the Christian faith to the category of experience and to open up its spiritual, life performing dimension. A solid philosophical-theological basis should enable students to reflect critically on the different modes of spiritual experience.

Based on the centrality of God’s incarnation in Christ, the following topics are addressed: What does it mean to believe in the Triune God? What does Jesus’ and our humanity mean for our relationship with God? What do we understand by the Word of God? What is the role of the Church (Tradition, Sacraments, Liturgy, Magisterium, Community)? How does this affect our everyday life in different contexts as well as our engagement with world and history? Can we also experience God in secular circumstances?

Essential bibliography

  • Benedict XVI, Encyclical Deus caritas est (25 december 2005) [http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est.html].
  • Gellman, J., “Mysticism and Religious Experience”, in W.J. Wainwright, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion, Oxford 2005, 138-167.
  • Hart, D.B., The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, New Haven 2013.
  • Johnson, E.A., Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God, New York – London 2007.
  • Ratzinger, J., Introduction to Christianity, San Francisco 20042.
  • Ruffing, J.K., “The Praxis of Spirituality. Experiencing God and Responding to that Relationship”, Studies in Spirituality. Titus Brandsma Institute 28 (2018) 47-63.
  • Walach, H., “Secular Spirituality – What It Is. Why We Need It. How to Proceed”, Journal for the Study of Spirituality 7 (2017) 7-20.