Fortress Press

The Problem of Perception and the Experience of God: Toward a Theological Empiricism

The Problem of Perception and the Experience of God: Toward a Theological Empiricism

The Problem of Perception and the Experience of God: Toward a Theological Empiricism

A fundamental problem in Christian theology has been that of determining whether God can be an object of experience and how we should account for God’s empirical availability to us. Can experiences of God serve to inform and justify our theological beliefs and practices? The central claim in this work is that there is a radical mistake in many contemporary accounts that require grounding a theological story of God’s availability to us in experience in a prior general philosophical theory of perception. Instead, it is argued that the philosophical problem of perception is a pseudoproblem and that in virtue of their entanglement with that pseudoproblem, the influential accounts of Christian religious experience, such as in Jean-Luc Marion, Kevin Hector, or William P. Alston, are at bottom incoherent. 

The study concludes with a new reading of Gregory of Nyssa and his theology of the spiritual senses, which is free from the bewitchment of the problem of perception. This critical retrieval of Nyssen opens the path toward a viable contemporary theological empiricism—one that characterizes both tasks of theological contemplation and spiritual formation in terms of a receptivity and responsiveness to the perceptible presence and agency of God in the world.

ISBN: 9781451488852
  • Ships in 2 or more weeks
  • This item is not returnable


ISBN: 9781451499735
  • Ships in 6 or more weeks
  • This item is not returnable


ISBN: 9781451496710
  • eBook


“In this intriguing and novel study Sameer Yadav applies the complex insights and lessons of John McDowell's mature philosophy to contemporary discussions of 'spiritual sensing'. Although McDowell himself might not recognize the results, this is a most original and suggestive thesis, conjoining sophisticated philosophical analysis with a sensitive reading of patristic sources:  a remarkable first book from a gifted young scholar.”
—Sarah Coakley
University of Cambridge
“Experience is not a word or concept that I have used in the way I have done theology. Sameer Yadav has convinced me that may have been a mistake; which is but a way to indicate what a substantive argument he has developed in this book.”
—Stanley Hauerwas
The Divinity School, Duke University
“Theology that does not engage the tradition suffers from amnesia and hubris. Theology that uses the past without recognizing its strangeness is naive and fails truly to engage the tradition. Far from falling into either error, Sameer Yadav’s insightful analysis of perception and Christian experience draws the ancient voice of Gregory of Nyssa into conversation with contemporary philosophers in a way that models how voices from the Catholic tradition can help us reconsider and revise our ways of thinking about our contemporary categories without naively assuming we can appropriate the past uncritically or whole cloth. This is a conversation well worth overhearing.”
—J. Warren Smith
Duke Divinity School