God and Spirituality


Glenn F. Chesnut

Also search under the following common variants and misspellings: Glenn Chesnut, Glen Chesnut, Glen Chestnut, Glenn Chestnut, Glen F. Chesnut, Glenn F. Chestnut, Glen F. Chestnut, Glenn C. South Bend

Glenn F. Chesnut, God and Spirituality, Glenn Chesnut
Glenn F. Chesnut, God and Spirituality: Philosophical Essays, November 2010, ISBN 978-1-4502-6769-4, ebook ISBN 978-1-4502-2854-1, viii + 545 pp., $32.95 U.S.

This book takes us on a journey through three thousand years of history, showing us men and women searching for God and finding the answers to their quest in an amazingly diverse variety of life experiences. The author introduces us to pagan Greeks and Romans, ancient Hebrew authors, Christians (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant) from all periods of history, the physicists Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, the mathematician Kurt Gödel, existentialist philosophers, process theologians, New Thought teachers, and the great spiritual masters of the modern twelve step program.

This book is a treasure trove of spirituality; whether you're just beginning or ending your life's journey, it will foster further enlightenment.

The author was originally trained as a chemist and nuclear physicist, but left that field as a young man to enter a religious seminary, followed by several years at Oxford University earning a doctorate in theology. He spent the next three decades teaching religion, ancient Greek and Roman history, and medieval civilization at the University of Virginia, Boston University, and Indiana University at South Bend.

He has written important books on early Christian thought, the understanding of God and Christ in the modern world, and more recently, about the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and the spirituality of the twelve step movement.

He retired from his position as Professor of History and Religious Studies at Indiana University in 2003, but continues to reside in South Bend, Indiana.

Glenn F. Chesnut, Cateract Falls, Indiana, Fall 2011, Glenn Chesnut
Glenn Chesnut at Cataract Falls in central Indiana (Fall 2011)


Click on the chapter titles in red in order to read that chapter on your computer.

Chapter 1. The X-Factor in Conversion
St. Augustine in the garden
John Wesley at Aldersgate
The twentieth century: conversion experiences in the twelve step movement
The drunken English professor
Literary criticism and the stories in the Big Book
The mysterious x-factor
Karl Barth
The transcendent God
Creating a true theistic philosophy
Science vs. fiction
The God who saves
Mt. Sinai
Mount Sinai

Chapter 2. Mount Sinai and the Burning Bush

The Cloud of Unknowing, the Altar to the Unknown God,
and the Dark Night of the Soul
Moses out in the desert sees the light
I am who I am
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
The Anonymous God
The Cloud of Unknowing
The first step and hitting bottom
Hearing God speak from the Cloud
St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul
The Dark Night of the Soul

Chapter 3. The Taste of Pineapple: Words and Meaning
The impossibility of describing certain experiences to those who have not had them
Real experiences for which there are no words
Polanyi and the tacit knowledge that comes from expertise
Learning a new language: the problem of meaning
Electronic computers and the problem of meaning
Learning to speak and understand the language of the spirit
Active engagement
Story telling
Getting past our early religious training
Learning to see how God was always there, even if I did not recognize him
Becoming a baby again
Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy
Rudolf Otto, the most enduringly influential German
philosophical theologian of the twentieth century

Chapter 4. The Realm of the Sacred

Learning to See the Sacred Dimension of Reality:
Rudolf Otto and the Idea of the Holy, Part 1
The holy as one of the categories of the human understanding
Rudolf Otto, the Idea of the Holy
The experience of the holy and the sacred
The story of Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous
The sense of the presence
The holy as the experience of the "numinous"
Metaphors, analogies, and ideograms
Chapter 5. The Mysterium Tremendum

The Seven Faces of the Experience of the Divine Reality:
Rudolf Otto and the Idea of the Holy, Part 2
Rudolf Otto, the nature of our encounter with the Holy
1. Tremendum: the feeling of awe and dread
2. Majestas: the call to total surrender
3. Energeia: power, energy, love and Eros
4. Alienum: the divine abyss lying behind the surface illusion of understandability
5. Fascinans: salvation itself as living in the continual presence of the sacred
6. Augustus: the power which condemns us but then washes us clean
7. Illuminatio: inspiring us to pursue the true goal of the spiritual life
The experience of the sacred: the source of true serenity and the healing of the spirit

Chapter 6. The Ground of Being

God and the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago
The ground of being and the Big Bang
God is the ground of being
The rise of modern atheism in the 1840's
The scientific revolution of the twentieth century shifts the underpinnings yet again
The two great shifts in western thought: classical Greece and the twentieth century
Chapter 7. The Sense of the Infinite
The sense of the infinite and the Kantian problem
Can the human mind have a sense of the infinite?
The experience of the sublime as a signpost pointing to the infinite
Chapter 8. The Spirituality of an Impersonal Ground
St. Gregory of Nyssa and the vision of the primordial abyss
St. Denis
A spirituality of the abyss in the language of the twelve step program
The libido dominandi, the fundamental control neurosis
The desire for the glory of the world
The Courage Prayer
Learning that I am not God
Richmond Walker
Remaking the human heart
Chapter 9. The Cosmological and Epistemological Grounds
The cosmological ground of being
The sublime and the vision of the infinite
The sublime and forces outside our control
The river of eternity
The cosmological ground, the sublime, and the river of eternity
The epistemological ground of being
Both/and: the river of eternity and the epistemological ground in a single system
"Mixed packages": combining four different factors in a spiritual system
Radical idealism and New Thought
A fifth factor: the experience of the sacred
Glenn F. Chesnut on left, bust of Paul Tillich, grave in New Harmony, Indiana, with Glenn Chesnut
Glenn Chesnut standing next to the bust of Paul Tillich at his grave in New Harmony, Indiana.
(Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr were the two great theologians at Union
Theological Seminary in New York City in the mid twentieth century.)

Chapter 10. Paul Tillich: An Impersonal Ground of Being
Tillich's childhood and youth
The First World War
The Dark Night of the Soul
University teaching
Coming to America
Albert Einstein and Paul Tillich
Albert Einstein (over towards the left, standing behind the young girl)
and Paul Tillich (on the right side, standing in front of the others there)

Chapter 11. Tillich and Einstein
1. Spirituality cannot be reduced to only a system of humanistic ethics
2. Primitive superstitions can nevertheless refer to things that actually exist
3. Omnipotence as symbol of an unthreatenable cosmic source of power and grace
4. A supra-personal ground of being does not contradict the scientific world view
The need for symbolic language and metaphor
The kataphatic-apophatic method
The analogy of being
The supra-personal vs. the sub-personal
The common ground between Einstein and Tillich: cosmic religious feeling
The infinite and holy
The sacredness of nature and "nature mysticism"
The sacramental view of the universe
Tillich in Dallas
The Man of Light
The God-bearer, the Man of Light, Emmet Fox's Wonder Child
in its luminous etheric body, Richmond Walker's Divine Self which
shines with light inside the soul

Chapter 12. The God-bearers and the Analogy of Being
The nature of real personal problems
The God-bearers
Judaism and other religions
The twelve step program
The analogy of being
God coming to birth
Emmet Fox and New Thought
The Theotokos
Dante's vision
Charles Hartshorne in the Army Medical Corps
Charles Hartshorne in the Army
Medical Corps in World War I

Charles Hartshorne
Charles Hartshorne, central figure in the development
of twentieth-century process philosophy

Chapter 13. Modern Personalist Philosophies of God
The Boston Personalists
Rudolf Herman Lotze
Borden Parker Bowne
Edgar Sheffield Brightman
Process philosophy: Alfred North Whitehead
Charles Hartshorne
Process philosophy and Boston Personalism: limitations on God
Meaningless statements and logical incompatibilities
The limitations placed upon a loving personal God
Good, evil, freedom, and a universe composed of more than one person
The Great Adventure
Charles Hartshorne in his later years
Charles Hartshorne (June 5, 1897 - October 9, 2000) in his later years. He lived
to the age of 103, and was still writing and publishing books into his nineties.

Chapter 14. The Three Primal Hypostases
The problem with Boston Personalism and process philosophy
Reviving the idea of the three hypostases
A brief review of the three basic cosmological possibilities
The Third Hypostasis: the Energetikos
Logos vs. Nomos
Locke and Kant deny our ability to know the Nomos
The Kantian subjectivity imposed by our cognitive blinders
The reality of scientific progress
The Second Hypostasis: the Logos
The First Hypostasis and Immanuel Kant
The First Hypostasis: the Arbitrarium
Chaos theory
The arbitrary nature of "what is there"
The Arbitrarium, the Logos, and the Energetikos
Chapter 15. A Personal God: Love and Energy
Panpsychism is not the answer
The layers of reality
Jean Piaget: correspondence vs. interdependence
The dangers of reductionistic systems
Double determination and multiple determination
The role of multiple determination in other kinds of human decision making
Plato's theory of love
Intelligence and love
Art and creativity
Agapę love for other human beings
The ground of being as the creator of love and the possibility of love
The third hypostasis as the divine love itself
God as the Great Ocean of Love
Discovering a personal God
The friends of God and the spiritual marriage
Jean Piaget
Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, in his studies of the way children learn about the various
layers of reality, discovered how a higher level of reality can correspond to a lower level
without being rigidly causally determined by what goes on in that lower level

Chapter 16. A Personal God: Meaning and Logos
St. Justin Martyr
Meaning and value
The atheistic attack on meaning and value
The ground of being as personal
Not a proof but a suggestion
Chapter 17. A Personal God: Will and the Arbitrary
Arbiter, witness of all things, and He Who Sits in Judgment over the universe
A personal God vs. an impersonal ground in early Christian spirituality
How would one describe a "personal being" or "personal consciousness in Greek?
Personal consciousness: power to think and make choices
A God who possesses a will
The decay of the concept of the will of God in the early modern period
"I am what I am"
Dante mystic rose Gustave Dore
The vision of the divine Light at the end of Dante's Divine Comedy:
all the universe turned by love and centered on the three primal hypostases

Chapter 18. The Turing Test: Discovering a Personal God
Turing the code-breaker
The Turing test: can one build computers that think?
Is God personal?
The pragmatic test
The existential test
Personal communication between two vastly different kinds of being
Human beings and dogs
Discovering the God who loves and cares for me: the knowledge of long term personal encounter
Chapter 19. The Nature of Grace
The early Christian belief in free will
Predestination and fatalism in St. Augustine
Eusebius of Caesarea and human free will
The laws of nature
Miracles and the accidents of history
General providence and the general graciousness of the universe
Emmet Fox and New Thought: a universal power of grace
The power of coincidence: Carl Jung's concept of synchronicity
"Coincidence" and divine grace in the twelve step program: Father Ralph Pfau
The understanding of apparent coincidence in the twelve step program
Random distribution and patterns of meaning: correspondence vs. interdependence
The two planes of existence
Miracles and the supernatural
Salvation by grace alone
Chapter 20. Why the Future Cannot Be Totally Predicted
Scientific determinism vs. human moral responsibility
Leibniz vs. Kant
Scientific determinism and Laplace's Demon
Defending human free will against the clockwork universe
The twentieth century
The two body problem
The insolubility of the three body problem
The Heisenberg uncertainty principle
Chaos and the butterfly effect
Gödel's proof
Stephen Hawking
The Cretan paradox and self-referential statements
Gödel and the nature of intelligence itself
Information theory
Total determinism is an illusion
The Butterfly Effect
Consciousness, time, and the butterfly effect.

Chapter 21. Self-Transcendence
The gifts of modern science
The need to act as though all events have causes
The deterministic paradox and self-referential questions
The study of human beings vs. the study of Nature
The attempt to explain away self-transcendence
Self-transcendence in the twelve step program
The ghost in the machine
Jean Piaget
Correspondence vs. interdependence
The human brain as a computer which can creatively reprogram itself
Human free will
God cannot know that 2 + 2 = 5
God knows the future as it actually is, as still partially undetermined
Encountering a personal God
Chapter 22. The Faith of a Nomad
The faith of a devil will not save you
Martin Luther: faith is trust
Walking the tight wire over the abyss
The medieval Catholic tradition: Meister Eckhart, Johann Tauler, and the Theologia Germanica
John Wesley and the Upper Room: faith as the door and love as the goal
Being saved by faith alone: present tense (now), not future tense (after I die)
Abraham: the faith of a desert nomad
Hebrews 11:1 and John Calvin: faith as a sense of truth or a kind of higher knowledge
Calvin and the medieval Catholic tradition: St. Bernard of Clairvaux
God communicating with us via the material world
The supernatural dimension: God breaking through to us from outside
The heavenly dimension of the soul
Chapter 23. The Journey of Faith: the Railroad Man
The story of Ed Pike
The first step: becoming more and more frightened by our problem
We are then progressively driven further and further downward
At the very bottom: God's little nudge to push us onto the healing path
The appearance of the messenger sent by God
Proto-faith or implicit faith
Unconscious change and growth gradually evolving into explicit faith
Journeying into Abraham's desert: stubborn commitment, willingness to change, becoming teachable
"I know there is a God"
Going on an adventure into a new land
Blake, Ezekiel's vision of the Throne Chariot
For St. Macarius, my human soul is the heavenly Throne Chariot in Ezekiel.
When I allow God to direct the spiritual wings of the four angelic powers which energize
my soul, the hand of God will hold my soul up as I fly to heaven.

Chapter 24. The Chariot of the Soul
The Big Bang
God as the ground of being
St. Gregory of Nyssa: God as the unknowable abyss
The intimately personal God of St. Macarius
St. Macarius and the image of the Throne Chariot in Ezekiel
Personal or impersonal?

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