Comments 8

  1. Good review(s). Of course Hart’s selective reading cannot really be criticized for claims that those outside Orthodox are wrong in the main since he has no need to grant that Calvin for example is “within the Church”; a better critique for Hart would be by reference to all the Orthodox saints and theologians who do affirm late development we call “hell”, since he must accept on his own commitments that the Orthodox Church is dogmatically correct.

    Then again I am not aware of any dogmas that contradict his position so perhaps this objection falls for that reason.

  2. The great historian and friend of CS Lewis, Herbert Butterfield, warned us to be suspicious of official history. That can be popular history, not just history written by the state. Official history in the US is driven by atheism and socialism because most professional historians are atheists and socialists. They have re-written US history to favor their ideologies. David Barton is doing an excellent job of telling the true history of the US. How can you tell? The gold standard in history is the use of original sources. Barton specializes in that. Most professional historians refuse to look at original sources.

  3. Hart’s analysis of punishment reminds me of the one about the Trinity. Many people can’t understand it and call it impossible math, so they reject it and Christianity. Others can’t comprehend how God could be good and kill most of humanity in the flood or command the Israelis to kill all the men, women and children in Canaan. Hart and other suffer from what the great economist FA Hayek described as false reason, or rationalism. He wrote about economics but it applies to religion as well. In false reason, a person insists that nothing can be true unless he can personally comprehend exhaustively. But if Hart could understand God exhaustively then Hart would be god and not god.

    By definition, humans cannot understand everything about God. Hayek made that clear in another book in which he wrote that for one entity to understand another the first must be more complex. Since humans cannot be more complex than humans, we’ll never understand ourselves completely. But it’s impossible for humans with our minimal complexity to understand God who is vastly greater in complexity. Grasping this reality means that there will be somethings, like the Trinity, that we can’t understand and take God at his word. Hart refuses to humble himself and allow God to be more complex than himself.

    Sound hermeneutics (applying the principles of hermeneutics as distilled by Aristotle and Aquinas) applied to the Bible makes it clear that God will punish some people for eternity. That doesn’t square with Hart’s definition of a good god. I’m sorry, but God is right and Hart is wrong even if neither of us can understand why.

  4. If you’re Eastern Orthodox, focusing on St Isaac the Syrian, Origen, St Maximus the Confessor, and St Gregory of Nyssa – and mostly ignoring the West – is reasonably fair. DBH is not cherrypicking. St Augustine and his theological heirs (Calvinists, Jansenists, and so on) don’t really fit in the Eastern tradition. And yes, I know St Augustine is one of our saints from the undivided church. And yes, I know in the past we deeply appreciated St Thomas Aquinas. But neither Augustine nor St Thomas are really part of our Weltanschauung. No, really.
    I avoided using the trite phrase “Orthodox phronema.” I hate that phrase. But perhaps it applies as well.

  5. First,

    Could you give an example of Hart’s “false rationality”? Hart’s logic is to look at God as the Good rather than to focus strictly on His sovereignty. The Thomists and Reformed group have famously used God’s sovereignty and His eternal nature to erect and maintain the edifices of hell. Hart makes it clear where earlier theologians went wrong and he deftly traces everything back to Augustine’s inability to read Greek. Hart also spends ample length on interpreting scripture, not through a theological or doctrinal lens, but from a second temple understanding of scripture. It’s not about “God being right” and Hart being wrong, so I don’t even know why you went there other than that you have not read the book.

    P.S. You lost me at Hayek, but I responded anyway. Actually, your mention of Hayek reminded me of a ploy that one of my brighter colleagues in the Humanities graduate program used when he had not read the assigned text: quote a pithy line from Marx and wax eloquent on it until your five minutes are up.

  6. There are none saved where nothing to be saved from, and yet this book saves mankind from the New Testament and forgets the first caution, for “I will be who I will be” and “I am who I am”
    “Only comport yourselves in a manner dignifying the beatitudes of Christ…
    in no manner dreading your enemies. For this is a sign of destruction for them but of salvation for you.

  7. I get to where Hart got by a more simple and direct path, focused on Jesus’ dying prayer to his Heavenly Father (Abba). When Jesus prayed that his executioners be forgiven because they knew not what they were doing, I believe that his petition was intended to encompass all of humanity, which suffers universally from ignorance about ultimate things. Further believing that Abba granted his Son’s final prayer, I infer that eternal torment in hell for anyone was rendered, at that point, a foreclosed possibility, if it ever were one at all.

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