First of all, David needs no one, especially a light-weight such as I, to defend what he has written. Having seen his responses to some of his detractors – those tireless defenders of God As Monster – I can assure you with all certainty that he is not someone with which you should attempt to lock intellectual horns. You will come out bruised and beaten.
Nonetheless, there is yet another writing now out which takes to itself the title “David Bentley Hart has Written a Silly Book.” For some unknown reason, whenever I read certain intellectual posturings on the Internet, I feel a terrible need to snap back. This reaches a boiling point when I do a little biographical research and discover that the writer of this piece appears to be a member of a religious body which has long ago left any semblance of following the sexual morality and eclesiastical rules which are laid out by God in Sacred Scripture. It is one thing to give a reasoned critique from a place of attempted obedience to the Bible, even if you are a bit misguided. It is quite another to present yourself as a scholar when you don’t have the intellectual ability to realize that the promotion of homosexuality, the denial of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and the ordination of women as “priests” flies in the face of what is clearly written for our obedience. If the writer was perhaps Greek or Russian Orthodox, I would perhaps give some consideration to his thoughts. Damn little, being convinced of the rightness of Patristic Universalism, but some. The fact that he appears to be – based on what little biographical information I could glean – some form of Anglican or Episcopalian, simply makes my blood boil. Those who are openly and without apology supportive of that which is disobedient to Scripture should first learn obedience before running off at the mouth.
Anyway, for what it is worth, here is my response, complete with gratuitous insult at the end:
My first response to you would be that if you find DBH’s book a “silly book” (Which, having read it, I do not) that you publish a rebuttal, ignoring his proclivity for insult and taking to task what you see are his philsophical, scriptural, and moral errors regarding eternity and the response of God to sinners. What you have done is to merely offer a gratuitous insult as a book title with no grounds of substance.
As for DBH’s ascerbic evaluations of certain theologians, I would say that they are well overdue, having for the last fifty years of my life been hornswoggled by any number of theological charlatans who have been entitled “Doctor So and So” by their ability not to think or reason, but rather to regurgitate in some new and fascinating fashion, the same tired old erroneous boilerplate that has existed for several years. I find it easy within myself to have a certain contempt for men who can look at Christian history and yet completely ignore it in favor of a brand of Christianity which either fits their own ideas of God or allows them the ability to engage in sinful behavior with a much relaxed conscience. Such examples of of culpable igorance would be the multitude of Christian pastors and othes who, when confronted with the writings of the Early Fathers, somehow either ignore them completely, or strive to find something within them to continue in their self-deception that Christianity was specifically Protestant when it began. This is lunacy of a high order. Unfortunately, many poor folks who are not theologically literate nor particularly deep thinkers are swayed by their theological snake oil and follow them, sometimes, as in the case of Jim Jones, into a place they never dreamed they would go.
Regarding “embittered vitriol,” perhaps you have never been negatively influenced by Scripture hucksters in polyesther suits as I have, but having been on the recieving end of patently dishonest theology parading itself as genius, and having suffered from it in my inability to become the kind of Christian I should (i.e. loving, gracious, and kind, as opposed to bitter, judgmental, and vindictive – i.e. American Baptist Fundamentalism, from which I have, Gratias Deo, been delivered) I find it all too easy to understand the contempt with which DBH holds certain theologians. Augustine’s wretched attempts at Bible translation are one of the causes (certainly there are others as well, including the error of Caesaropapism in the Orthodox East) of the lamentable schism between East and West and the theology of God as Merciless Condemnator rather than loving Father (i.e. the God of the West).
In short, bad theology hurts people, and having been hurt by it, I find in DBH a kindred spirit in despizing lazy theologians and inept religious theologies posing as wisdom. It is much the same as the Lambeth Conference has destroyed lives by opening the door to sex as sport rather than part of the Sacrament of Marriage. What short-sighted wisdom decided that the interruption of the procreative process, that which is normative for the sexual act, would be a good thing? Some sixty plus years later, the pronouncements of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae have proven true. In multiple areas of life, the removal of restrictions on sexual activity, beginning with the Lambeth Conference, has been disasterous – infidelity, the using of women as objects of pleasure, abortion, and a leading to sex as sport, which in turn has led to any and all manner of sexual desire being legitimized. This was bad theology, done by men who were more inflated by the titles they bore than influenced by clear and logical thinking. The espistelogial end of this “conference” has been the devolution of the Anglican/Episcopal church into a hotbed of radical sexual practices which are condemned by the Bible but approved by that religious body. I think that at the end of time, a great number of adherents to that religion shall find that God is not at all pleased with them.
Being a rather verbose person myself, there is a great deal more I could write on the subject of wretched religious practice, but in summation, you better hope that DBH is right!
And now, having been distracted from my breakfast by my need to write this, I am headed to a wonderful little coffee shop near my house where I shall read DBH’s book again to savor the finer points he makes and commit them to memory for future reference in debates with those who insist that an eternal hell of torment is perfectly just.