Hart, David Bentley
Hart, David Bentley
Education: Attended University of Virginia; University of Cambridge, M.Div. Religion: Eastern Orthodox Christian.
Providence College, Providence, RI, Randall Chair in Christian Culture, 2007—. Has taught theology at University of Virginia, University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, St. Paul, MN, Duke Divinity School, Durham, NC, and Loyola College, Baltimore, MD.
The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth, W.B. Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2003.
The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?, W.B. Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including Pro Ecclesia, the Scottish Journal of Theology, First Things, and the New Criterion.
David Bentley Hart is an Eastern Orthodox theologian whose first book, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth, was lauded by critics for its elegant prose, cogent thesis, and deft understanding of history. A panoramic debunking of postmodern thought through a theological lens, the book "can no more be reviewed than Mozart or muzak," wrote Charles Heflin in the journal Theological Studies. The main battle Hart believes in is between the inherent peace of Christianity and the endemic violence of modernism. Ultimately, he says rhetoric is legitimate only when it submits to aesthetic beauty. Truth is beautiful, the book argues, and the most beautiful thing in the world is Christian thought and the Holy Trinity—the very essence of peace itself. In contrast, most Western philosophers lack anything that comes close to the Divine. Hart skewers Immanuel Kant, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Gilles Deleuze, and Emmanuel Levinas—finding them far off the mark when it comes to understanding the nature of being. Those to whom Hart looks for philosophical guidance include St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Maximus, St. Augustine, St. Bonaventure, St. Anselm, and Hans Urs von Balthasar. In reviewing the book for the journal First Things, Geoffrey Wainwright said that "few, if any, other theologians could have written The Beauty of the Infinite.… The elegance of its style and the sophistication of its arguments are backed by knowledge of languages ancient and modern, familiarity with secular philosophies … and a deep commitment to classic Christianity."
Hart's second book, The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? focuses on the humanitarian disaster of December 26, 2004, in which over 250,000 people were killed in the Southeast Asian tsunami that struck Indonesia, Micronesia, Ceylon, and other countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. The book is an expanded version of an essay Hart wrote for the Wall Street Journal that tackled those who questioned how God could allow such widespread devastation, particularly when so many victims were children. In examining this "evil," Hart turns to Voltaire and Dostoyevsky to illuminate a complex theology in which a Divine God seemingly allows so much suffering in the world. Although Cindy Crosby, writing in Christianity Today, considered the book "unnecessarily obtuse in places," she concluded that "Hart compellingly argues that this world is only a shadow of a more glorious creation that God intends." In regard to the tsunami, Hart answered the question "where was God?" in an interview for the Christian Century. He was "in and beyond all things, nearer to the essence of every creature than that creature itself, and infinitely outside the grasp of all finite things."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Christian Century, December 14, 2004, review of The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth, p. 21; October 4, 2005, Willis Jenkins, review of The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?, p. 35; December 13, 2005, review of Where Was God in the Tsunami?, p. 26; January 10, 2006, "Where Was God? An Interview with David Bentley Hart," p. 26.
Christianity Today, December, 2005, Cindy Crosby, review of The Doors of the Sea, p. 73.
First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, March, 2004, Geoffrey Wainwright, review of The Beauty of the Infinite, p. 36; October, 2005, review of The Doors of the Sea, p. 69.
Journal of Religion, January, 2005, Christian Sheppard, review of The Beauty of the Infinite, p. 183.
Journal of Theological Studies, April, 2005, David Jasper, review of The Beauty of the Infinite, p. 291.
Library Journal, September 1, 2005, Brad S. Matthies, review of The Doors of the Sea, p. 148.
Modern Theology, October, 2005, Oleg Bychkov, review of The Beauty of the Infinite.
Theological Studies, September, 2005, Charles Hefling, review of The Beauty of the Infinite, p. 684.
Theology Today, April, 2006, Ellen T. Charry, review of The Beauty of the Infinite, p. 101; April, 2007, David Aers, review of The Beauty of the Infinite, p. 89.