The Hidden and the Manifest image

The Hidden and the Manifest

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Sometimes the only way of explaining David Bentley Hart is to turn his arguments into aphorisms, or tweet-length summaries, and hope you've understood him correctly. I've just finished his remarkable The Hidden and the Manifest: Essays in Theology and Metaphysics—which, I should say, is not for the faint hearted—and it is probably the most complex book I have read since his The Beauty of the Infinite. But that makes an attempt to simply summarise his work more important, not less. For all his stridency, bombast, opacity, and dismissiveness of lesser thinkers (from the later Augustine to Calvin!), he remains one of our generation's richest thinkers in any field, and certainly one of our most learned and gifted philosopher-theologians. Disagreeing with him, I would suggest, is more edifying than agreeing with an awful lot of other people. So here goes:

1. Nihilism: in my beginning is my end. Christianity: in my end is my beginning.

2. Ex-Christianity is nihilism, says Heidegger. But Christianity is ex nihilism, says Hebrews.

3. Divine simplicity means that God’s sein (that) *is* his dasein (what). Divine self-existence means that God’s being *is* his no-thing-ness. (Eat that, Heidegger.)

4. God is both infinitely hidden (as Father), and infinitely manifest (as Son and Spirit).

5. The analogia entis (the analogy of being between God and us) is really, really important. Barth only hated it because he didn’t understand it.

6. The difference between the infinite and the finite is the difference between Being and beings.

7. If, in his divine nature, God suffers, he is not love. (That one takes time, but I think it’s true nonetheless.)

8. The claim that Eastern and Western Trinitarian theologies are fundamentally different—from persons to essences (Greek), or from essences to persons (Latin)—is bunk.

9. Thrift is not a virtue. Our modern pathologies stem from too much thrift, not too little. Either fast, or feast. Either pursue asceticism, or abundance.

10. East and West should think better of one another. (Except that the Augustinian, Thomist and Protestant visions of grace are catastrophic, morally idiotic, repellent, absurd, evil and satanic. Hmmm.)

11. Creation ex nihilo, the goodness of God, and the possibility of eternal perdition: you can believe in any two of them, but not all three. (Universalism is the only morally coherent option.)

12. The cross is neither an endorsement of sacrifice nor a repudiation of it, but the final triumph of one type of sacrifice over another.

Needless to say, I don’t agree with all of these (like 10b and 11 in particular), but I think they are all worth thinking about carefully.

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