Friday, July 17, 2009

a good review of David Bentley Hart

It's at:

Like me (see below), he regards Hart's "Atheist Delusions" as a brilliant book, more accurately described by its subtitle, "The Christian Revolution and Its Enemies." Like me, too, the reviewer, Paul Griffiths, sees a rhetorical contradiction (if that's the word--inconsistency, discrepancy?) between the book's emphasis on how Christian joy replaced pagan gloom and the author's own gloom.

He also brings up a point that I agree with but did not include in my review. Hart stresses the novelty of Christianity, how it changed completely the worldview of pagan Rome and Greece. True, but he makes it look as if Christianity came out of nowhere by downplaying its prehistory in Jewish scripture and religion. The Incarnation was, according to Christian tradition and scripture, prepared over centuries in the history of God's special relationship with the Jewish people, with their long internal and external struggle toward monotheism. The Hebrew Bible is an essential part of the Christian narrative. The novelty in Jewish terms was not the coming of a Messiah--that was expected and there were several contenders--but the entirely unexpected form he took--the God-man as an unassuming member of a family that was not socially or economically distinguished--not to mention the manner of his death and subsequent resurrection.

Still, an extraordinary and brilliant book, very different from the other critiques of Ditchkins (Dawkins+Hitchens), in Eagleton's happy term. If nothing else, people raised with, and unquestioning of the standard Enlightenment narrative (how the darkness and superstition of the Middle Ages were dispelled by secular reason and science) should read the book for a compelling and accurate counter-narrative.

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