Are We Gods?
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I am looking at David Bentley Hart’s new book “You Are Gods: On Nature and Supernature” (University of Notre Dame Press, 2022). After trying to figure out the cover art, I finally, with some fear and trepidation, began reading.
For those who don’t know, David Bentley Hart is almost certainly the most creative Christian theologian alive and working today. He is sometimes considered a philosopher; he is both. I have reviewed a couple of his earlier books here.
Problem is, Hart can be very difficult to read and understand; I mean his books are never “bedtime reading.” They require a relatively high level of acquaintance with philosophy and theology; they are intellectual to a fairly high degree. Still, his creativity and daring (to offer ideas that many might consider new and in a way that some might consider insulting) attract me to read him.
I have complained here many times that Christian theology has fallen on hard times in recent decades; most of what gets published is re-hashing old subjects and debates without ever offering up new ideas. (And, no, my friend at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who I taught with at Bethel I’m not “worshiping the ‘goddess of novelty’.”)
Hart is Eastern Orthodox and very knowledgeable about Catholic and Protestant theologies. That is not to say he always gets others right, but he offers some pretty pungent critiques and at least occasionally offers new ideas that make me think.
This new book of Hart’s will be controversial—for those who dare to read it (it’s expensive and very erudite). To tease you into reading the book with me, I will quote this line from page xviii: “God is all that is. Whatever is not God exists as becoming divine, and as such is God in the mode of what is other than God. But God is not ‘the other’ of anything.”
Has Hart become a New Ager? A Hindu Vedantist? What?
Of course, his book, which is a collection of essays, is an experiment with the idea of “theosis” or “deification.” But does it go too far? I will find out. But I would like some companions on the way. Does anyone want to read it with me? If so, let me know, and I will wait a few weeks to allow you to receive the book and begin reading it.
One thing that immediately came to mind, because whoever wrote the “blurb” on the book’s back says that here Hart “advances a radically monistic vision of Christian metaphysics.” The writer goes on to say, however, that Hart “does so wholly on the basis of credal orthodoxy.” How is that possible? I hope I will find out.
What came to mind, for me, was early 20th century Baptist theologian Augustus Hopkins Strong who proposed something called “ethical monism” as a Christian option. Strong argued that there is only one “substance” that is real, that has being, and that is God. And yet he denied being a pantheist. With Strong’s “ethical monism” in mind, I will see if Hart’s alleged monism is similar. I’m sure Hart has never heard of Strong or been influenced by him. I wonder how both SEEM to come to at least very similar conclusions.
It seems to me that Hart is at least ONE of the most creative and challenging Christian intellectuals alive and working today. And he pulls no punches. His prose is certainly challenging to read, but well worth the effort. I plan to start reading the essays (beyond the Introduction) today, but will re-read the book later for those who say they will buy it and read it and converse with me about it. So let me know if that is you intent.
Even if nobody expresses that intent, eventually I will be responding to the essays in the book here. It’s the first book of Christian theology and philosophy that has come to me in recent years that really grabs my attention and my interest. I love metaphysics and, with Hart, I think the 19th and 20th century abandonments of Christian metaphysics (more or less) has been a tragedy.