The Beauty of the Infinite is a splendid extended essay in "theological aesthetics." David Bentley Hart here meditates on the power of a Christian understanding of beauty and sublimity to rise above the violence -- both philosophical and literal -- characteristic of the postmodern world.The book begins by tracing the shifting use and nature of ...
The Beauty of the Infinite is a splendid extended essay in "theological aesthetics." David Bentley Hart here meditates on the power of a Christian understanding of beauty and sublimity to rise above the violence -- both philosophical and literal -- characteristic of the postmodern world.The book begins by tracing the shifting use and nature of metaphysics in the thought of Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Lyotard, Derrida, Deleuze, Nancy, Levinas, and others. Hart pays special attention to Nietzsche's famous narrative of the "will to power" -- a narrative largely adopted by the world today -- and he offers an engaging revision (though not rejection) of the genealogy of nihilism, thereby highlighting the significant "interruption" that Christian thought introduced into the history of metaphysics.This discussion sets the stage for a retrieval of the classic Christian account of beauty and sublimity, and of the relation of both to the question of being. Written in the form of a dogmatica minora, this main section of the book offers a pointed reading of the Christian story in four moments, or parts: Trinity, creation, salvation, and eschaton. Through a combination of narrative and argument throughout, Hart ends up demonstrating the power of Christian metaphysics not only to withstand the critiques of modern and postmodern thought but also to move well beyond them.Strikingly original and deeply rewarding, The Beauty of the Infinite is both a constructively critical account of the history of metaphysics and a compelling contribution to it.
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New. ''Is the Beauty to whose persuasive power the Christian rhetoric of evangelism inevitably appeals, and upon which it depends, theologically defensible? '' Within Hart's opening question, all the essential elements of this ''essay'' are announced and the seeds of an answer contained: Beauty. Taking his cues from von Balthasar (''it would be quite appropriate were this essay read as a kind of extended marginalium on some page of Balthasar's work'') Hart discusses truth and goodness in terms of beauty, the transcendental that ''crosses boundaries'' and which ''has always been the most restless upon its exalted perch. '' It is beauty which lies at the core of Hart's description of the relations between the Persons of the Trinity, a beauty that is ''God's delight and the object of delight, the shared gaze of love the Father sees and rejoices in the Son, in the sweetness of the Spirit, what Son and Spirit find delightful in one another. '' Persuasive power. Christ's beauty is the most perfect rhetoric, ''a form evoking desire, and the whole force of the gospel depends upon the assumption that this persuasion is also peace. '' Evangelism. Precisely because the content of the persuasion is peace, ''the desire awakened by the shape of Christ and his church'' can come to fruition by way of love, ''rather than merely the way in which a lesser force succumbs to a greater, as an episode in the endless epic of power. '' Thus the grammar of the work, which then proceeds with a devastating critique of postmodernity followed by a ''minor dogmatics'' (greatly influenced by St. Gregory of Nyssa) which describes ''the beauty of the infinite'' within categories of Trinity, Creation, Salvation, and Eschaton. Hart, a young Eastern Orthodox theologian, has given us an unabashed and conceptually rich apologetic, written in a style highly sophisticated and demanding yet often punctuated by startlingly lovely and revelatory turns of phrase. He has constructively drawn on Western sources as well as the finest of Eastern ones, producing a text which is irenic in its engagement with writers within the Great Tradition, severe in its deconstruction of the ''violence'' and suspicion of postmodern discourse. A contribution of the first rank. 448 pp.
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI
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