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Thursday 23 October 2014

I am transfixed by David B. Hart's book GOD: BEING, CONSCIOUSNESS, BLISS

This American scholar, intellectual and convert to Orthodox Christianity offers the thoughtful atheist, as well as Christians and others, a profound reflection upon the reality of God far removed from the Dawkins- style arguments which fluctuate between the petulant and the irrationally ferocious.

Hart has a turn of phrase and vocabulary that make Conrad Black look like a piker. Almost overly articulate, his razor-sharp logic is expressed along with a profound respect for revelation, properly understood. His deep erudition allows him to explore how, in his words, "Wisdom is the recovery of innocence at the far end of experience."

Hart readily admits that his audacious project in this book risks losing the sympathy of readers both rationalist and fideist because he is intent upon showing, as Pope Benedict would agree, that reason and revelation are, in the end, one and the same thing in the unity of God.

This is not a work of apologetics so much as a re-presentation of what the classical traditions of all major religions and philosophy have meant by "God" as opposed to the straw man that Dawkins and company have been raging against. In its place Hart presents the transcendent vision that is at the base of all cultures, art and achievement in history.

Or, in Hart's own words:
"What is certain is that, to this point, most of the unquestionably sublime achievements of the human intellect and imagination have arisen in worlds shaped by some vision of transcendent truth. Only a thoughtless person can possibly imagine that the vast majority of those responsible for such achievements have all clung pathetically to an understanding of the transcendent as barbarously absurd as the one casually presumed in the current texts of popular unbelief."

The reviewer, Damon Linker, in the online magazine THIS WEEK says to critics who question that people have or now do actually hold Hart's profound view of God:
"[This view of God] is found, in varying forms, in the work of Christian (Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, Thomas Aquinas), Jewish (Maimonides), and Muslim (Avicenna) theologians, as well as numerous Hindu and Sikh sages. All of these sundry thinkers, and many others, describe a God who is (in Hart's words) "the infinite fullness of being, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, from whom all things come and upon whom all things depend for every moment of their existence, without whom nothing at all would exist."

Essentially, Hart is saying to skeptics: Go ahead and burn the straw man but when you want to have an adult conversation - - come on in!

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