Tuesday 21 November 2006

David Bentley Hart among the Barthians

Speaking of duels, I’ve been really looking forward to hearing about the recent exchange between George Hunsinger and David Bentley Hart. Brian, David and Joshua have now posted excellent summaries of the session, and it sounds as though it was an interesting discussion. From the reports so far, though, I can’t help feeling that perhaps the criticisms of Hart didn’t quite get to the bottom of things: certainly Hart isn’t interested in replacing the mediation of Christ with “being”!

Instead of attempting the complicated task of directly comparing Hart’s analogia entis with Barth’s theology, perhaps it would be more illuminating to compare Hart’s conception with the formulations of the Catholic theologians Erich Przywara and Hans Urs von Balthasar – and then, via Balthasar, it might be possible to see how Hart relates to Barth’s famous anathema.

In any case, it’s good to see Hart’s work receiving the close attention it deserves.


Anonymous said...

I consider myself to be, in a large part if not exclusively, a student of George Hunsinger. In any case, I was present in a class this past Spring in which Hunsinger dedicated about 2/3 of the syllabus to a careful reading of Hart’s Beauty of the Infinite. That said, I was disappointed by reports from the AAR session that Hunsinger spoke from notes, as opposed to from a paper, and that his criticism seemed to be far too general than what was called for. While I imagine that I would broadly support the sentiments that Hunsinger expressed in his talk, I am saddened that he does not seem to have employed what I think is his biggest weapon against Hart, namely, a close reading of Hart’s text on the question of the relation between three values: the notions of (1) particularity and (2) generality, and (3) the event of Jesus Christ.

My contention would be, and I learned this with Hunsinger, that Hart – though not without nuance – finally makes the event of Christ to be an instance of a general rule, as opposed to a particular event that is unique in kind. This rolls over into a discussion of the analogia entis in a number of different ways, but at the heart of things stands the relation between creation on the one side, and covenant on the other. How one parses this relation is crucial, and I think that a difference in handling this question is at the root of the Barthian-Hart discussion.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I can recognize your argument in what Hunsinger said on Saturday. He didn't work it out directly that way, but his many comments defending the uniqueness of Christ--as mediator, as bearer of both divine and human natures, etc.--made it pretty clear that he thought Hart was compromising that point on a number of levels. Also, in his favor, this wasn't the time for a general critique of Beauty of the Infinite; it was on the analogia entis more specifically. So Hunsinger rightly addressed the problems on that issue and only hinted towards the compromise of particularity he saw on the horizon.

Anonymous said...


It seems that you and I are both watching these posts about Hunsinger and Hart. I am pleased that we seem to be more of one mind here than we were earlier over at Theologoumenon. Perhaps this is because I have learned more since then about what actually happened at the session.

In any case, I am happy to have added you to my blog reader.

Anonymous said...

We all do the best we can.

I've just been through one of the busiest periods of my life. I'm holding down two full-time jobs, professor and founder of the Naitonal Religious Campaign Against Torture.

Yes. Ideally it would have been better if I could have written out my remarks. Unfortunately I didn't have time to do so.

Ben Myers said...

Many thanks for your comment, Professor Hunsinger. Given all these responsibilities, it's admirable that you managed to prepare at all! And in any case, since Hart also spoke without a script, it sounds like it was a fair and balanced debate.

Anonymous said...

Of course, I meant neither disparagement nor disrespect in expressing disappointment about the ex tempore nature of exchange between Hunsinger and Hart. My disappointment stems only from the unfortunate corollary for those of us who were unable to be present, namely, that we have no way of getting back to what was said in an effort to deepen our own understanding.

David W. Congdon said...

It was definitely a fascinating and insightful debate. It also looked like the exchange was recorded, but I could be wrong. In any case, I hope the discussion, and in particular I would like to see the debate expand to include the rest of the R.O. movement, since the "revival" of the analogy of being has been championed by many in that camp.

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