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The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth Hardcover – 3 Feb 2004


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co (3 Feb. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802812546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802812544
  • Product Dimensions: 24.5 x 16.4 x 3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,158,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

National Review"David Bentley Hart has written one of the most thrilling works of Christian reflection to come along in years. . . This is theology as high adventure, and the excitement continues after the last page is turned."William C. Placher in The Christian Century"I can think of no more brilliant work by an American theologian in the past ten years."R. R. Reno"An elegant, erudite treatment of basic themes in Christian theology, metaphysics, and contemporary cultural criticism. David Bentley Hart has written a book that is both radical and orthodox. The Beauty of the Infinite sets the standard for postmodern theology."Paul J. Griffiths"David Bentley Hart's book shows great patristic and philosophical learning. That is rare enough. Still more rare is the book's compellingly complete theology of beauty. Hart shows that the sublime aesthetic of the market -- this age's chief principality -- can be disrupted by (and perhaps only by) the gospel's radiant beauty. This book makes a major contribution to bringing that disruption about."Reinhard H tter"Drawing from deep Eastern Orthodox wells, The Beauty of the Infinite achieves an extraordinary theological analysis and transformation of the postmodern condition. A work of breathtaking scope, David Bentley Hart's book combines an impressive mastery of the Christian theological tradition, East and West, with a subtle yet rigorous critique of the philosophical zeitgeist, culminating in a constructive systematic theology of stunning scope. By way of a trinitarian theology of beauty, Hart succeeds in composing a dogmatica minora that radically revises the metaphysical horizon of postmodernity. This book is Christian theology and metaphysics of a high order, an extremely rewarding tour de force."R. Trent Pomplun"David Bentley Hart -- like Soloviev and Florensky before him -- stands in the finest tradition of virile Eastern alternatives to modern Western philosophy and theology. A startling rejoinder to modernity and postmodernity alike, Hart's book will be judged by future historians as a fresh start for Orthodox theology done in the United States."Geoffrey Wainwright in First Things"A remarkable work. . . This magnificent and demanding volume should establish David Bentley Hart, around the world no less than in North America, as one of his generation's leading theologians."John Milbank"David Hart is already the best living American systematic theologian. The Beauty of the Infinite is his first major work."Janet Martin Soskice in Times Literary Supplement"A splendid book. . . Hart's prose is trenchant but often beautiful. There are penetrating, and frequently amusing, critiques of Foucault, Bultmann, and Deleuze, among others. . . The Beauty of the Infinite shows the vigor and power of theology, ancient and modern."Nova et Vetera"Despite the relative youth of its author, The Beauty of the Infinite merits consideration as one of the most ambitious and theologically insightful contributions to the field in the past decade. David Hart's fluid prose, sweeping grasp of theology and continental philosophy, and creativity enables him to ferry the reader from eastern patristic theology to French postmodernism, from Greek Attic tragedy to Nietzsche and Heidegger. His work deserves a careful reading by all serious students of theology."The Journal of Religion"On every page of The Beauty of the Infinite are provocative and original readings. Hart debunks many unexamined pieties nascent in the postmodern idiom and, at the same time, displays his own genius for rhetorical invention. Hyperarticulate and a great phrasemaker, Hart will please the logophile as well as the philologist; his erudition . . . and his eloquence . . . make for challenging and exciting reading."Benedict T. Vivano, OP in Freiburger Zeitschrift f r Philosophie und Theologie"Probably the most important theological work in English in the last ten years. It is an astonishing event, comparable to Karl Barth's Romans Commentary of 1919. Anyone interested in Christian theology or in Christian intellectual life should know about this book."First Things"Almost everybody agrees that David Bentley Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite is one of the most impressive works of theology to appear in some years." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
The rather prosaic question that initially prompted this long, elliptical essay in theological aesthetics, stated most simply, was this: Is the beauty to whose persuasive power the Christian rhetoric of evangelism inevitably appeals, and upon which it depends, theologically defensible? Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 9 reviews
63 of 70 people found the following review helpful
Dense and Breathtaking 19 Dec. 2008
By Jacob - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It took me several months to finish this book. Hart argues for getting beauty back as a theological category. Reformed and the more intellectually rigorous evangelicals are the ones who will likely read this book. That is good. Those are the ones--and I am reformed--who need to see beauty in theology. Hart uses the latest vocabulary from postmodern philosophy. the reader is urged patience in this regard. The first section of the book (the first 150 or so pages) is incredibly hard to read. Hart assumes that his readers are intimiately familiar with Nietzsche, Derrida, and Levinas. I wasn't.

Hart argues that the Trinity is the answer to the postmodern problem of *differance.* Where postmoderns see the world--and language--as chaotic and violent because of the inherent difference of reality, Hart sees the Trinity as a sublime answer to differance. The Trinity can accommodate differance because the Trinity can posit a reality that is both diversity without confusion, otherness without violence. This is the hardest part of the book. What Hart is saying is that postmoderns--and most Calvinists, ironically--assume that any difference in reality is necessarily violent. Hart shows how the Trinity solves the problem of linguistic violence.

The rest of the book after that is relatively easy to read. Hart divides his book into Trinity-Creation-Salvation-Eschatology categories. This is where his Eastern Orthodoxy is evident and provides a welcome relief to the strictly judicial categories of the West. The section on salvation literally sang! The last 200 pages were a brilliant tour-de-force.

This book has the potential to re-write American theology. It also can unify across confessional lines without watering the unity down into the usual WCC garbage. Let's hope that Hart writes more.

LATER EDIT:
I've re-read this book (and parts of the book several times again). After reading and listening to a lot of Hart, I began to notice that while Hart often makes weighty and learned points and regularly scores on a high level, at other times I think he is simply showing off his erudition. There are some sections in here on St Gregory of Nyssa and Hart's exposition of them, while beautiful, really do not make any sense upon further reflection. I would give some examples but it would make the review unnecessarily long.

I think Hart tries to rescue St Augustine on Absolute Divine Simplicity. It is a brilliant attempt, but I don't think he is successful. Still, the pros of the book outweight the (significant!) cons. It is definitely worth reading due to its importance today.

Post-Post EDIT: A few commenters took umbrage at my criticisms of St August. on simplicity. Whatever. I think I have guessed why so many people have the same reaction to this book (though they differ on whether they like it or not). Hart is interacting with the post-Heideggerian schools of philosophy and their challenges (real or perceived) to the Christian faith. If you are struggling with Heidegger's genealogy of the Western narrative, this book is for you. If you are not, then much of this book won't make sense. I'm actually more favorable to Hart now than I have been in the past; my criticisms still remain, though.
54 of 68 people found the following review helpful
Pregnant with erudition and spiritual depth.... 27 Jan. 2005
By Happy Buyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
David Bentley Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite is a veritable Tour de Force! Like the the great theological masterpieces of old, Dr. Hart draws his readers into what may be called "The Great Conversation," as he displays an easy familiarity with with Christian writings "ever ancient, ever new." According to Dr. Hart, God the Thrice-Holy Trinity reveals and manifests Himself as the all-transcendent Essence of Beauty, and the infinitely potent Energy through, with, and in Whom all creation -- both visible and invisible -- is made beautiful. My recommendation: buy TWO copies -- one for the shelf, and one to keep always within reach ... this one's a modern classic of metaphysics, philosophical theology, and Christian mysticism.

(It is unfortunate, however, that Amazon.com continues to list the paperback as "out of print," when it clearly IS in print, and moreover, quite available. I got my copy at Newman Bookstore in Washington, DC: (202) 526-1036.)
76 of 104 people found the following review helpful
Christian aesthetics vs. postmodern 31 Oct. 2004
By Bob Swain - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book takes on and even takes in to a great extent the work of Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze and many others in the postmodern lineage and compares them to the likes of Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine. In doing so, Hart shows what duffers our "postmoderns" are. Revealing a truly gigantic erudition, Hart does what many Christians have wanted for several decades running now. He shows that our great classical tradition doesn't end with "postmodernism" any more than humanity itself ends just because some teenager decides to dress up as a Goth. Humanity may end for that teenager, but it doesn't end the entire human race or the rest of civilization's covenant with the Almighty. Unless you've read this book, you cannot consider yourself to be educated. Unless you've read this book, you might consider the French and German postmoderns to be truly intelligent. They are symptoms of dying societies that have lost touch with the most profound wisdom and substituted for it some paradoxes that can easily sweep up those who are enthusiastic about minor fads because they lack a broader perspective. David Bentley Hart provides a powerful perspective that will allow genuinely erudite people to regain their culture. I am deeply grateful to him.
32 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Only theologians need apply 6 Feb. 2010
By William Breer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I know from reviews that this book contains some very important theological ideas that are probably well worth exploring. I also know from his book Atheist Delusions that Hart can write well for the educated general reader. He did not write this book for that audience. Complex ideas are packed in densely with what seems to be little development. Hart assumes the reader already has an extensive background perhaps a doctorate in philosophy or theology. The high(or low) point of this approach are untranslated footnotes in Greek and German. If you are up to that, this is probably an excellent work. If you are not, look elsewhere. I hope Hart has made his important ideas available somewhere in a readable format.
13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A theological aesthetics to truly savor 2 Jan. 2010
By Wes J. Arblaster - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a theological aesthetics of the highest order that is also thoroughly enjoyable. Hart displays a mastery of postmodern philosophy, patristic theology, and a general theological acuity that is truly mind-boggling. Yet you find yourself reading it with a quiet smile. While I have slogged my way through it from cover to cover twice, I find it much better read in small "morsels" so that one can savor his insight and rhetorical play in a manner which tantalizes the intellectual palate. It is beautiful, bewildering, inspiring, and intellectually exhausting - and all in a playful way! While at times his rhetoric does come across as somewhat excessive and his provocations brow-raising, one should not forget that the work displays in form what it suggests in content: that Being is itself the rhetorical display of the glorious excess of the Trintiarian life of God. I know that I will return to this work for years to come and will continue to enjoy it heartily, even in its verbosity and ostentatiousness. Consider it an intellectual cathedral which displays a playful grandeur that overwhelms and intices, puzzles and silences. Wander in, and do not hesitate to find yourself lost and enjoying every minute of it!
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