The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Negative review of David Bentley Hart's new pro-universalism book

I believe Hart’s book comes out later this month. Be interesting to see what the response to this will be.

Me too. I’m sure some negative reviews are reviewing his universalism, which the reviewer already disagrees with, not the book as such.

It is the tendency. You don’t read reviews of books like this that go “Wow, he’s right after all!”

Not that I really believe one book should completely change your mind anyway but it’s definitely the approach to already take the antithetic position and then find the weak points to write your review. Even up to a point I have no problem with that either but I suspect DBH isn’t quite as clumsy and inconsistent as is being portrayed. We’ll have to see.

II think he’s gifted, if a bit pompous. I’ve read three of his books and each one has made a difficult subject much easier to understand; and there is a depth to his writing as well.

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Me too, and any sophistry that tries to get around it don’t cut the mustard.

I think he’s probably talking about Hart’s portrayal of hell within ‘time’ rather than the suffering per se. It seems he’s trying to argue that Hart’s using a straw man there. Maybe he does but I’d be interested to see what the author’s alternate version of hell would entail that would be so radically different to what Hart is refuting


Dead right Jonny! If he hasn’t stated his alternative then his comment is worthless. I do not understand how a human mind can contemplate any concept other than an extension of time. It may be possible but he’s not enlightening us.
My daughter just returned from a NT conference held at Liverpool where Hart’s book was advertised at discount and she has bought me Ilaria Rameli’s ‘A larger hope’ (Vol 1). I already have Parry’s Volume 2 so I’m looking forward to a good read when she passes it on to me.

Sounds like some good reading ahead for you, John! :+1:

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Yes cheers Dave. I’d also love to have a copy of Hart’s NT translation. Have you got one?
(PS he’s orthodox as well! :slightly_smiling_face:)

I do have that; I bought his and NT Wright’s at about the same time.

Interesting. Do you have a preference or recommendation?

To be honest, I still prefer my NRSV and a couple of others. I found TW’s translation a bit quirky for reading, though very good at getting across the various emphases he has so painstakingly worked out for 20 years or more. That is the strength of the translation, for me at least.
As for Hart - I’ll have to read more; my first impressions have been that it is not a go-to translation for everyday use, but there are some verses that he brings alive in a striking way.
I’ll be interested to hear what you and others report.


A couple of new reviews of DBH’s book that may be of interest.

Michael McClymond (well known to this forum)

Scot McKnight

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Anyone read it themselves, worth a read? Finishing up Tablott and MacDonald

Here’s another negative review:

and here is David Bentley Hart’s response:


I must say, I LOVE Hart’s response!
(and thank him for introducing me to the term “gallimaufry”).

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I am new to this forum, so please forgive me if I don’t quite get the posting format correct. From this list string I am not sure if any of the posters have read DBH’s That All May Be Saved. I have read it in some detail, and frankly need to do so again. As already noted, DBH can be a bit of a pugilist, and some find him very arrogant. I can’t really dispute that characterization.

However, if you can get past his intolerance for those who might disagree with him, and are willing to put in the very hard work required to unpack this book, it can be a very rewarding exercise. The writing is dense (to put it mildly), and the arguments can seem very complex (and in fact are so), but he makes some really compelling points concerning universal salvation. The several critical reviewers almost invariably argue from a predetermined worldview that frays quickly without a hell to punish sinners built into their theology.

DBH’s conclusions can be hard to refute without resort to circular reasoning. His stated purpose in writing the book is to present his case for universal salvation, not to sway or convince the reader of the brilliance of his arguments. DBH has his weak points, not least of which is his aversion to engaging in collegial academic discourse instead of acrid polemics and a rhetoric that for many readers requires translation. But even so, the book is a fantastic read—one way or the other, it will cause you to think deeply on the subject matter.

Deep stuff there. It seems, perhaps, suited to folks with PHD’s in philosophy. Unlike DBH’s more readable book on church history.

The following article & the OP book (both by Hart) seem generally quite a bit above my pay grade. Though thus far i’ve only read a tiny percentage of the latter.

I quoted a bit of the article here in my thread on the [i assume] same subject “for dummies like me”, though even it, i’m afraid, will go over many people’s heads:

From that same thread was a remark re David’s book:

“what character would be a God who would create sentient beings, foreknowing that they they would fall into a state of sin, but who would do so as part of His will? You see, nothing is ever done without a telos in mind. Therefore, if eternal torment is true, then the only thing you have to say is that this was God’s will from the very beginning. DBH makes this crystal clear in His book. You create to an end, and if the end is that 95% of all human beings wind up in anguish and torment, and that is without any sort of divine remedy, then you have to insist that this was His will. If it was not His will in creation, then it would not take place. It’s that simple. Nothing can thwart the will of God. Impossible.”

“Which means that in the hellist picture of things, God creates mankind with the distinct will that they will most all go to hell forever.”

“Which makes him monster.”