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.

On the other hand, he does not address the vital question as to whether, and how far, fallen creatures can trust their visceral feelings and instincts to guide them.

Typical Cavinist nonsense. Right, because someone ate a fruit a few thousand years ago, people today are unqualified to determine if inflicting the worst thing imaginable on people would be immoral. I can’t believe there are people who would actually belittle the conscience like that.


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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What is the writer talking about here?

Hart, for example, takes every opportunity to display his outrage at the insufferable suffering of hell, hell construed as one tortured moment after another ad infinitum . But nothing requires us to understand hell in that way, as if the time of hell were merely an extension of ordinary secular time. Even if Augustine makes this mistake, as arguably he does, that does not justify Hart making it.

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

@DaveB2.0 My only guess is that for the part I quoted there, the author is suggesting a ‘liberal’ doctrine of hell (LDH) is just as plausible as the traditional one. The LDH being a doctrine of hell that doesn’t entail physical pain, but ‘only’ separation of God, whereas the traditional doctrine of hell does entail physical pain.

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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:)

What doea that mean? Time is simply the distance between events.

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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