The Doors of the Sea – my assessment

Posted: June 3, 2012 by J in Book review

Hart tones down the personality a little for most of the second half, making it easier going from an aesthetic point of view.

How do we assess his thesis about suffering?

It’s pretty bold – a massive critique of the Western church, and of the whole Protestant tradition in particular. His arguments boil down to:

–     we haven’t got close to the NT emphases on these issues – weak biblical studies

–     in particular we’ve described salvation in largely legal terms and missed the central NT emphasis on the victory of God – poor biblical theology

–     we Protties have been driven by other impulses instead, such as an obsession with the logical implications of ‘absolute sovereignty’.

–     the resulting determinism is pretty close to the ‘natural theology’ of the deists: they’re our close relatives, since we both say ‘created conditions = God’s will’

–     we’ve got a view of suffering that we can’t use to comfort any deeply grieving person.

–     and ultimately we’re playing with pantheism by destroying the space for the creation to exercise true freedom

I love it. But only because I’m a Calvinist protestant. It’s really poor manners of Hart to critique someone else’s tradition with such tenacity. That task surely belongs to us within the tradition. Why doesn’t he critique his eastern tradition? Is it so perfect?

The section on impassibility (III) did not convince. Perhaps it was too brief to do the job, but it seemed to rely more on assertions than on clear argument. I cannot see that Hart really needs an impassible God in order to maintain his ‘victory of God’ approach. The doctrine to me seems to cause more problems than it solves. As I said, the section felt a bit ‘tacked on’.

These quibbles aside, there is real theological power in Hart’s thesis.

Tomorrow: where Hart goes right

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