Thursday, July 09, 2009

David Bentley Hart on Predestination

From his talk, "The Doors of the Sea," regarding Calvinist teachings on predestination:

“The curious absurdity of such all such doctrines is that, out of a pious anxiety to defend God’s transcendence against any scintilla of genuine creaturely freedom, they threaten effectively to collapse that transcendence into absolute identity — with the world, with us, with the devil. For, unless the world is truly set apart from God and possesses a dependent but real liberty of its own analogous to the freedom of God, everything is merely a fragment of divine volition, and God is simply the totality of all that is and all that happens; there is no creation, but only an oddly pantheistic expression of God’s unadulterated power.


“For, after all, if it is from Christ that we are to learn how God relates himself to sin, suffering, evil, and death, it would seem that he provides us little evidence of anything other than a regal, relentless, and miraculous enmity; sin he forgives, suffering he heals, evil he casts out, and death he conquers. And absolutely nowhere does Christ act as if any of these things are part of the eternal work or purposes of God.”


elizabeth said...

I do not understand the use of the word "enmity" here? Could you clarify? I am guessing that I am missing the context for this, as these two sections seem to be against the idea of God having a final enmity against us.

Fr. David said...


The sections are, indeed, against the idea of God's having enmity against us, for God has no enmity (final or otherwise) against us. The use of enmity is against "sin, suffering, evil, and death" -- not against us, and thus Dr. Hart says well.

Sin and corruption He will destroy, however, for it is totally incompatible with His nature. Tragically, inasmuch that we unite ourselves to said sins, sufferings, evils, and death itself, we will experience said enmity, but that is our doing, not God's, and again, the enmity is experienced as a consequence of our union with that which is corruptible, not of God's arbitrary, direct targeting of humans for punishment.

Rather, then, a God (or, better put, a god) who creates us and thereafter directly and irresistibly causes us to perish, eternally, with no intention of redemption -- that is the image of enmity against mankind. Such a god is unimaginably cruel.

elizabeth said...

thanks so much for explaining. I see it now; I did not understand what the enmity was related to.

Yes, indeed.

Thanks again for clarifying this quote.

Darlene said...


You said, "A God (or better put a god) who creates us and thereafter directly and irresistibly causes us to perish eternally, with no intention of redemption -- that is the image of emnity against mankind. Such a god is unimaginably cruel." (Btw, how does one make italics?)

How well I understand what you are saying here. I echoe the conviction of many Christians who have come to realize that if they believed in the TULIP and the Calvinist teaching on predestination, they could not confidently approach anyone and say, "For God so loved YOU that He gave His only begotten Son, that if YOU believeth in Him YOU will not perish, but will have everlasting life."

If you ever have the time and inclination (and have thus far not done so), I encourage you to read John Wesley's 2 sermons, Sermon 58 on Predestination and Sermon 128 on Free Grace. He preached very strongly against the Calvinist view on Predestination.

In Christ's Immeasurable Love,