As I have mentioned in the past, I am a huge fan of Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart. He is a dense and artful writer with a sharp wit and an encyclopedic database of knowledge. He is also an equal opportunity offender, and has the most creative insights into seemingly stale or intractable debates.
For example, I found his post-tsunami book on the problem of evil wildly compelling, his post-Port–au–Prince earthquake commentary on the Haiti crisis incisive, and his book on theological beauty mind-blowing in its fresh appropriation of well-worn theologies. He even wrote an essay on ‘my man,’ St. John of the Cross, that knocked my socks off in opening to me St. John’s remarkably Eastern Christian view of salvation (see Summer of 2003).
Then there’s his very witty 5-part youtube exchange with a British secularist Terry Sanderson about ethics, history and Christian theology.
The list goes on.
From East to West
As I grew up in a broken Orthodox-Catholic home, I have always longed for the day East and West breathe together as one again.
I came across this Hart quote yesterday as I was reading his persuasive essay on ‘the myth of schism,’ that preserves a delicate balance between realism and hope. Note especially the appreciation of the unique ‘gift’ each Tradition is said to bring:
…In any event, my last remark is only this: reunion of the Orthodox and Roman Churches has become an imperative, and time is growing short. I say this because I often suffer from bleak premonitions of the ultimate cultural triumph in the West of a consumerism so devoid of transcendent values as to be, inevitably, nothing but a pervasive and pitiless nihilism. And it is, I think, a particularly soothing and saccharine nihilism, possessing a singular power for absorbing the native energies of the civilization it is displacing without prompting any extravagant alarm at its vacuous barbarisms. And I suspect that the only tools at Christianity’s disposal, as it confronts the rapid and seemingly inexorable advance of this nihilism, will be evangelical zeal and internal unity. I like to think…that the tribulations that Eastern Christianity has suffered under Islamic and communist rule have insulated it from some of the more corrosive pathologies of modernity for a purpose, and endowed it with a special mission to bring its liturgical, intellectual, and spiritual strengths to the aid of the Western Christian world in its struggle with the nihilism that the post-Christian West has long incubated and that now surrounds us all, while yet drawing on the strengths and charisms of the Western church to preserve Orthodoxy from the political and cultural frailty that still afflicts Eastern Christianity. Whatever the case, though, we are more in need of one another now than ever. To turn away from ecumenism now may be to turn towards the darkness that is deepening all about us. We are called to be children of light, and I do not think that we will walk very far in the light hereafter except together.