THEOLOGY, HISTORY, and ETHICS
TRADITION AND APOCALYPSE An Essay on the Future of Christian Belief David Bentley Hart
In this carefully argued essay, David Bentley Hart critiques the concept of “tradition” that has become dominant in Christian thought as fundamentally incoherent. He puts forth a convincing new explanation of Christian tradition, one that is obedient to the nature of Christianity not only as a “revealed” creed embodied in historical events but as the “apocalyptic” revelation of a history that is largely identical with the eternal truth it supposedly dis- closes. Hart shows that Christian tradition is sustained not simply by its preservation of the past, but more essentially by its antici- pation of the future. He offers a compelling portrayal of a living tradition held together by apocalyptic expectation—the promised transformation of all things in God. DAVID BENTLEY HART (DPhil, University of Virginia) has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of St. Thomas, Loyola College in Maryland, Providence College, and Saint Louis University. In 2015, he was granted a Templeton Fellowship at the University of Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study. Hart has written numerous books, including The Beauty of the Infinite , The New Testament: A Translation , Atheist Delusions (winner of the Michael Ramsey Prize in Theology), Theological Territories: A David Bentley Hart Digest , and That All Shall Be Saved . FROM THE BOOK It seems clear to me that the concept of “tradition” in the theolog- ical sense, however lucid and cogent it might appear to the eyes of faith, is incorrigibly obscure and incoherent. This, I would argue, is true not only of the vague, popular version of that con- cept that a good many believers harbor but rarely think about. It is true also of the version that many (perhaps most) Christian theologians have tended consciously to adopt since the publica- tion in 1845 of the first edition of John Henry Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine , which more or less set the agenda for discussion of the topic, and to which no alternative account of any very great significance has yet been proposed. . . .
FEBRUARY 2022 • 208 pp. • cloth • $24.99 • 9780801039386
The general neglect of the topic leaves a fairly enormous unre- solved question in Christian thought lying quite conspicuously and troublingly open. When we speak of “Christian tradition,” what are we really talking about? Can we really prove the exis- tence of—and then in fact identify—a particular living, contin- uous, and internally coherent phenomenon that corresponds to that phrase, or will any attempt to do so find evidence only of a product of pure historical fortuity, consisting in a mere mechan- ically determined series of consecutive viable forms united more by evolutionary imperatives than by internal rationality?
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