"Paul": Another Perspective by David Bentley Hart

  • Among a number of ironies that have occurred recently, the one that intrigues me most is the discovery that the erudite and prolific wordsmith, David Bentley Hart, may actually say something that I can understand and may end up agreeing with.
  • The source of the irony and cause for my change of heart regarding stuff Hart has written is his article “Everything you know about the Gospel of Paul is likely wrong”, [AEON, Jan. 8, 2018].
    • Audio reading of the article available on the same webpage.
    • From the article:
      • “Paul’s actual teachings, however, as taken directly from the Greek of his letters, emphasise neither original guilt nor imputed righteousness (he believed in neither), but rather the overthrow of bad angels. A certain long history of misreadings – especially of the Letter to the Romans – has created an impression of Paul’s theological concerns so entirely alien to his conceptual world that the real Paul occupies scarcely any place at all in Christian memory. It is true that he addresses issues of ‘righteousness’ or ‘justice’, and asserts that this is available to us only through the virtue of pistis – ‘faith’ or ‘trust’ or even ‘fidelity’. But for Paul, pistis largely consists in works of obedience to God and love of others. The only erga, ‘works’, which he is anxious to claim make no contribution to personal sanctity, are certain ‘ritual observances’ of the Law of Moses, such as circumcision or kosher dietary laws. This, though, means that the separation between Jews and gentiles has been annulled in Christ, opening salvation to all peoples; it does not mean (as Paul fears some might imagine) that God has abandoned his covenant with Israel.”

Good post. We should listen more to the unique Eastern Orthodox perspectives,

I hear you. I had posted earlier about his New Testament Translation and while interesting, I found a lot of it quite puzzling. He says that if the original Greek is clumsy, he makes the English translation clumsy as well. It’s worth a look, but I wouldn’t want it as my regular Bible.

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  • I wonder whether Hart “discovered” his theology and worldview in the Greek New Testament or “imposes” both on his recent translation.
  • His book “That All Shall Be Saved” [which shares his version of Universal Salvation] will be “good news” for some, debatable for others, and "bad news for those who refuse to bend the knee to Jesus Christ. IMO, Hart seems to say: "Everybody’s going to the Cross; the question in this world is “Are you going to go with joy and gratitude, or kicking and screaming?”
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Universal salvation would violate the free will of people who want nothing to do with God, even after death. I think that God honors the choice of people who reject him, even after death.

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So does irresistible grace… well not exactly… but it comes close.

  • Indeed, so it would seem, but the four articles by Hart, beginning with “What is a Truly Free Will?”, present an intriguing scenario in which Universal Salvation–according to Hart–involves Divine transformation of each person’s will from ignorance to fully informed. As I understand his opening article, the possible choice between a Tiger and The Maiden is not a truly Free Will choice.
  • Hart’s support for Universal Salvation is motivated as much by his rejection of “Christian Infernalism”, i.e. the belief that an Eternal Torment awaits those who make the wrong, uninformed choice. Choosing the Door with a Tiger behind it would be tantamount to choosing “Eternal Torment” or believing that even one soul will have to suffer eternally for their sin.
  • A number pf Biologos forum members are–according to Hart–headed for post-death-in-this-world Eternal Salvation, whether they like it or not. :rofl:
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No, He’ll fix that. What’s free will again?

I’ve heard that expression. What is irresistible grace?

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We should ask an Orthodox believer what he thinks of DBH and US.

@GJDS What do you think of theologian David Bentley Hart and universal salvation?

I don’t have a handy definition… but I think it’s synonymous with regeneration.


David B Hart is an interesting theologian who can stir controversy by his style as much as his musings. I have followed the discussion on US on the web site Eclectic Orthodoxy, and remain unconvinced that his take is correct. My own view would be termed hopeful universal salvation, as I agree that until every soul was enabled to know Christ, their actions are the result of ignorance. However, if anyone refuses God’s grace, after they were fully informed, then they would be cut off from God, which amounts to becoming nothing (where all creation took place by the Word).

It would be better for those seriously interested to become acquainted with the arguments for and against US. I do not subscribe to what some people describe as eternal (torment) damnation, with the exception of Satan and his demons.


Thanks for your reply. I agree with you.

I’m willing to be surprised. I once asked a friend who was from a Reformed seminary what would happen if on the day of judgement a person who was convicted on their sin agreed with God concerning their guilt. And even found the slightest degree of joy in God’s righteousness. He said that would only be possible if they were born again.

David Bentley Hart is a fascinating man I think we could all learn from, even if we don’t agree with everything he has to say. We could all especially benefit from this perspective on Paul, no doubt!

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How is that enabled? What is the episteme? What about Him has to be known to be refused? Whatever it is, the refusal - not bowing the knee - is out of ignorance. We’re cut off from God now, which is nothing whatsoever to do with us, and we’re not nothing.

You ask many questions without saying much. My very brief response is that we know and understand God by revelation.


On the contrary, my rational questions say much. The only revelation we have of God at all, if anything at all, is Jesus. And that isn’t clear. At all.

I think we will have to differ on this. Jesus Christ is the revelation and this is sufficient for us. :joy: