The passionate verbosity of David Bentley Hart

Review: The Dream-Child’s Progress & Other Essays

The Hidden and the Manifest: Essays in Theology and Metaphysics

Author: David Bentley Hart

David Bentley Hart is the finest of contemporary Christian writers and the release of not one but two collections of his writing is a cause for celebration. His prose is exquisite and his thought is borne on the wings of Minerva’s Owl and the Spirit’s Dove.

The Dream-Child’s Progress contains book reviews and other short pieces. The Hidden and the Manifest is on another level entirely. The essays contain thickets of theology and metaphysics that are probably only to be negotiated by those readers with confidence, but it is not without David’s usual flair and gusto.

He admits to a fondness for the obscure term (a random sampling turns up ‘submontane’, ‘lambency’, ‘aglae’ and ‘nitid’), but insists it is for the sake of precision and not only showing off. He is exacting, but entertaining – witty, scathing and dauntingly yet widely read. With mock gravity he announces that ‘grammatical laxity’ is the start of the slippery slope to societal anarchy. His verbosity rises with the degree of passion, of which there is plenty.

He has the same attitude to content as to delivery, and castigates the theologically imprecise and badly oriented. His elucidatory qualities mean he is devastating on why a book or train of thought is deficient. And there is an especial pleasure in reading an essay and then a follow up essay on why he first said what he did, or didn’t say, what he is alleged to have said, and why his accuser is an ignorant so-and-so.

He slips easy categorisation. Just when you have him pegged as a conservative (he writes for First Things) and orthodox (small and big O) he will argue for universal salvation or rip into capitalism or decry the conflation of ‘America’ with ‘Christianity’.

Both collections are available on Amazon

Nick Mattiske




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