David Bentley Hart on Theistic Personalism

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7 Responses to David Bentley Hart on Theistic Personalism

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Question for discussion: Does Hart (and by implication, Brian Davies, who coined the term “theistic personalism”) do justice to analytic theologians?


    • Quote: “One must step away from Anglo-American philosophy”
      This is where the problem lies–what precisely is an analytic philosopher/theologian? It was often thought there was a difference between the continental schools and the analytic schools but it has been shown in recent historical analysis of philosophy there really is no difference. So with that, perhaps Hart himself is an analytic theologian (pending on how it defined)?

      In regard to theistic personalist theologians, he does justice quite clearly. For instance, if we change God by our prayers as some personalist theologians claim, then what is the point praying for God’s will be done? And thus, man creates God.


      • I once asked an Orthodox priest close to me about how to reconcile the practice of prayer with the impassibility of God. He told me a story about monks on Mt. Athos who were miraculously saved from pirates by an icon near the door — Mary told the door-keeping monk not to open the door, and the Christ-child told his mother that they deserved to be punished; the God-birthgiver then put her hand on the Christ-child’s mouth, and repeated, “don’t open the door”, and so the monastery was spared, as the story goes.

        “So God is the most-moved mover?” I asked. “Yes”, the priest replied.


        • Jesus of course united himself previously to the will of Mary via the incarnation such to the extent that Jesus prays to God “not my will but thy will be done” and Mary prays the same prayer. So Jesus always follows his statement with “not my will but thy [God’s] will be done”. Mary prays the same and their wills become united to the Divine and to each other. Remember, Jesus has both a human and a divine will but he always unites this will to his Divine will. Mary covering Jesus’s mouth in that instance would be symbolic of their harmony and unison and submission to the Divine Will which Jesus also has but he has a human will which he voluntarily and perfectly submits to the Divine will. So Jesus is actually moving himself here as this is recalling incarnational theology.


          • “Jesus always unites his human will to his divine will” makes it sound like there is a third meta-will within Jesus that makes choices between two wills, conceived as two objects.

            As for your explanation of this legend, which was clearly spun-up to reinforce some penitential piety for monks about how they deserve punishment (and to account for an odd icon), I assume that it’s a joke.


          • The Orthodox prayer is “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner”. Fr Stephen Freeman described recently that one reason why many Eastern fathers believed in a hope for the salvation of all others is because they knew themselves and believed themselves worse. “The first among sinners”.

            So it is not difficult to fathom that yes, the monks did believe themselves to be deserving of punishment. It is common in ascetical and mystical literature to think such. It was not a “spun-up joke” but rather an interpretive assumption based on my understanding of ascetical and mystical literature. I could be wrong of course but it is also likely that the Orthodox priest you talked to is wrong as well. Sadly, many clergymen these days are very poorly educated in the tradition of the Church they administer to. This includes Catholic and Orthodox priests alike.

            There is no third meta-will in Jesus. That is dithelitism. Monothelitism asserts Christ has one will–the divine will. The teaching given in the theology of St Maximus the Confessor was that Christ’s human will was subject to the Divine Will which was not only also his but also of the Holy Spirit and the Father’s. Pope Benedict XVI’s book on Holy Week discusses this.


  2. I really need to get around to reading Frege.


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