David Bentley Hart on Eschatology and the Last Things

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9 Responses to David Bentley Hart on Eschatology and the Last Things

  1. Ben W says:

    Don’t know who Objective Bob is, but he’s left out the best one:



  2. Jack says:

    Maximus the confessor seems to me paradoxical in his talk of the eschatological state. He is ever vigilant to maintain the hard line between creature and creator, but he also seems to imply that deified humanity participates in “beginingless life”, and he does indeed use the term “ever moving rest” to indicate an eschatological state beyond creaturely time.


  3. Robert Fortuin says:

    Jack, participation for St Maximus denotes creatureliness in sharp contradiction to Uncreate so you are reading an opposition that simply isn’t there. Participation in the divine nature does not negate or alter the creatureliness of humanity. In the same way, the transformation of time does not change the Uncreate/created division of being. St Gregory of Nyssa calls it the ‘ultimate division of being’ which remains unchanged, for it is well, ultimate; according to his metaphysical (and I would hasten to add biblical) vision it is the way things are, ‘being is’. Gregory and Maximus are not alone in this, it is widely shared by the Fathers east and west.

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  4. Jack says:

    Robert, I didn’t mean to stress an opposition. I worded that poorly. I suppose I was trying to understand Maximus and his understanding of deification and theosis in a way not too different from the way Brian described a paradox between time and eternity in a recently updated post, if I understood him correctly. Somehow, eternity already always is, yet we live in time. I understand the term “ever moving rest” to try and put into words an eschatological time beyond time.

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    • Robert Fortuin says:

      I see. What I find helpful is to understand God’s transcendent mode of being not as outside of time and space (whereas we are on the inside) but as pervading all space and time. Which is to say that categories of succession and dimension do not apply to God, and thus, as such, He pervades these categories at all time and everywhere. There’s thus no past, present, future, here, nor there, whilst yet affirming that indeed He is there and here yesterday, today and tomorrow. In like manner rest is not opposed to movement.

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      • David S says:

        I like this description of eternity a lot Robert.

        I’m afraid this may be a tangent too far, but it makes be onsider the question of whether it would be possible to apply something similar to the temporal experience of the post-ascension Jesus. So Jesus is available everywhere (and everywhen) because he now transcends, without being truly absent from, the world.

        This may sound unintelligible if this is understood to mean a temporal being becoming atemporal. But if it is instead understood as a temporal being becoming omnitemporal, I think it makes sense: Jesus does not cease to experience time, but instead experiences all of time; he does not lose his current temporal perspective but takes up an infinite number of temporal perspectives in addition to this.

        What I mean is something like this: temporal existence as we experience it could be charactered as being something like a conscious experience of the succession between A and B, then an experience of a succession between B and C, etc. We experience one succession, and then another. But for the post-ascension Jesus, he experiences both the succession between A and B, AND the succession between B and C, together. Jesus has a history – in fact, an eschatological future going on forever – which he experiences ‘all at once’ yet still with a kind of succession.

        It could even be argued this is just functionally identical with the claim that the post-ascension Jesus is omniscient – if you have a perfect, intuitive knowledge of everything, including the subjective knowledge of every single cognitive state you have ever had and ever will have, how could you distinguish one time from another? Similarly, how could Jesus know the future, without determining it, without in a certain sense already being in the future?

        So I am envisaging a kind of supertime where succession remains but without loss and change.

        To me this approach is helpful it avoids a permanent ‘two minds’ Christology – personally I find the idea of Jesus permanently having a distinct eternal mind and a temporal mind difficult to understand and ultimately Nestorian, if this is understood to mean the divine Son exists in a timeless, atemporal sense, while the human Jesus just plods along squeezing out 60 seconds into every minute and losing his past along with the rest of us, even into the eschaton.

        I think my proposal avoids this kind of division of Jesus’ mind into two consiousnesses, while still admitting that Jesus is in a sense both temporal and eternal. So in the eschatological future, I might experience X between time A and time B, and later I experience doing Y between time B and C. Jesus genuinely has the human experience of X at the same time that we have that experience. It is just that, for Jesus, as well as being with us between time A and B experiencing X, he is also with our future selves, between time B and C, experiencing Y.

        What do you think?

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        • Robert Fortuin says:

          David, thank you. It seems to me that the breakthrough lies somewhere in the consideration that it is precisely the divine person who in his full humanity genuinely experiences the creaturely mode of existence – whilst yet retaining full divinity, the divine mode of being. The crux of the matter is that the divine mode of being can ‘accommodate without change’ the creaturely mode of being, the one does not negate or change the other. Perhaps this can be supported by the accounts that the risen Christ consumed food and retained human physiology (e.g. doubting Thomas), yet also walked through walls, ascended clouds, and the like. All this is the risen Christ, the self-same eternal subject, the Existing One, He who is without beginning and end. This was the scandal of the incarnation Nestorius would not accept.

          Proposals along the way of two distinct and opposed chronological consciousnesses fall deeply short in that ultimately the creaturely phenomenology is projected onto the divine. In what sense is the risen Christ both temporal and eternal? fully both – each in their natural mode.This is the miracle of Emmanuel and therein lies the salvation and redemption of the world!

          I like your idea of super time, ‘hyper-chronos.’ Creature as creature fulfilled in and by God as God.

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          • David S says:

            Thanks for this engagement Robert. Certainly, it is a challenge to grasp how Christ can enjoy both a temporal and eternal existence in their natural mode – which is, as you mention, essential if we want to avoid downplaying the scandal of the incarnation – without permanently compromising the unity of Christ’s consciousness and personhood.

            I try to walk that tightrope with my thoughts on the ascended Jesus’ supratemporal life, although I worry it risks turning the glorified Christ into a peculiar ‘third thing’, or that it otherwise invalidates Jesus’ identification with us if his experience of the eschaton is so different from ours, given that I doubt us mere mortals can expect to experience infinite different time streams all at once in the eschaton (I have to admit I’m not sure I’d fancy it myself!) Then again, I suppose being the God-man is not the same thing as being a man 🙂

            I’m unfamiliar with how Balthasar explicates his own notion of supertime beyond having a vague sense that he wants to say there is something analogous to activity and even surprise going on in the inner life of God, without reducing this to regular temporality and change. Will have to investigate – thanks to Brian for the tip that volume five could be the place to look.

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  5. brian says:

    Hans Urs von Balthasar explicates a notion of super time, expecially in volume five of the Theodramatics.

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