Wilson’s Review of Doors of the Sea

I only recommend Doug Wilson with extreme reluctance and caution, but this merited a post:

Doors of the Sea Review.  David Bentley Hart is a talented Eastern Orthodox scholar who wrote a criticism of Calvinism after the South Asia tsunami.  Wilson explodes it.


5 comments on “Wilson’s Review of Doors of the Sea

  1. Daniel says:

    Well, Wilson “explodes it” only if you’re a protestant. I think Wilson’s thought is downright childish compared to Hart’s. His critique has the savor of a freshman in college challenging a professor whose thought is on such a different plane (a higher one) that they almost aren’t talking about the same thing.

    • I suppose one man’s opinion is as good as the next (and admittedly. Hart still needs to own up to the problem of whether evil was present in God’s mind when he made the world, and if it was, do those problems still apply to God?

      • This is the type of question(s) that I often ask the open-theists at Orthodox Bridge:

        What is the difference between the Calvinist who says that God foreordains evils that He does not approve of in themselves in order to achieve a higher purpose, and the Hartian who says that God permits evils He could have prevented and that in themselves they are contrary to what he wills, and that He willed to permit this to achieve a higher purpose? There is certainly no moral difference.

        and then the clincher:

        If God permitted it, He, being who He is, did so intelligently, knowing the consequences of that permission. If He grants that permission anyway, the entirety of Calvinism follows, with some Christians in those ranks grinning sheepishly. The only way to get Him off the hook is by denying that He gave permission, in which case the cosmos is officially off the rails. But even there . . . for those who believe that God created ex nihilo, we have to affirm that He knowingly created a cosmos that was capable of going off the rails. Did He will to do this, or did He just do it? Repeat the drill from above.

  2. Daniel says:

    There are several issues here and they could each be long, long discussions in and of themselves.

    I will try to detail some of my problems with Wilson’s/your complaints against Hart from some weird angles and without getting into the details of the book.

    1) The Westminster Confession’s explanation for evil is that God predestines (not just knows) all things that come to pass (including the evil thoughts in your head), but (insert Obi-wan hand wave here) secondary causes are somehow “established” by this and God is off the hook for any evil action or thought you or I may have–even though that act or thought had its origin in the divine mind.
    (you do remember the philosophical problems with ADS, don’t you? Or do you reject the person/nature distinction now?) Soooo…how is God not the fount of evil on your view? Put it this way, say out loud that God knits a little child in the womb for the express purpose of damning him/her. Wesley at least got it right when he told Whitefield, “your god is my devil.”

    2) Say you respond by saying something like this: “well, I can’t explain how God is not the source of evil and yet predestines all evil events. It’s a mystery.” OK, fine. Why can’t we Orthodox say that we can’t explain how God is all-knowing and all powerful and does not change and yet permits evil and tragedy and gives many REAL free will?

    3) Doug Wilson? Come on. You’re better than that…

    4) I think Hart has written some excellent stuff over the years but I’m no Hart apologist. I think he pushes the envelope consistently on “branch theory” ecclesiology, has way, way too much respect for Occidental history over/against Eastern Roman history and he appears to be slightly overweight (but I’ll let that slide for now).

    5) At the end of the day, the Reformed understanding of God fails because it is not consistent with the Councils and Tradition (which includes the Holy Scriptures) and it is historically novel. I know this means basically nothing to you but it is everything to the Orthodox.

    6) Do you understand (this is a serious question) why for the Orthodox, it really doesn’t matter if you’re Turretin, Billy Graham, or Creflo Dollar, they’re all of a piece as far as they’re theological arguments go? I’m not asking if you agree or disagree with that–just whether you understand why I would even say something like that.

    7) When did anyone who owns a protestant bible and says they love Jesus earn the right to be “in the Church?” Do you agree that that is a simplified version of ANY protestant’s ecclesiastical understanding? What am I missing?

    It’s late here. I’m out. I’ll try to check back this weekend. By the way, have you found your password to tsarlazar? I’d like to use your old blog posts to respond to your new ones…

    • 1) That’s kind of accurate, but you are ignoring a few distinctions. God is not the cause of evil in the same way, and this isn’t unique to Reformed Christianity. If God doesn’t cause all things, then evil has an ontological independence. Turretin and Bavinck simply quote Aquinas on this point. The more serious point is that the denial of this proposition doesn’t really help Hart: he still has to explain why evil happened and why God allowed it to happen.

      Per ADS: I don’t hold to it in the Thomist form.
      Person-Nature distinction: I hold to it rhetorically, not absolutely.

      2) I never made that claim. You (kind of) accurately represented my position with (1). Anyone who asserts (1) wouldn’t assert (2).

      3) I know. I’m sort of embarrassed, too, but a clock can be right twice a day.

      4) I agree.

      5) Perhaps.

      6) So I’ve gathered. The ultimate thrust behind using Turretin is not that his name is magic. It’s that I’ve seen his arguments to be logically compelling.

      7) I’m not so sure that said Protestants use the term “church” in the way you used it. Perhaps American Baptists do, but that’s their fight.

      I couldn’t rescue the password, but before GoogleReader crashed I did copy and paste a lot of old articles. I”ll email them to you.

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