Book Notes: Theological Territories, chapter 6

Theological TerritoriesTheological Territories:
A David Bentley Hart Digest

by David Bentley Hart
Release date 4/15/2020
by University of Notre Dame Press


I’m posting here notes on each the 26 essays comprising this book.

1. The Gospel According to Melpomene
2. Remarks made to Jean-Luc Marion regarding Revelation and Givenness
3. What is Postmodern Theology?

4. Martin and Gallaher on Bulgakov
5. Remarks to Bruce McCormack regarding the Relation between Trinitarian Theology and Christology

6. The Devil’s March: Creatio ex Nihilo, the Problem of Evil, and a Few Dostoyevskian Meditations

DBH begins his reflection on the problem of evil with some provocative statement:

Within the bounds of our normal human experience of nature and history, no claim seems more evidently absurd than that creation is— … something good.

And yet Christians must, of course, believe in the goodness of all being.

The question of evil is probably one of the most difficult:

The question of the moral meaning of a created realm in which evil is possible has not been answered.

Yet, we do believe that “the moral destiny of creation and the moral nature of God are absolutely inseparable.”

For him [Gregory of Nyssa], clearly, one can say that the cosmos has been truly created only when it reaches its consummation in “the union of all things with the first good,”and that humanity has truly been created only when all human beings, united in the living body of Christ, become at last that “Godlike thing” that is “humankind according to the image. “

According to DBH, Dostoyevsky, in The Brothers Karamazov, “asks “whether, even from that vantage, the claim that God is good can ever be reconciled with the terms apparently included in the decision to create the world we know.”

DBH also tackles the question of the suffering of the innocent.

I like his position regarding the fact that we are free to choose evil. I think ultimately, he address here the idea that we are free to reject God:

To see the Good truly is to desire it insatiably; not to desire it is not to have known it and so never to have been free to choose it. Thus it makes no more sense to say that God allows creatures to damn themselves out of his love for them or out of his respect for their freedom than to say a father might reasonably allow his deranged child to thrust her face into a fire out of a tender respect for her moral autonomy. Freedom as a rational condition is nothing but the inability to mistake evil for, or prefer it to, the Good. And freedom as an irrational impulse, therefore, cannot exist.

This goes together then to the idea that maybe not all will be saved. I really like how DBH debunks such ideas:

And what would the mystery of God becoming man in order to effect a merely partial rescue of created order be, as compared to the far deeper mystery of a worthless man becoming the suffering god upon whose perpetual holocaust the entire order of creation finally depends?

and he situates the question within the broader view of the recapitulation of all the created order:

If God is the good creator of all, he is the savior of all, without fail, who brings to himself all he has made, including all rational wills, and only thus returns to himself in all that goes forth from him. Only thus can it be true that God made the world and saw that it was good; and only thus can we hope in the end to see that goodness, and also to see that he who made it is himself the Good as such.


Do his position on the problem of evil make sense to you?



  1. Your blog is beautifully and thoughtfully designed and it’s always good to see people discussing the problem of evil — one of the most important areas of Christian theology and theology in general. Keep up the great work! Steven


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